With reboots like Carmen Sandiego, The Magic School Bus and The PowerPuff Girls continuously coming into play, it’s clear that what’s old is new again in the world of children’s content. But few productions go quite as far back as CBeebies’ new series produced by Manchester, England-based Three Arrows Media. Treasure Champs retells some of the oldest stories in the world.
Commissioned by the BBC, the mixed-media show borrows from early religious Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim texts, as well as cultural fables, to explain concepts like courage and honesty to an audience of four- to six-year-olds. Season one of 15 x 15-minute Treasure Champs premiered on January 6, with a second season (also 15 x 15 minutes) set to follow in April.
“I don’t think it is a religious show. It’s about shared values that we can all agree upon–no matter of our race, creed, color or religion,” says series co-creator and co-executive producer Jon Hancock, co-founder and director of production at Three Arrows Media. “We can all agree that honesty and courage are good things.”
In fact, for co-creator and co-executive producer David Hallam, last year’s Kidscreen Summit keynote on empathy by Dr. Dr. Richard Weissbourd solidified the need for a series like Treasure Champs. “I was sitting at Kidscreen Summit listening to the speech on how as content creators we can engage with empathy and help kids become more kind. And at that particular moment, we were just about to start pre-production on Treasure Champs,” recalls Hallam. “It was really exciting to have someone of his standing make such a public statement about that while we are about to embark on and deliver this for the UK’s most popular kids channel.”
In covering issues as common as generosity and teamwork, to more complex concepts like democracy, sacrifice and forgiveness, Hancock says the key to teaching kids about these ideas is to keep it simple—but never dumb it down.
“Obviously we can’t talk about everything there is to say about generosity in a 14-minute program, but if a child can define it, and have enough of an understanding of what that value is, then we’re happy,” says Hancock. “And we’re working to find ways that families can be equipped to talk about it and think about it together, and apply these values in their own lives.”
This is also how the religious ancient texts come into play, as Hancock believes there just aren’t better stories out there that demonstrate wholesome values. “The reason why we’re basing content on religious stories is because they’re just fantastic tales where exciting things happen,” says Hanock. “Where else can you find a story where someone is threatened to be put into a lion’s den to survive the night?”
At the end of each Treasure Champs segment, the series’ narrators tell viewers from where a particular story originated. Hancock also notes that each tale is still sacred to people around the world, and is therefore treated with attention, care and respect.
Three Arrows is currently working on signing a distribution deal that will be announced shortly. In the meantime, CBeebies has commissioned the show’s 30 episodes to be reformatted for CBeebies Radio, with initial air dates still to be determined. CBeebies has also launched a suite of six game tie-ins under the moniker Barry and Kari’s Treasure Chest.
Hancock and Hallam think that the next natural extension for the series is a line of publishing aimed at the educational market or general consumers. They are currently searching for partners in that category.