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June 2006 | Vol. V - No. 6
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Quality Kid Films on Shoe-String Budgets

Children’s DVDs Prove High Quality


“All too often children's programming carries silly slapstick humor that children either don't understand, or where the children feel as if they are being put down. This just doesn't work.”Giff Gfroerer, Start Smarter
Children’s DVDs have become commonplace in most family homes. In today’s world, flicks by Disney and DreamWorks share TV room shelf space with those made by independent children’s studios specifically for the small screen. So, how do manufacturers make a kids’ DVD that looks a cut above the competition despite a tight budget? Manufacturers recently shared their thoughts with TDmonthly Magazine.

Beth VanStory, Avid Ideas, L.L.C. said that “putting together a solid creative draft and plan ahead of time is the best way to keep costs down.” Hiring experts in those areas where the manufacturer is weak helps build a solid product. And, she asserts, “If they believe in your product, they may be likely to work for less cash and a piece of the upside.”

Larry Kay, president and CEO of Animal Wow Entertainment Inc. (ToyDirectory), stressed the importance of a talented staff. “Our limitation was a small budget, so we developed a distinctive look that we could execute with a small, award-winning team armed with a few Mac computers,” he said. “Ten years ago this would have been prohibitively expensive, but now it’s all about the quality of the creativity.”

Robert Franki, president and owner of Classical Fun Music Inc. (ToyDirectory) , agreed that even with a small budget, it’s possible to create an educational and fun DVD that kids enjoy. “We started with music we licensed from a record company, and then we matched the mood.” Using stop-animation, nice stock photos and a pro-sumer video camera, he and his wife were able to garner five awards for the videos.

“We shoot, write and edit our productions just as we would do for any large budget, Hollywood extravaganza,” said Bill Cusick, Creator of Lots To Learn (ToyDirectory). He said it’s possible to keep the look, colors, movement and quality top-notch even as a small company on a tight budget.

“We have not skimped on any element of the product — we have not even considered price,” said Tom Parmenter in sales and marketing with Stranger in the Woods of the company’s most recent nature-based video. Even though the company is comprised in part by trained nature photographers, “It still took three years to capture the behavior we wanted for the movie,” Parmenter explained. It was worth it to create a unique DVD that is unlike any other on the market, already winning11 awards so far this year.

Bringing classic books to life has worked well for Elisa Peimer, associate director of marketing for New Video, distributors of the award-winning Scholastic Video Collection. “Classic storylines and characters will always get a child's attention,” she noted. “It's already been proven that children love these stories — they're entertaining and fun.”

However, Richard Caudle, president of Rock ’N Learn, noted that a good video is a result of many key elements, from talented animators who love what they do to having a cool soundtrack and phenomenal voice actors. In addition, it’s important to keep the product kid-friendly. “We have learned to have a ‘naughty patrol’ watch every video just to see if we accidentally put in something that might be misconstrued,” he said. “Teenage boys are excellent at finding unintentional naughtiness.”

Start Smarter owner Giff Gfroerer said there’s a fine line between kid-friendly and dumbed down, though. “All too often children's programming carries silly slapstick humor that children either don't understand, or where the children feel as if they are being put down. This just doesn't work,” he said. For that reason, he keeps stories in real life settings, and has children actors talk directly to the audience about health and safety issues. His company’s overall goal is “to motivate people to do something different” such as design ballerina costumes or spend a day at the circus.

That doesn’t mean playful characters have to entirely exit the scene, though, according to Robert Rasmussen, president, producer and series creator of Laurel Hill Entertainment (ToyShow).“One thing you can do is create great characters for kids that they will look to for education, entertainment or both.” His team went to the source, using preschoolers themselves as “both a guide and inspiration” for the main characters in his Wink & Blink series.

“What it really comes down to is the story appeal and quality of content,” according to Bill Lucas, vice president of sales and marketing for First National Pictures. “We like to use content that’s been tried and tested,” he said.

The following DVDs will be available for stores shelves by the 2006 holiday season.





MSRP: $59.95
Launch Date: July 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Videos & DVDs



This set of classic stories includes Curious George, Corduroy the bear and a bouncing animated adaptation of the “Wheels on the Bus,” among other delightful tales with narration by A-list celebrities such as Anthony Edwards, Forest Whitaker, Laura Dern and the Bacon Brothers. A Read-Along option encourages kids to read along with these engaging stories. With a running time of 5 hours, 18 minutes, this gift set will keep kids and parents entertained for quite some time to come.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7936      (added 5/23/2006)
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MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 6 and up
Launch Date: June 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Videos & DVDs



Penny and Bill are having a blast learning about money. Join them as they learn strategies for counting coins and cash, making change, expressing money in written terms and more. Fun rock-style songs combined with humor provide plenty of practice using real-world skills. “Money and Making Change” will be available on both DVD and VHS and runs approximately 55 minutes.
— The program’s characters “know how to keep kids entertained while they are learning,” Kathie Caudle, director of marketing at Rock 'N Learn, told TDmonthly. The product was named one of the Top 100 Toys of 2006 by Dr. Toy.   
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7937      (added 5/23/2006)
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MSRP: $12.98
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Videos & DVDs



Hey Kids! Your favorite friends Wink & Blink are back from the Land of Imagination for another fun-filled adventure! This time they're going to need your help exploring the fire department to figure out their friend Magic Door's favorite fire safety lesson.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6472      (added 1/10/2006)
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MSRP: $19.95
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Videos & DVDs



Shirley, an old box turtle, meets a very lost raccoon named Fernando Hernandafandavez, and helps him to discover the magic of spring. Together they learn the truth about the little fawn who sleeps alone in the woods. Live video and toe-tapping original movie are combined with photography from the award-winning children’s book, “Lost in the Woods.” Children of all ages will enjoy this tale of trust, patience and waiting for your time.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7941      (added 5/23/2006)
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MSRP: $19.95
Age Range: 0 to 5
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Videos & DVDs
Musical Toys



Available as a video ($14.95) or DVD ($19.95), this film teaches kids to appreciate music. “The A to Z Symphony” consists of 26 independent, one-minute videos set to the melodies of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky. Each letter's vignette is preceded by a written and spoken introduction of the song’s title and composer, allowing kids to become comfortable with the alphabet and classical music simultaneously. Video images were selected specifically to complement the mood of each masterpiece.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7942      (added 5/23/2006)
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MSRP: $16.98
Launch Date: September 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Videos & DVDs



Sophisticated pet dog Corneil has one wish: to live out his days as a pampered pooch. However, when Corneil’s owners take on Bernie as a dog-sitter, Corneil’s life is turned upside down. Currently shown on ABC’s Rollercoaster TV and NickToons, this complete first season includes seven episodes plus one bonus episode. It runs 88 minutes and has audio tracks in English and Spanish.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7943      (added 5/23/2006)
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MSRP: $19.95
Age Range: 3 to 7
Launch Date: January 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
Videos & DVDs



"Dogs Wow Dogs," the first DVD in a new kids' entertainment series, features an innovative mix of entertainment, comedy, animation, a dozen original songs, and accurate education designed to teach children good values and life skills by turning pets into best friends. Since 75 percent of all families with children also have pets, this is a must-have DVD for most families. "Dogs Wow Dogs" has received several awards, including the 2006 Family Choice Award and 2006 Creative Child DVD of the Year. 
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7900      (added 5/22/2006)
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MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 2 to 5
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Videos & DVDs



The latest in the award-winning Lots to Learn series, this DVD utilizes 30 minutes of short creative segments to focus on the many elements of nature. There are highly interactive question-and-answer segments that children absolutely love: "Memory Games," "Matching Games," "How Many Shells?" "Shapes, Colors and Sounds," and "Counting Caterpillars." Featuring lots of kids, live-action, colorful graphics and original music, "Lots to Learn: Nature" comes complete with lessons about the alphabet, counting, early science, shapes, colors and sounds and stimulates the imagination of children with images and ideas of the things found in Nature.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3891      (added 6/30/2005)
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MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 2 to 5
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Videos & DVDs



Lots To Learn: In My House on DVD is the latest addition to Lots to Learn’s series of educational and entertaining children’s programming. In My House is a fun-filled tour of discovery through the sights and sounds of a child´s home. This high-quality DVD features creative, fun and interactive segments that can be enjoyed by the whole family, such as: “Shapes, Colors and Sounds,” “My Living Room,” “The Alphabet,” “Exercise In My House,” “Clocks,” and “Counting Windows’” in English and Spanish! It includes original music of all genres and an engaging character named Buster.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3532      (added 5/10/2005)
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MSRP: $12.98
Age Range: 5 to 10
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Safety
Videos & DVDs



Julie Clark, founder of The Baby Einstein Company, and John Walsh, host of America’s Most Wanted, have created The Safe Side to give parents simple, fun and interesting ways to discuss difficult topics with their children. Stranger Safety is a laugh-out-loud video that kids will love watching again and again. As they watch, important safety tips are presented by Safe Side Superchick, the zany lead character, in ways kids can understand and remember. Following The Safe Side credo – Smart. Cool. Safe. – children are empowered to make good decisions in potentially harmful situations. The Safe Side creative team includes Julie, John, production members from the Spy Kids movies and an upbeat, danceable theme song by Gary Greene of Hootie and the Blowfish, all of whom are parents of young children. It's also available on VHS. READ MOM REVIEW
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6318      (added 1/4/2006)
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