Saturday, November 28, 2009

The New Parents in Kids' Lit

Here's another article I've run across that's gotten swamped in my backlog. It's a New Yorker piece by Daniel Zalewski about how parents are depicted in today's picture books opposed to the classics of the past. Brief summary: stern and authoritative is out, bumbling and befuddled is in. I wonder if such findings are statistically significant, but as I browse titles in my head I see that Zalewski is probably on to something. I just hope it doesn't reflect too accurately how I myself teach and discipline my daughter. But either way I'm sure the kids will turn out all right, and the new trend makes for some great new characters, like Ian Falconer's Olivia and her wonderful family.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jaroo -- Cookie Jar Launches Online Kids' TV

So, my plans--or hopes, really--to write three or four long essays about Sesame Street this month have been squelched by, well, actual work. There might be more to come, but for now I'll continue the theme of Canadian television I got into last week.

If things are moving and shaking in broadcast and cable television, the realm of the not-so-distant future is of course online television. The big news in November was therefore the launch of Jaroo, an online station sponsored by Cookie Jar. At the moment, in its beta stage, the website features all Cookie Jar material, but that's not a bad library, especially after their purchase of DIC Entertainment last year. From classics like Inspector Gadget and Paddington Bear to more recent fare, there should already be something for every kid, and negotiations are evidently underway to carry material from other providers. Check out this article by Paul Bond in Ad Week.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The State of Children's TV in Canada

If that's the kind of thing that interests you, then check out this article by Kate Calder about the Children, Youth and Media Conference held in Toronto Thursday. Interesting stuff.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Where Gossip Girl Comes From

I feel like I've been incredibly behind in blog posts--and everything else--since the whirlwind of MIP in October. Here, for instance, is a New Yorker profile of Alloy Entertainment, the midtown teen media company responsible for such fare as the television version of Gossip Girl, the cast of which is seen here.

The article, by Rebecca Mead, ran in the October 19 issue, meaning that I'm a full month behind here. You can read a long abstract, but a digital subscription is required for the full text. It's worth digging up, though, for those interested in teen literature and television; I don't think the profile was biased in any direction, but it does take a critical look at the kind of story factory environment that produces a lot of kids' and teens' entertainment. We're somewhat used to that in publishing--where certain houses commission authors to fulfill projects according to their preexisting specs--but moving the formula into television and, now, feature films, seems to be a new creature than we've seen in the past. Creation by formula isn't always anathema to art, and heaven knows Gossip Girl is popular enough, but it's worthwhile for those of us interested in the quality and artistic merit of youth media to examine how this production model will impact future shows and books. That model will probably prove more pervasive and influential over the next five to seven years than the Twilight phenomenon or anything else, except interactivity (which is a subject for a different post). If you're interested, Alloy's website is here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sesame Street's 40th Celebrations

Here's the clip of Michelle Obama on Sesame Street a little while ago. I'm not sure what day it aired on television, but Sesame Workshop has connected it at least indirectly with their jubilee celebrations. There's certainly a lot of buzz going on around Lincoln Center and the Kaufman Astoria Studios.

It's nice that this isn't just peripheral to Mrs. Obama's agenda--she's been promoting gardening and health since her husband took office--and that it's not really just a "kiddy" issue: gardening dovetails into issues of economic self-sufficiency, environmental stewardship, personal responsibility (teaching kids to work), and of course health.

But more to the point of the anniversary celebrations on the 10th is this statement from the show's co-creator Joan Ganz Cooney and various actors including puppeteers. The other day I posted Big Bird's rendition of "It's Not Easy Being Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service to reference Henson's contribution to the show, but to be accurate it was not his brainchild. It came from Cooney and Ralph Rogers, who passed away in 1997. I've got a lot more to say about the origin and legacy of the show, but I'll forebear from rambling for now. Kudos to everyone who's been involved over the years, from Cooney, Henson, and Rogers all the way down to the Teeny Little Super Guy.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sesame Street in England

Tom Geoghegan and Megan Lane of the BBC wrote a nice little article yesterday about the storied history of Sesame Street in the United Kingdom. It's quite interesting and you can read it here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sesame Street Month on Red Balloon (aka Orange Oscar)

That's right, Sesame Street is turning forty a week from tomorrow (Nov. 10), and to celebrate I'll be posting thoughts and videos all month (or trying to!). To start us off I thought I'd hearken back to its 1969 origins with some fun videos. And what better one to start with than the original orange Oscar? He's singing "I Love Trash," a song I knew as a kid but had no idea dated from so far back in the series. The performance then as always was by the great Carroll Spinney, who also plays Big Bird and is one of the great puppeteers of the last four decades.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sid and Elmo on Swine Flu

Happy election day, everyone. Tonight Loretta and I had fun voting for "Mr. Blueberry" for a third term as mayor (even though I secretly had her pull the lever for someone else). At any rate, my friend Stephen sent me a YouTube video today of Sid the Science Kid singing a promotional song about the H1N1 vaccine. So in today's spirit of public service I thought I'd pass that along, leaving it up to you to decide if it's completely helpful or a little bit on the creepy side. If kids are scared of shots I think things like this will generally help. I thought I'd throw some Elmo in too--it looks like Kathleen Sebelius was right about his sneezing abilities.