Friday, December 30, 2011

Best Animated Films of 2011

I just published a post over at Filmmaker Magazine about the best animated films of the year, both for kids and adults. Check it out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman App

While we're on the subject of apps, here's one that I totally missed a month ago when it was released. It's FETCH! Lunch Rush, and here's the Nov. 14 press release:

PBS KIDS Launches Its First Educational Augmented Reality App

Furthering PBS’s leadership in using new technologies to support learning, FETCH! Lunch Rush App employs augmented reality to teach kids addition and subtraction

ARLINGTON, VA, Nov. 14, 2011 – PBS KIDS today announced its first augmented reality app for iPhone and iPod touch, FETCH! Lunch Rush, which is now available on the App Store. Available for free, the app uses the camera on iPhone or iPod touch to overlay computer-generated graphics on top of the physical, real-world environment. Extending PBS’s leadership in using augmented reality as an educational tool, FETCH! Lunch Rush opens a new world of learning by teaching kids ages six to eight math skills, like addition and subtraction, while blending the virtual and real world into a truly engaging experience.

“Augmented reality is becoming a popular marketing tool and a compelling feature for gamers, but no one has fully explored what this could mean for educating children,” said Jason Seiken, Senior Vice President, Interactive, Product Development and Innovation, PBS. “We were among the first to offer educational augmented reality kids content when we launched the DINOSAUR TRAIN Hatching Party online game last year, in which a player’s real world intersects with a virtual environment online to help hatch a dinosaur egg. We’re excited to expand our exploration of this space by launching our first augmented reality mobile app and continue PBS KIDS’s leadership in using new technologies to further learning.”

“The FETCH! Lunch Rush App is designed as a 3-D game, which helps kids visualize the math problems they are trying to solve,” added Lesli Rotenberg, Senior Vice President, Children’s Media, PBS. “At PBS KIDS our goal is to use media to nurture kids’ natural curiosity and inspire them to explore the world around them; we can’t wait to see what this new app will mean for furthering that exploration.”

The Fetch! Lunch Rush App was produced by PBS member station WGBH and is based on the PBS KIDS GO!series FETCH! With Ruff Ruffman, also produced by WGBH. In this multiplayer app, Ruff Ruffman has to collect the lunch order for his studio crew. The challenge is keeping track of how many pieces of sushi everyone wants using augmented reality “markers” (printable hand-outs) that prompt activity within the app. The app uses 3-D imagery to reinforce the early algebraic concepts, helping kids to make the connection between real objects and corresponding numeric symbols.

The FETCH! Lunch Rush App is available for free from the App Store on iPhone or iPod touch or at

Developed in partnership with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and powered by a Ready To Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Fetch! Lunch Rush is part of a new suite of games available on the newly launched PBS KIDS Lab website ( Combined with online and interactive whiteboard games, this new app helps build a learning experience for kids that takes place across platforms, all with the goal of accelerating learning. In addition to FETCH!, six suites based on hit PBS KIDS series are available on the PBS KIDS Lab: THE CAT IN THE HAT KNOWS A LOT ABOUT THAT!, CURIOUS GEORGE,SID THE SCIENCE KID, FIZZY’S LUNCH LAB, SUPER WHY!. and DINOSAUR TRAIN.

To date, PBS KIDS mobile apps have been downloaded more than 1.4 million times. With a transmedia approach, PBS KIDS is increasingly serving children wherever they live, learn, and play – through mobile devices, as well as on TV, online, in the classroom, and through a new line of educational toys.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Interactive Dinosaurus ExploreUs Book

Here's an informal announcement from Darren Lutz of Believe Animation about the latest with Dinosaurus ExploreUs. I worked on the original television bible and, if I remember right, pilot episode script. With money tight for television pilots Believe has moved to introduce Dinos in new interactive spaces, which is pretty great. I haven't seen it but it sounds like a nice integration of print and interactive media.

Exciting news from the work front. We just finished a book for one of my animated children's shows called DinosaurUs ExploreUs and it is being released this friday. yeh! It's called Rocks In My Socks and it was authored by my sister and I. It's an adorable story about the process of acceptance. What makes it really stand out from the pack though, is that it has Augmented Reality (old name; virtual reality) games and activities in it. You need an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch 4th gen. to use the AR. Its like nothing you have ever seen before. It will make an AWESOME christmas present for the lil' ones :-) It will be available on Amazon and the Dino website this Friday. The FREE App is in review by Apple now and should be ready be weeks end also.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Children's App Manifesto

So I just got passed along this new manifesto for quality and responsibility in the creation of children's apps. I know quite a few people whose names appear in the signatures, and there's nothing in the manifesto that they weren't already doing; be sure to read the "Our Thinking" page. Where it might be most helpful for producers is to get in touch with other like-minded professionals. On that note, the Facebook Children and Media Professionals group is great for that to. Happy producing!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sesame Street Launches in Afghanistan

There are already local versions across the globe, but the newest, that premiered yesterday, is significant for obvious reasons (just think of the fact Abby and Zoey are learning along with Elmo and Telly, for one example). Here's the AFP article (no byline):

US children's television favourite Sesame Street came toAfghanistan this week with the launch of a new series featuring familiar characters like Elmo and Big Bird.

"Baghch-e-Simsim" made its debut on a local TV channel Thursday and aims to improve education for children in the desperately poor, warring country.

It features Sesame Street's typical mix of Jim Henson's Muppets and short educational films and its initial run is for 26 half-hour episodes.

But some of the most familiar characters from the original show had to be cut from the Afghan version for cultural reasons, including the trash-loving Oscar the Grouch and The Count, a vampire maths whizz.

"Oscar the Grouch I had to minimise because his passion for trash did not translate well culturally here," the show's Afghan-American producer, Tania Farzana, told AFP.

As for The Count, she added that his fangs and fondness for bats would have proved problematic in a conservative, Islamic society like Afghanistan.

Producers also had to scrap a scene they tested in which shock-headed duo Bert and Ernie barked at each other.

"I can have them do lion sounds, rooster sounds but doing a dog is not acceptable," Farzana said.

"One of the worst words you can call someone in Afghan culture is a dog so to have kids barking like one is going beyond the line of what's right."

Farzana added that, unlike the US version of Sesame Street, dancing was not encouraged on the Afghan version.

Such activity in front of the opposite sex is seen as overtly sexual in Afghanistan, so Afghan children watching the show are encouraged to exercise to music instead of dancing.

"That way I don't get reprimanded by the parents because it's exercise and who can disagree with that?" Farzana said.

It is not the first time that the Sesame Street format has been exported.

A version of the show came to neighbouring Pakistan earlier this year, funded by the US government's international aid agency USAID, while co-productions have also screened in Bangladesh, Egypt, Mexico and Russia.

The latest version is a joint production by Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organisation behind Sesame Street, and Afghan television station Tolo.

"Teachers here in Afghanistan will discover that Sesame Street can help children start school well prepared," said the US ambassador to Kabul, Ryan Crocker. "Perhaps most importantly, it shows children the world around them."

Afghanistan's deputy education minister Mohammad Siddiq Patman said he believed the programme would "depict traditions, culture and other aspects of Afghan rural and urban life" and would be "profoundly useful" for children.

And here's a really short video from the Guardian: