Out of the Blue co-founder Angela Santomero has a proven track record in children’s entertainment with hits like Blue’s Clues and Super Why! But her current streak with Amazon has the kids content producer reaching new creative heights.
Her 2D-animated pilot Creative Galaxy was one of the first kids concepts from Amazon Studios’ initial round of pilots in 2013 to be greenlit for full series production. After launching successfully last summer on Prime Instant Video, the educational preschool program has been re-upped for a second season.
But until the new production ramps up, Santomero is currently putting the finishing touches on Wishenpoof, her second pilot-to-series project for Amazon that is set to premiere on August 14 for Amazon Prime Members in the US, UK and Germany.
The CG-animated preschool series follows an imaginative little girl named Bianca, who in trying to harness her ability to use “wish magic,” ultimately uses her own wits and guidance from her silly-yet-sage sidekick Bob the Bear to help her friends out of jams. The series is set to feature guest vocal talent Jason Priestley (Beverly Hills, 90210) as Bianca’s father, and Priestley’s daughter Ava as Laurel. Hope Cassandra performs 13 ballads as the singing voice of Bianca.
With consultant expertise from gender-equality advocate, entrepreneur, mom and author Melissa Wardy (Redefining Girly) and Families and Work Institute co-founder and author Ellen Galinsky (Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs), Wishenpoof teaches the essentials of problem-solving, empathy and making good choices.
“We spent a lot of time writing, researching and working with Ellen to develop a strong, funny, wish-filled show that centers around executive functioning skills,” says Santomero. “We also took a lot of time to develop the look and feel of the show. The characters and environments were brought to life with a vision of soft doll textures in a mixed-media world—and our animation partner DHX in Halifax really delivered something unique.”
Amazon Studios head of kids programming Tara Sorensen says despite the fact that the pilot was CG-animated and stretched from 11 to 22 minutes, it was still produced within Amazon’s usual six- to seven-month timeframe.
“It’s certainly easier to accommodate an 11-minute 2D pilot, but we still manage to work with the animation studios to produce within our timeline,” Sorensen says.
According to Santomero, time is always a challenge, but without the instant online feedback of Amazon customers, Wishenpoof may have turned out much differently.
“In hearing that viewers wanted Bianca’s parents to be more involved, and that kids wanted more story, we decided to go with 22-minute eps to expand the storytelling and music opportunities,” she says.
Amazon had never produced a 22-minute preschool pilot before, notes Sorensen. But the studio was open to changing the format because it didn’t want to shy away from more aggressive production projects.
“When you look at both [formats], there is an aspect of creative play that we’re able to showcase, and we wouldn’t have been able to do it an 11-minute story,” she says.