Eight months after taking the helm of Kids’ CBC as the Canadian pubcaster’s new senior director of children’s content, Martin Markle has a hard time containing his enthusiasm for the brand’s direction these days, and for good reason.
During CBC’s recently announced 2016-17 season preview, it was revealed that new commission DOT. will make its world premiere on the four-hour Kids’ CBC broadcast block this fall.
Based on the debut children’s book from bestselling author, digital lifestyle expert and entrepreneur Randi Zuckerberg (pictured), the 52 x 11-minute animated series comes with sizable expectations, especially in terms of Kids’ CBC’s ongoing multiplatform strategy, which Markle leads.
Targeting four- to seven-year-olds, the series explores the notion of screen-time awareness through the comedic adventures of a tech-savvy little girl, Dot, who loves her electronic devices, but learns she must balance digital time with physical playtime outdoors with her dog and friends.
According to Markle, there are high expectations for the Industrial Brothers series, produced in association with The Jim Henson Company. “It’s a great model for how parents at home can integrate technology into their own lives and the lives of their children,” he says. “We expect the show will be a big hit for us.”
Markle adds that following the TV launch, Kids’ CBC will release a mobile game app based on the series called Dotipedia. Currently in development, the app will incorporate how Dot searches the internet in the show. “When she searches the web it’s within a kid-safe zone, so we’re going to replicate that experience for real life kids using their own Dotipedia app,” he says.
Continuing the technology trend, Kids’ CBC is also set for the fall premiere of Snapshots, a six x half-hour unscripted, live-action photography competition series from Toronto-based prodcos Forté Entertainment and Headtrip Films.
“It uses photography as a window to kids’ experiences,” says Markle. “Kids have access to cameras either on a mobile phone, an iPad or a traditional DSLR so we’re using all of these in the show. Featured genres will include fashion, sports and fine art.”
As for renewals, a second season of movement and health-based preschool series The Moblees from Toronto’s Shaftesbury and Halifax-based Boulevard is expected, as are 30 new episodes of outdoor-themed, stop-motion interstitial series Scout & The Gumboot Kids from Vancouver-based Two Story Productions.
Looking ahead, Markle says the pubcaster expects to commission a mix of genres and formats across the board.
“Everything from animation and puppetry to live-action and hybrids are welcome, but the core sensibility of any series needs to have an authentic voice; it should be fun, inspiring and reflect Canada, in some way, back to Canadians,” he says. “Creators should bring us projects they are passionate about and that have a lot of heart. They can be educational and enriching for kids, but we want to lead with how fun and inviting they are.”
When asked about Kids’ CBC’s current direction with former TVO preschool boss Marie McCann back in the fold as production head for children’s content working alongside new production executive Drew Mullin, Markle says the operational vision is creative comes first.
“Drew and Marie are production executives who possess the capability to write, direct and produce, which is, in some cases, a rare quality. They are both wildly creative.”