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itsy bitsy makes a big splash with live webcast venture
While most kid players have chosen to focus their early web programming efforts in the realm of animation, The itsy bitsy Entertainment Company has left the pack to explore the potential...
November 1, 2000

itsy bitsy makes a big splash with live webcast venture

While most kid players have chosen to focus their early web programming efforts in the realm of animation, The itsy bitsy Entertainment Company has left the pack to explore the potential of live Internet shows. ‘We want to do something different and establish ourselves as an on-line network,’ says itsy president of on-screen entertainment Joan Lambur. Launched in September, offers up a solid hour of original programming each weekday for tots and their moms/caregivers, webcast in real-time for both DSL and 56K-modem users from a studio in Toronto, Canada.

Leading off at 2 p.m. is Mom Chat, a 20-minute live talk show in which four young mothers discuss developmental issues ranging from lying to nakedness, followed by 12 minutes of The Granny Review, in which two old nannies break down the merits of films, videos and books targeted at wee ones.

The real gem of the block, though, is its loosely scripted kids fare-namely a 20-minute music and exercise series called Big Back Yard and its accompanying art and reading show Jeffrey Doodles. Hosted by an ex-Televisa soap opera actress (done up as a perky cheerleader with pigtails and eyeliner freckles) and a Hawaiian shirt-wearing stand-up comedian, Big Back Yard started off as a 10-minute format encouraging kids to e-mail in ditty requests and then sing and stretch along with the itsy gang. Perhaps a direct result of not depending on a set-in-stone script, the hosts of Big Back Yard seem to negotiate the fine line between engaging and cheesy more successfully than most, coming off as energetic and humorous rather than dull and condescending.

According to Lambur, the series, which costs much less to produce than a typical TV show, will soon grow to a 22-minute length in preparation for its eventual crossover to TV. To make up a full TV half hour, itsy is planning on incorporating Jeffrey Doodles into the Big Back Yard format. Currently running on-line at 12 minutes, Doodles stars an easygoing graphic artist who draws images suggested by kids via e-mail to illustrate a story. Afterwards, kids can download j-pegs of the storybook to read on their own.

Sandwiched between the shows are four hilarious minute-long interstitials featuring goofy animated cutouts of Lambur and itsy chairman Kenn Viselman. All of the live series are housed and archived in a renovated site designed by L.A.-based Unbound Studios, which has created interactive games and animation for the likes of and Lambur says itsy is aiming to sign a number of sponsors to the site this spring.

Spazzco toons up for a hefty Cartoon Network Online order

Marked as one of Cartoon’s growing roster of regular webtoon contributors, San Francisco-based Spazzco is gearing up to start churning out animated shorts at a faster pace. Cartoon has commissioned the studio to create two more toons for Q4 this year, as well as five others for spring 2001.

Following up on the September launch of Journey to the Center of My Dog’s Head, a two-minuter that delves into the canine thought process, The Bickleschnotz County Flying Club is the newest Spazzco contribution to Cartoon’s Web Premiere Toons minisite. The three-minute short launched late last month and features an old man reliving his golden years as he shows his grandson a scrapbook from his flying days. Each page of the book is presented as an animated segment showcasing a different eccentric and humorously flawed method for achieving flight. One poor sucker, for example, soars the skies in a bathtub held aloft by a flock of ducks he has charmed with his skillful kazoo-playing. Unfortunately, he forgot about hunting season. Another ace covers himself with honey and waits for the bees to come. After achieving lift-off, however, the bees hover too close to the ground and their passenger gets picked off by a hungry bear.

Spazzco’s next project will be a sequel to Journey to the Center of My Dog’s Head, with more focus on the dog. This short is slated for launch by December.

Kermit gets digitized for latest Muppetoon from Jim Henson Interactive

Using a proprietary technology called Henson Digital Performance Studio, Jim Henson Interactive has given the Muppets a digital makeover for a series of stand-alone animated shorts for the Net called Muppetoons. How it works is that traditionally trained puppeteers use exaggerated real-time movements to act out their characters on-screen. The monthly series started up six months ago, with the latest short The Kermambo debuting this month at, which gets around 500,000 hits a day. Kermit and the gang prepare a musical stage number that’s supposed to be recorded for broadcast on-line. When the server breaks down, however, the Muppets are forced to perform the song-and-dance routine live every time someone clicks the Muppetoon button. Through sheer exhaustion, the crew gets a little crusty, changing the lyrics to express their fatigue.

Sponsorship is at the heart of the revenue model for the Muppetworld site and the Muppetoons, which are brought to the web by Intel.

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