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Amazon’s Sorensen talks strategy as kids series launch

Tumble Leaf, Creative Galaxy and Annedroids will begin rolling out this month on Prime Instant Video, Amazon announced Thursday. We talk to Tara Sorensen, head of kids programming, about the content.
May 15, 2014

Amazon Studios announced on Thursday that it will be bowing its first three original children’s series over the next three months.

The rollout begins on May 23 with the debut the first six episodes of the animated series Tumble Leaf (pictured). It will be followed by six episodes each of Creative Galaxy on June 27 and Annedroids on July 25. Additional episodes of the shows will follow later this year on Prime Instant Video.

“We started with preschool programming, knowing that kids and families were a huge part of Amazon’s customer base,” says Tara Sorensen, head of kids programming for Amazon.

As the original series take their first baby steps in public, Sorensen says she has no Disney-esque dreams of merchandise in her head, or secret plans for Tumble Leaf plushies.

“As the kids fall in love with these characters, they’ll want to play with them in different ways, but right now it’s about the programming,” Sorensen says. “And it’s become really liberating. I tell people all the time, if you watch Tumble Leaf, there is not an obvious consumer products plan there. It is really about a wonderful character and a beautiful world where he’s going to take us on a fantastic journey.”

The shows are educational in nature, but they stress creativity and independent thinking over the rote learning of facts.

“As an Amazon customer and a mom myself, as well as a development executive for the last 20 years, I wanted to make sure we were approaching programming in a different way when I came over here three years ago,” says Sorensen, who was previously VP of development for National Geographic Kids Entertainment. “I knew it was important to infuse those shows with substance, but I wanted to think more innovatively about it.”

Educational psychologist Dr. Alice Wilder, who serves as an advisor on Amazon Studios kids programming, says that teaching creativity the way they do in their shows is as important as conveying facts.

“Left-brain thinking is important, but it’s not enough, in and of itself,” Wilder says. “With the issues we’re facing in the world, we need kids who are going to be the creators and the empathizers.  And that is really about mastering right-brain thinking.”

“Right now, information is everywhere,” Sorensen adds. “If you have your computer in front of you, you can find information on anything. We see in people like Einstein, who used music to think and process information, that it’s important to think creatively and out-of-the-box. I think that will separate our children as they grow through their lives.”

The shows are part of Amazon Kids’ first round of pilots and were greenlit last year.

  • Aimed at preschoolers, Tumble Leaf was created by Emmy-winning director Drew Hodges and Bix Pix Entertainment.
  • Created by Angela Santomero (Blue’s Clues, Super Why!), Creative Galaxy is an interactive animated series about Arty and Epiphany, who travel the galaxy solving problems with art. The end of each episode will have a live-action segment showing parents and kids how recreate the craft project Arty makes in the story.
  • Created by J.J. Johnson (Dino Dan) and Sinking Ship Entertainment, Annedroids is a live-action series aimed at children ages four to seven about a young scientist named Anne (played by Addison Holley) making discoveries with the aid of her human friends and android assistants.

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