Children’s video producer startup Hellosaurus is launching its first program, The Birthday Show, to let kids celebrate free and interactive virtual birthday parties. The New York-based prodco began rolling out the first of the new show’s interactive episodes at the end of April.
Former HQ Trivia director James Ruben founded the prodco last fall to make interactive content for kids. He plans to release new episodes of the three-to-eight skewing series on a daily basis for the next little while before moving to a weekly format for the remainder of the pandemic, he says.
The series is available for free on tablets, computers and phones at Hellosaurus’ and the series’ websites. The studio fast-tracked the it and an early version of the company’s interactive platform in order to release the show while many families are forced to be at home, says Ruben.
In the live-action and animated mixed-media series, a real-life host guides kids through games and activities, including opening presents, eating cake and getting active. The episodes, which are released daily, are all about 10 to 20-minutes long and feature celebrity guest stars and shout-outs to other kids around the world who share the same birthday.
Former Toca Boca exec Jens Peter de Pedro created the show, alongside Ruben and producers Sara Berliner (Edgar & Ellen), while Tim Kubart (Sunny Side Up) hosts. It’s filmed entirely in Kubart’s living room, where he set up a green screen that the studio sent him in March. Guest stars segments and audience-created videos are all pre-recorded and added to the final episode, while the writing and interactivity engineering is done remotely, Ruben adds.
Hellosaurus developed interactive video software that lets it add in interactive elements, so kids can use a touchscreen to unwrap a present or break open a pinata, which helps it turn around the episodes so quickly, Ruben says. It also uses a live-to-tape production, so episodes don’t need much time in post, and because every episode follows a similar format new ones can be written in only a few hours, he adds.
The Birthday Show is tapping into a wider effort by companies to translate birthdays into digital experiences amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Indoor trampoline park operator Sky Zone launched a free virtual birthday party offering where for 20 to 25 minutes an employee guides kids and their friends through exercises, dancing and singing happy birthday via a Zoom call. Kid-skewing social platforms meanwhile, including Roblox and video-calling app Caribu have also rolled out new content and features, like private servers and games, that making hosting birthday parties easier.