Seeing as it’s our fifth birthday, we’d like to mark the occasion by thanking you all for supporting the magazine over the years. You are, undoubtedly, the best bunch of kooks in the world, as proven by our New Year’s resolutions drive, which yielded such a wide variety of odd responses that, in many cases, we weren’t sure whether to giggle or alert the loony bin. From the straight-out-of-left-field pile, Unbound Studios co-founders Andrea Drougas and Bill Janczewski resolve to both ‘animate a cartoon that brings world peace’ and ‘play the first cartoon on the moon,’ (who knows-maybe the two need not be mutually exclusive. . . ), while Cartoon Network UK programming exec Finn Arnesen predicts that ‘Sander Schwartz will become U.S. president as the result of an amazing recount.’
Even the entries that leaned toward realism had a touch of humor to them. Bill Dennis, CEO and president of Toonz Animation in India vowed ‘to get one of [the studio's] four pilots on the air. . . and second, to not walk too closely behind elephants.’ Can’t argue with the logic on that one.
All kidding aside though, one over-arching demographic shift that seems to be shaping many a 2001 gameplan is the growing importance of the tween set. A decade-old baby boom means that the bulk of the overall kids demo is now aging into the 10 to 14 age bracket. And while the sheer potential size and spending power of this group is appealing enough on its own, I think the real dangling carrot is that tweens, more than any other demo, are utterly consumed by the task of carving out their personal identities. And how do they do that? By ‘discovering’ and latching on to new pop culture entries with a proprietary fierceness that you just don’t see with teens (whose responses are always requisitely muted by a wash of apathy and detachment), or younger kids and preschoolers (whose moms are still largely guiding their entertainment experiences).
Nickelodeon felt the full power of the insatiable tween demand for new stuff when retail reports showing that tween girls were squeezing into kids large-sized Blue’s Clues apparel led the company to release a test-case tee for the older demo in August `99. Although the property had been hitting with preschoolers since 1996, the simple graphics style of Blue proved novel to tweens; the T-shirt became an overnight best-seller and has since spawned a complete line of Blue’s tween merch (see ‘New demos clue into Blue,’ page 42). Beyond stand-alone cases like this, the tween hunt for the latest new thing is also having a much greater impact in the merch market at large. In our fifth anniversary special report, CPLG’s Kirk Bloomgarden tracks a subtle shift in the licensing biz away from character- and entertainment-based programs (which were down from 36% in 1998/99 to 35% in 1999/2000) in favor of tween-skewing original brand- and fashion-led aspirational programs (which saw a jump from 37% to 42%).
U.S. kids casters like Fox Family and Disney Channel have also glommed onto the novelty hook, triggering a tween production boom in North America as they struggle to constantly refresh their skeds with new tween fare. Music is one genre that seems to be keeping them tuned in, with concert series netting particularly high tween ratings (see ‘Music programming best nets U.S. tween eyeballs,’ page 19). This makes sense as these shows’ short production cycles make them less vulnerable to being passé by the time they hit the airwaves. Diversity is also key to keeping tween eyeballs, and nets around the world are mining State-side prodcos for live-action tween dramas and comedies to mix up their schedules (see ‘North America-driven teen drama production boom finds purchase at home and abroad,’ page 75).
The bottom line is that the tween demo moves so fast from one new thing to the next that simply keeping abreast of their trends is not good enough. By the time you identify something that’s getting hits, they’re already onto something else. The key is to think like a tween and start trends by testing anything and everything new that you’ve got in your arsenal.