Netflix is taking a page from a retro children’s book format to experiment with interactive programming.
“Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale” launched Tuesday on the streaming service with a format that will remind some parents of the so-called gamebook genre, more commonly called “Choose Your Own Adventure.”
For now, the interactive experiment with the popular animated swashbuckler Puss in Boots is limited to only a few episodes.
Viewers can decide which characters he will encounter to determine the path of the storyline.
Animated teen comedy “Buddy Thunderstruck” will debut an interactive episode on July 14, while Netflix will also use the format for the upcoming series “Stretch Armstrong” sometime next year.
ITV and other public service broadcasters will be forced to invest more money on British-made children’s programmes amid fears they are on the brink of “extinction”.
Ofcom, the regulator, will be given the power to impose children’s television “quotas” on broadcasters amid concerns a generation of children are growing up watching repeats and foreign imports.
The last Labour Government downgraded the importance of children’s TV for public service broadcasters, leading to a 93 per cent fall in spending by commercial channels since 2003.
It represents a significant shift from what is seen as a golden era of children’s television in the 1960s and 1970s, with shows such as Bagpuss, the Magic Roundabout and the Clangers.
Baroness Benjamin, the former children’s television presenter and Lib Dem peer who secured the new powers for Ofcom, said: “Children’s programming is in serious decline. It is our responsibility to make sure that this does not continue. Our children and our grandchildren are entitled to the provision of quality programming that was there for us.
Netflix has ordered Alexa & Katie, an original multi-camera comedy created by Heather Wordham (Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana).
Aimed at tweens and teens, the 13-episode series follows two lifelong best friends who become outsiders during their freshman year of high school. Disney XD’s Paris Berelc (Mighty Med, Lab Rats: Elite Force) will star as Alexa, while her best friend will be played by newcomer Isabel May.
Matthew Carlson (Malcolm in the Middle) will serve as both showrunner and co-executive producer along with Wordham.
The multi-camera comedy format has been gaining traction on the SVOD, thanks to the success of tween- and teen-skewing series Fuller House and Ashton Kutcher-starring The Ranch, which bowed last year.
Anna Leszkiewicz, writing in
The finished product is far more faithful to the Snicket series, which is defined by Snicket’s dense voice. The books were thick with literary allusions (including but not limited to Dante, Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Edgar Allan Poe, George Orwell and JD Salinger), and this series includes discussions of the themes and metaphors of Herman Melville, Haruki Murakami and F Scott Fitzgerald. But they are most frequently self-referential: Snicket constantly draws attention to his writing process.
Where the 2004 film merely nodded to Snicket’s presence with cameos from Jude Law, the Netflix programme fully engages with the postmodern ideas of metanarrative that make the original books so memorable. Patrick Warburton plays Lemony Snicket with a raised eyebrow, framing each episode with woeful warnings to switch off the TV, interjecting with plot spoilers and esoteric definitions. There is a whole sequence devoted to explaining, and then demonstrating, the concept of dramatic irony. Another scene sees Snicket step in to clarify that what we are watching is a flashback, “a word which here means ‘taken place during the events of the last episode, shortly after the Baudelaire fire, and during the Baudelaire children’s unfortunate stay with the Poe family’”.
There are hints at the concerns of “television executives”, and Snicket sometimes physically grabs the camera and pulls it away from horrifying events on screen. Aunt Josephine implores the children to close their eyes, “as if we’re watching some on-screen entertainment that’s too scary for our age!”, while Count Olaf has lines like “As an actor, I think live theatre is a much more powerful medium than, say, streaming television” and “In all honesty I prefer long-form television to the movies; it’s so much convenient to consume entertainment from the comforts of your own home.”
These nods to the Netflix format are simply much funnier than Jude Law bashing away at a typewriter, which is how the film tries to capture Snicket’s voice.
Kristin Brzoznowski looks back on last year’s kids’ programming trends, including the launch of several new streaming services and apps dedicated to children’s content.
Several new streaming services and apps dedicated to children’s programming popped up throughout the year. Sweden’s Svensk Filmindustri, for one, released SF Kids Play, a new SVOD platform featuring a variety of classic and new children’s TV series and movies from around the world. Kidoodle.TV, a streaming entertainment service for children from A Parent Media Co., became available in 145 countries through Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Amazon Prime Video also announced that it is going global, and original kids’ shows have been a staple of its slate from early on. The service has been putting up more children’s programs for its pilot process, through which it is bringing to series a reimagining of Sid and Marty Krofft’s classic 1970s Saturday morning series Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. Netflix, too, stocked up on kids’ originals last year, while Hulu opted to bolster its slate by signing a deal that sees full previous seasons of Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD series being made available on the streaming platform.
“I’m utterly ashamed of this, but when I first saw Helen’s drawings, I had no idea what the pictures were to do with the story.
“It was only when the book came out that I realised that in the greatest of children’s books, what actually happens is you start off with a situation where a parent is sitting with a child on his or her lap, they are sharing the book and the parent is saying the words, but the child is looking at the pictures.
“The words don’t say anything about the drama that Helen has created. The child will say things like ‘teddy’, ‘dog’, or ‘grass’, and they begin to anticipate it, so they are the interpreters of the story and it’s a tremendous way of giving power to the child.”
That said, the “pounding rhythm and repetition” of the words are signature Rosen, inspired by an American folk song he once heard and decided to adapt for performing at schools.
Rosen, who turned 70 earlier this year, explains: “The thing that really caught me about We’re Going On A Bear Hunt is the repetition and how if you do it with young children they learn it as they go along.
“So even in a first performance you just start with ‘We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one’; however you do it, by about the third verse they know it. That’s very infectious. Anyone who performs wants things to be infectious, particularly with children.”
It was during one of these lively performances that David Lloyd, head of Walker Books, approached Rosen and asked him to write the children’s book, teaming him up with Oxenbury for the illustrations.
The talented father-of-five was again approached for his script-writing skills in this latest film adaptation, in which he voices the bear and for which he has tweaked the storyline to show a relationship between the children’s grandfather, who has recently passed away, and the animal.
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt airs on Channel 4 on Saturday (Christmas Eve) at 7.30pm.
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Anne Wood, who founded Ragdoll Productions, producing the popular Rosie and Jim, Brum and Tots TV, prior to Teletubbies, reveals that she “didn’t expect” the controversy that ensued, saying: “I was alarmed really and fairly nonplussed. It was quite harmful, some of the abuse. We got attacked in public.
“I had to leave a party one time as a nursery teacher came up to me and was really abusive about the Teletubbies. I said to my husband ‘I don’t need to be subjected to that’. She said she had been a nursery teacher for 20 years, but I had been working in TV for years before making Teletubbies.
“She thought I hadn’t done anything up till then and didn’t know what I was doing.
“I did also get a very nice letter during that time from a woman who said not to take any notice of the criticism as modern parents liked it.”
The decision not to use language and to weave repetition into the show was a bold move, with Ms Wood, admitting that Teletubbies was “the bravest thing I have ever done in my career”.
Now repetition for young children is acknowledged as part of their essential brain development. A pattern of repeated activities known as schemas are recognized as a way of helping children understand the world and themselves.
A survey of 2,700 parents in the US, Canada and the UK, designed to illuminate how children age 0-12 consume entertainment content and brands, carried out by pure-play children’s content company DHX Media and market intelligence specialist Ipsos has revealed that kids have embraced mobile on-demand viewing, and that tablets are their preferred screen for consuming content…
The survey found that kids have embraced mobile on-demand viewing, and that tablets are their preferred screen for consuming content. In the households surveyed, 72 per cent of children’s daily viewing is from streaming services such as YouTube, Netflix and others. When viewing content, 61 per cent of kids use tablets, with 78 per cent of households having at least one tablet and 29 per cent having a tablet for use by a child only. Tablets were found to be the most popular screen used by children, who used the devices to watch 45 per cent of their streamed content.
In addition, the survey found that 40 per cent of kids use smartphones to consume their content, 90 per cent of households with children under 13 have at least one smartphone, and 14 per cent have a smartphone that is used only by a child. Furthermore, nearly one-quarter of children are using smartphones to watch streamed content.
The survey also found that YouTube is the most popular streaming platform among respondents, followed closely by Netflix. Of the households surveyed, YouTube’s Advertising-supported Video on Demand (AVoD) service garnered 15 per cent of all streaming viewing, with Netflix coming in at 13 per cent.