This is the latest in a series of posts from leading TV influencers in the run-up to MIPCOM 2016. The posts are coordinated by TV business consultant Deborah Macdonald.
Daniel Bays is a Creative Director and Consultant, responsible for creation of the multiplatform, physically interactive, international hit preschool animated series, ‘Tree Fu Tom’ and ‘Bitz and Bob’.

MIPBlog: Could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Daniel Bays, I’m a lifelong gamer, animation fan and tech nerd turned animation and game producer with a passion for creative development – particularly for pan-platform shows and brands for children and family audiences. I created hit animated show, Tree Fu Tom, and new CBeebies/Fremantle Kids and Family show called Bitz and Bob and now I run my own ideas, development and creative consultancy company called Lightning Sprite Media.

> What do you think is the most innovative thing in kids media now, and why?

I think some of the most innovative things in kids media are happening in apps for tablets and smartphones. New apps are not just enhancing but changing (for the better) the way children learn, play, see and engage with the world, offering some of the most empowering, engaging and entertaining experiences that have ever been available:

– Developers are really listening to children and creating apps around what they want and need and how they play (trailblazers here are Toca Boca);

– apps for children and young people offer some of the most creative experiences out there (see Duck Duck Moose, Mibblio, LEGO and Warner Bros. for some high-end examples);

– some kids’ games present new game mechanics and really move the medium on (an obvious example here is Niantic Labs’ Pokemon Go);

– awesome new apps are taking storytelling to extraordinary and incredibly inspiring new heights (most notable are: Moonbot Studios, Wonky Star (Night Zookeeper) and CBeebies (Storytime));

– and learning has never been more fun or more like a thrilling adventure than in games like those from MarcoPolo Learning, Originator. and Sesame Workshop.

I’m most excited though by the combos of new tech and apps, like Moff Band: using motion tracking wearables to gamify physical activity through apps, and Mattel using smartphones and apps to power the awesome first VR and AR viewer for kids: the new View-Master (below).

> What opportunities does the development of new platforms and business models (YouTube, Netflix, etc) open up for your activity today? 

Models like Amazon’s Piloting with public rating, and Nickelodeon’s Animated Shorts Programme offer a great ways to get fresh new ideas out into the world amongst high quality content, fast – obviously not without challenges, but they are great outlets for creators to get their ideas and themselves noticed. It feels as if newer platforms like Amazon and Netflix are also really challenging both producers and other broadcasters and content platforms in the mainstream to up their game and take more risks, which is great for creators like me too. There also seem to be great opportunities emerging in virtual reality and augmented reality as new platform owners seek killer content to draw audiences to them. I’m absolutely loving developing my first VR games.

> Is the playing field now more level? To what extent is the ‘traditional’ system (pitching to broadcasters and so on) still powering your business, and how do you see that system evolving?

Traditional systems still seem to dominate – particularly relating to (and perhaps because of) how things are funded – and tend to account for the majority of my business dealings right now. The playing field has definitely shifted for some, though, as the barriers to reaching audiences with all forms of content have been blown away. However, I think that, in general, the playing field is as level or un-level as it ever was because, although there are more outlets and it’s easier than ever before to publish and get content out there (e.g. through YouTube or Amazon Video Direct, iBooks or App Stores, etc.), as a direct result, it is now harder than ever to get content noticed amongst the tidal wave of other content being put out there. Of course, this won’t be stopping me trying! As well as the opportunities offered by new platforms, services and outlets though, there are definite signs of change within the more traditional systems too, with more big players looking for or, at least, becoming much more open to things like digital-first projects and short-form content – e.g. it’s great to see SKY Kids commissioning short form content for their app. Places like Toons.TV and Azoomee are really interesting alternatives to the traditional routes to audiences too and I’m hopeful that will become the gamechanger that it promises to be.

> What is your favourite TV show/IP today and why?

I have so many favourites! Video-wise: I love Star Wars Rebels, not just because I am a Star Wars fan and felt bereft after Clone Wars finished, but because there are such great characters and there is such brilliant storytelling and amazing attention to detail; the passion for perfection and authenticity is palpable in every frame. A guilty pleasure is Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse which is just one of the funniest shows on TV and is so brilliantly done. Gravity Falls is fantastically well done, too; it looks lovely and manages the very tricky balance between hilarity and heart to perfection. Game-wise for me, it is all about Love you to bits (Alike Studio and which is one of the most innovative, entertaining and engaging games I’ve played in a very long time. I have also been LOVING Overwatch in all its many forms too: exquisitely beautiful animated short films, brilliant comics and an extremely exciting and entertaining console game. My next favourite (based on trailers and my long and deep love of the brand) will almost certainly be Final Fantasy XV, both the game and the movie – which is poised to set a new benchmark for feature CG animation.


Check out all of our MIPCOM 2016 industry influencer posts to date here!

About Author

Debbie Macdonald is a children’s media consultant. She was formerly VP, programming director at Nickelodeon UK, having worked in acquisitions at the BBC.

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