Warner Publications’ Tune Buddies tries to strike chord with kids

If super-kinetic host Bill Nye the Science Guy ever decides to tackle the discipline of music, there's a good chance the result will resemble something like Warner Bros. Publications' new Tune Buddies kidvid series. The live-action series, which Warner will release...
January 1, 2001

If super-kinetic host Bill Nye the Science Guy ever decides to tackle the discipline of music, there’s a good chance the result will resemble something like Warner Bros. Publications’ new Tune Buddies kidvid series. The live-action series, which Warner will release to mass and specialty retailers on March 6, provides kids-preschool and older-with an earful of basic and eclectic info on the different families of musical instruments. And like Bill Nye, Buddies aims to deliver its curriculum in a fast-paced, entertaining style. To ensure that effect was achieved, Warner and co-producer Power To Create (of Real Wheels fame) shot the first six episodes of Tune Buddies in the Seattle, Washington-based studio where Bill Nye is produced, and also used many of the same crew members.

‘It’s all done in a very friendly fashion. We’re not trying to beat kids over the head’ with a bunch of uninteresting facts about musical instruments, says Tim Landers, executive director of the new media division at Warner Bros. Publications.

Each of the tapes (The Brass, The Woodwinds, The Percussion, The Keyboards and The Strings) follow a similar format: A central Bill Nye-esque host, called P.J., leads kids through various fictional scenarios and along the way teaches them about different musical instruments. In The Strings, for instance, P.J. plays a detective who’s on the hunt for a missing violin string. Before he solves the case, P.J. explores every instrument in the string family. The sixth tape, Getting to Know The Instruments, provides an overview of all the main instrument families and how they relate to one another.

For Miami-based Warner Bros. Publications, whose core business is publishing sheet music and distributing instructional music videos, Tune Buddies marks the second kidvid series it has produced, and the first that it will sell to the general retail market. Its first series, last year’s Instrumental Classmates, which Warner also co-produced with Power To Create, was distributed exclusively in the educational market, where it garnered a host of awards from music educators and parent groups.

That experience, combined with the recent success of the toddler music-based vid series Baby Einstein-which has moved two million units at mass since Artisan began distributing it in mid-August-convinced Landers that there was a market for nonfiction music kidvids like Tune Buddies.

‘I think we’ve hit upon a really cool niche. There isn’t any product out there’ that approaches music education in a fun, irreverent way,

says Landers.

All six of the half-hour Tune Buddies videos (US$11.95 each) prebook on February 16 and will be available at mass, music and video specialty stores. The next two installments in the series, There Goes a Marching Band and Let’s Go to a Rock Concert, which take kids behind the scenes of two types of musical events, are already in production and are slated to hit stores in early summer. According to Landers, Warner Publications will likely market Tune Buddies through retailer-driven print ads that will appear in Teen People and other select Time-Warner publications, starting in early April. The company is also in preliminary talks with Radio Disney to do a Tune Buddies giveaway promotion that would break during the same period.

Thomas on track for big spring sales

On February 13, vidco Anchor Bay Entertainment will release Thomas Trackside Tunes and Other Thomas Adventures (prebooks January 16, US$12.99 vid only). For US$14.99, consumers can purchase a tape-and-toy pack that comes with an on-pack Toby the Tram Engine wooden train (valued at US$9.99) from Thomas licensee Learning Curve.

Sweatin’ to the Tubbies?

And 1, and 2, and… Eh-Oh! No doubt hoping to silence critics who charge that television transforms tots into pudgy Happy Meal-munching zombies, licensor The itsy bitsy Entertainment Company (TIBECO) and Warner Home Video have decided to release the first-and perhaps only-preschool work-out video. Go! Exercise with the Teletubbies (US$12.95), which prebooks February 6 and streets March 13, will contain a number of activities designed to get toddlers off the couch and onto the treadmill. Each of the exercises La-La and the gang perform, including jumping, standing on one leg and moving from side to side, will be accompanied by new music. TIBECO will cross-promote the videos via rebates that will be available through Kid Rhino’s Go! Exercise book-and-tape set, and through stickers promoting the video that will appear on a Go! Exercise companion book from Scholastic. In addition to a national print ad campaign, TIBECO is coordinating a national Teletubbies exercise day in March that will be held in 40,000 preschools across the U.S.

HIT signs Lyrick

U.K.-based studio HIT Entertainment has granted the U.S. home video rights for three of its properties-Bob the Builder, Angelina Ballerina and Kipper-to Dallas-based vidco Lyrick Studios. Starting in May, Lyrick will begin distributing vids for both Bob the Builder, which debuts in the U.S. on Nick Jr. this month, and Kipper, which currently airs on Nick Jr. In the fall, Lyrick will release videos for Angelina Ballerina, which is scheduled to premiere on a U.S. kids net in fall.

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