It’s an inarguable fact that great stories are at the heart of the kids entertainment industry, but it’s an equally inarguable fact–of business in general–that when demand for a product is high, quality often takes a back seat to manufacturing expediency and the consuming quest to increase profit margins.
When this pattern plays out in the kids biz, the idea incubation and creative development phases are what typically get short-changed in terms of resources and/or timing, and that tends to lead to an overabundance of mediocre product that fails to make a strong connection with its audience.
The kids TV sector, which is currently plagued by a glut of less-than-stellar animation that was pumped out quickly and cheaply when financiers unfamiliar with the kids entertainment terrain overestimated the potential of what was simply a healthy market, provides the most recent and dramatic example of this cycle at work. Fortunately, the deluge of middle-of-the-road toons has now sparked a major shift in approach, with production companies once again touting a solid creative core as the facet that will determine whether a project gets off the ground.
The benefits of this renewed focus on stories goes way beyond simply improving the quality of new shows in the pipeline. Having one or more signature shows with rich enough narrative threads and characters to cultivate a loyal audience is the name of the game in kidnet branding, an objective that becomes more important as the broadcast universes in most major markets continue to get more crowded. (See ‘Fall TV: The Global Gear-Up, beginning on page 69)
And when creators like The Story Hat (see ‘Shaking up the rules of property development,’ page 26) and The Dan Clark Company (see ‘Idea incubation…the Dan Clark way,’ page 18) are given enough time and resources, they are increasingly striving towards a new type of property development model in which the main story line and creative tenets are designed so that the concept can launch into several different media right out of the gate. This means consumer products programs in which all the property’s elements support one another, both enriching the play experience for kids and driving sales. Ahh, synergy. It really can be a beautiful thing!
The comic book industry has also come full circle back to content in the past few years, with publishers enjoying the increased returns generated by investing more dough into recruiting top artists and writers to develop titles in formats better suited to today’s young readers. (See ‘A back-to-basics approach triggers a comic book rebound,’ page 16.)
Not immune to the industry-wide push for richer content, KidScreen has launched several new features this month. Make sure to check out our International Introspective mini reports in the Licensing and Retail sections for a detailed look at how to get your licensed products into the Middle East and Israel–and stay tuned because we plan to put a new hard-to-crack territory under the scope on a quarterly basis. We’ve also kicked off a ‘Hot Talent’ feature that will introduce you to a different up-and-coming savant–whether it be a director, actor, animator, etc.–each month, starting off with creative developer Dan Clark. And rounding out our new-and-improved content lineup are a monthly column from Reactorz Research that taps into the kid headspace, and a quarterly chart series from NPD EuroToys that checks out what’s selling in the U.K., France and Germany. Enjoy!