Living up to its name, on-line entertainment producer Unbound Studios has added Rosie O’Donnell and the itsy bitsy Entertainment Company to its roster of clients, opened new offices in Los Angeles and London, and launched its own website (www.unbound.com)-all within the last three months.
‘It’s been a year of incredible growth,’ says Bill Janczewski, CEO of the New York-based company. ‘But we have to keep pace with our clients.’
Unbound uses tools like Flash and Shockwave to create interactive multiplayer games with vivid, character-driven animation, and has become a leader in kids on-line entertainment programming.
The studio was founded in 1996 by Janczewski, a producer, director, writer and DOP from Philadelphia, and his wife Andrea Drougas, a documentary filmmaker from Portland. ‘I felt the children’s educational market was greatly underserved on the web,’ says Janczewski. The pair started Knowble.com, a commercial-free website for kids that has won awards for its innovative educational game-based content.
‘We started with the idea that we could create great characters comparable to anything that’s out there, and give kids huge challenges. Learn the planets, learn how a rocket works, learn all the ballet steps, and make it a fun challenge,’ recalls Janczewski. ‘When you say to a kid `You can’t learn this,’ they’ll take you up on it.’
Knowble is being readied for a relaunch next year. ‘We’re going to have kids join Knowble as a citizen. They’ll partake in voting and community activities. My goal is to give Knowble away to everybody on the planet. By virtue of being alive, you get one share.’
The desire to finance and develop Knowble led to the formation of Unbound Studios to take on outside work. One of the first clients, Nickelodeon, became a steady customer, and last year offered Unbound a nonexclusive contract. Among the many assignments for Nick, Unbound has created Dora The Explorer interactive webisodes and the Rugrats In Paris website.
For itsy bitsy Entertainment, Janczewski says Unbound ‘created their entire presence on the web-all the games and animation, and a conduit for the streaming video webcasts they are producing in Canada.’
‘For Rosie O’Donnell, we are doing all the illustration and design for her new site The Rosie Show-and all the games and animation. The games are based on carnival-style amusements like Skee-Ball, Whack-A-Mole and the Dunk Tank, all sponsored by big advertisers.’ Rosie will promote the sponsored games on air, and any visitor who wins a game will have money donated to a selected charity. The players also compile e-tickets that are redeemable for on-line prizes like screensavers, interactive puppets and gag signs.
Unbound’s newly opened London office will commence production of 120 minutes of Flash animation for broadcast on Fox Kids UK. Janczewski notes: ‘Interactive TV and handheld devices are so much more prevalent in Europe.’