Planet Preschool

The Long Way Home

(Editor’s Note – The opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author. Any questions/comments should be directed to its author, Josh Selig, and not Magazine.) There ...
October 12, 2010

(Editor’s Note – The opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author. Any questions/comments should be directed to its author, Josh Selig, and not Magazine.)

There was a very big storm in Cannes the other night and it knocked down a giant palm tree in front of my hotel.  I took a picture of it because it looked so strange lying there, as though it was just a late sleeper who would, at any moment, pop right back up and start making coconuts.

It was early morning and I walked down by the water to a café and I ate a croissant that had just come out of the oven.  I won’t even try to describe how good this thing tasted, but in one blissful instant it made everything else I have ever eaten seem like a dull and misguided appetizer.

The storm had been big and biblical, and many of the fancy restaurants down on the beach were completely flooded.  I watched a crane drive along the shore like a big Tonka truck and make a little protective dune to shield the restaurants from any further damage.  It felt exciting to me in the way that real life always feels exciting to me.

And then, reluctantly, I had to go back to the hotel, iron my blue shirt and get ready to do what I had come to Cannes to do:  Pitch my preschool shows to networks big and small.

Over the course of any given day at MIPCOM, you’re guaranteed to experience:  agita, depression, arousal, jubilation, terror, pride and tardiness.  And that’s just during the breakfast buffet at the Hotel Stephanie.

I’ve lost five pounds while I’ve been in Cannes and it’s not for lack of eating.  I attribute my weight loss to the almost perpetual moving of my feet to get me to my meetings and the almost perpetual moving of my mouth to get me through those meetings.  I probably talk more in a day here than I do in a month at home (and I undoubtedly say less.)

By day two, I just surrendered to the mind-numbing rhythm of the exact same conversations:  “When did you arrive?  Are you having a good market?  So, when do you leave?”  SUBTEXT:  “Let’s get this meeting started.  What can your company do for mine?  We’re done now so you should leave.”

Inside the Palais, I saw so many shows that featured characters on wheels (robots, animals, planes, cars, aliens, trains, bath toys, food) that I decided next year I’m going to come to the market with a new show called, “Wheels on Wheels.”  It will be about a young Wheel with big round eyes and a big smile who travels on four wheels.

Actually, the cutest thing on wheels I saw this entire week was not inside the Palais at all, but was on a side street across from my hotel at a teeny French toy store called, “En Sortant de l’Ecole.”  They had these colorful little cars stacked up just like candies in a candy store.

I asked myself why I liked these vehicles so much and I didn’t like all the character vehicles inside the Palais?  The answer was that these toys had heart.  There was an innocence to the design of these cars that stood in stark contrast to the garish, bug-eyed vehicles that stare at you like maniacs from every corner of the Palais.  At such times I like to remind myself that the most successful children’s licensing property of all time is actually a small bear with no wheels at all, “Winnie The Pooh.”

I’m happy to say that I met some enlightened licensing folks in Cannes, including my new friends at Entertainment One, who impressed me with their deep understanding and appreciation of the role of the preschool show creator in developing a successful series and line of products.  Unlike some folks in this area who expect instant returns after one season’s worth of episodes, Entertainment One takes the path of patience, and steadily supports their creators and brands over time.  Evidence of the success of their approach is the brilliant (and not obviously toyetic), “Peppa Pig,” which they have turned into a UK licensing mega-hit.  Entertainment One is also supporting the next Astley, Baker, Davies show, “Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom,” which I must say is just as sweet as pie.  I always like it when the good guys win, and it doesn’t surprise me that the best and most successful preschool shows continue to come from small, focused, creator-driven production companies.

For most people, sundown in Cannes means the start of the children’s TV boozefest.  I typically abstain because, for me, the last thing I want to do after a day of talking kids’ TV is to start drinking and talking kids’ TV.  Also, I have a very low tolerance for alcohol and I fear that after two drinks I might start singing, “What’s gonna work?  Teamwork!” and frighten away any potential buyers.

So, after my last obligation of the day, I typically go to my room, dump my brown canvas bag, put on my shorts and running shoes, and trot off happily down the Croisette listening to my iPod mix of M.I.A. and Supertramp.

I run through all the little parks and past the boat basins that line the coast.  My favorite part of the run is when I round the very tip of the peninsula and I get hit by the deep, salty smell of seaweed and ocean.  For me, this is the best antidote to my over-stimulating, badge-wearing, kissy-kissy day inside the bright, tomb-like Palais.

I walk out on one of the stone jetties and I sit down and I take off my iPod.  I listen to the small waves crash.  And I wonder if a guy like me, who studied poetry and juggling at Sarah Lawrence College, even belongs at a place like MIPCOM, a market, where TV shows are sold by the pound.

And I always come back to the same answer:  Yes, this is where I belong.  Because I like to make good things for children.  And Cannes is the place where my little shows can be spread, one pitch at a time, across the planet earth and into the homes of families who still genuinely care about the quality of what their kids are watching.

So, I do need MIPCOM.  And I believe that MIPCOM needs me.

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