Bolstered by a US$47.5-million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Chicago, Illinois-based prodco The Learning Box is well-positioned to meet its mandate to create original series that bring literacy skills and tools to families. To get the venture off the ground, John Lee, the founder of specialty U.S. toy retailer Learning Curve, is putting his expertise in the kids realm to work as the company’s new president.
A part of The Ready To Learn Partnership – a collaboration of private and not for profit organizations that recently won a U.S. government grant – The Learning Box was conceived to develop, produce and license edu-content, including outreach programs for low-income families. The funds will bankroll four series over five years, each targeting a different age group in the two to eight age range.
The grant money is earmarked for literacy series, but Lee says TLB’s goal is to expand and create a roster of in-house and acquired shows highlighting everything from social development to science. He’s on the lookout for outside partners, and adds the company is determined to move its IPs beyond the television screen. In fact, he intends to make the internet an integral part of each show and is toying with launching one series (targeted to kids between six and eight) on a handheld platform.
The first project on the books is the CGI preschool series Word World (52 x 11 minutes), created in partnership with Chicago-based WTTW11, one of PBS’s largest affiliate stations. Lee says the series addresses word building – the process where preschoolers learn letters can mean something when they’re put together. ‘In Word World, we’re shortening that synapse by creating Word Things, where a dog is actually made of the letters D-O-G,’ he says. For example, in one episode A-N-T is tired of being small. He discovers that by adding the letters G-I to himself, he transforms into a giant. However, he finds as many problems with being big and eventually changes back by taking the letters away.
The company’s shooting to deliver the series in 2007 and given Lee’s retail background, licensing and play patterns will be components of this and all upcoming productions. NL