A busy MIPJUNIOR at the JW Marriott hotel on the Croisette in Cannes, featured a series of high-powered sessions featuring kids TV executives from all across the world. Here is some of what they had to say.
“Think about customisation and AI. That is my message today,” said Ivan Colecchia, senior vice-president business development, The Insights Family. Opening MIPJUNIOR in a session at the Grand Theatre on Friday, Colecchia outlined key trends in kids’ entertainment, highlighting opportunities for growth.
The number of kids that have an awareness of AI has risen to 97% he said, and 85% of teens aged 13 to 18 are already using generative AI or excited about doing so. AI is fuelling kids’ increasingly high demand for customised products and substantial growth is predicted for bespoke content created by both producers and kids themselves, he said.
Another key trend highlighted by Colecchia was the renaissance of cinema, with classic characters being reintroduced to younger generations via the big screen. The popularity of Barbie, now officially the highest grossing film of the year, is an example of how new connections are being made, he said. “It’s a one-time experience compared to VOD or TV – it’s a totally different experience.”
“The World — in case we hadn’t noticed — has changed”
The words of WildBrain’s chief operating officer, Deirdre Brennan as she opened Friday’s MIPJUNIOR Keynote Panel on the state of the kids’ entertainment industry. “The lines between content marketing and distribution, work and home are no longer distinct,” she said. And the question to be addressed was how to embrace that change.
Sara DeWitt, senior vice-president and general manager, PBS KIDS said she saw a lot of positives in the evolving multiple-platform world. “We are seeing so much excitement in the gaming space right now. That really is our fastest growing area.”
On the increasing role of AI, Olivier Lelardoux, CEO, Blue Spirit, said: “We have to be careful with generative AI because, until the copyright issues and author’s rights are resolved, we have the responsibility to be very careful and protect the artists, because we are a home for artists first and foremost.”
Keith Chapman, creator of kids IP, Keith Chapman Productions, added: “I see all this incredible change going on but fundamentally I stick to the same principle. If you start with a great idea and great characters, everything else will just follow. It’s not something to be frightened of. AI technology is just another tool to me.”
Creativity and community trending in kids sector
Candice Alessandra, client and research manager at Paris-based research company Glance, used 23 new shows from 20 territories to steer delegates in the direction of the latest kids trends across demographics during a presentation in which she identified universal themes.
Starting with “infinite creativity”, she singled out titles including Netherlands series Nikkie’s Make Up Mansion and Canada’s Dream Factory, distributed by Nelvana. Turning to shows with an educational angle, she explored Get Set Galactic from the UK, Hold On, Gaston from France and Kreabix from Denmark.
The Glance executive said kids’ shows with strong musical elements continue to perform well in most markets — an example being Jetpack Distribution’s The Singalings.
Alessandra also flagged the influence new platforms are having on kids’ TV content. Shows that addressed the overlap included Nayrat (Saudi Arabia), Flashlight (Colombia) and Metazells (Spain).
Away from content trends, Alessandra said shows benefit when windowed across different platforms. She picked out Spidey And His Amazing Friends and Bluey as shows that boosted engagement from being shown by both streaming platforms and linear channels.
Co-production is key to kids content
An experienced line up of kids execs used their MIPJUNIOR session on Saturday to underline the crucial importance of co-production in bringing great shows to fruition.
Panelist Carla De Jong, head of production and partnerships, Sinking Ship Entertainment, talked about Odd Squad UK, a UK adaptation of a show that has racked up more than 200 episodes in its native Canada. The original show has done well for the BBC as an acquisition — encouraging the UK pubcaster to back the adaptation.
De Jong said: “We were lucky to have established partners on Odd Squad in the shape of PBS US, TVOKids and SRC (both Canada). In addition, we had the BBC and ourselves as the show’s distributors. We also had to get into the nitty gritty of UK and Canadian tax credits, working out how to build the best budget.”
Kids entertainment isn’t just a job. It’s a calling
In her MIPJUNIOR Keynote, Paramount and Nickelodeon animation president Ramsey Naïto spoke of the reimagining of Kids classic Dora The Explorer, which has a new series debuting in the first quarter of 2024. The project was sparked by the popularity of clips from the original show on YouTube.
“We have kept intact her aspirational and multicultural qualities. She still cares about animals and the environment and her culture. She will still help kids learn Spanish in the US and English in other countries,” said Naito.
The new Dora was unveiled as a theatrical short, screened alongside Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie, in cinemas this year. The latter is part of a juggernaut series of spin-offs whose success has now crossed to the Paramount+ streaming service.
She also spoke about the importance of inclusivity at Nickelodeon, and the importance of the people working across its slate of projects. “Kids entertainment isn’t just a job,” she said. “It’s a calling, and it takes people with heart, understanding and oodles of creativity to make the best stuff for the littlest and most powerful viewers on this planet.”
Make the most of your USP in Cannes
There was a full house for the Co-production Unpacked session on Saturday, where the panel gave advice to creators on how to find the right partners and get the most from MIPJUNIOR.
“You come in with your idea, and you make sure that whatever is unique about that idea is what is being highlighted, and the first thing people know about your project,” Adriano Schmid, vice-president, content, PBS kids, said. “Everyone here wants to listen and wants to learn about your project. And if there’s a like-mindedness, that is the best thing to happen. Have as many conversations as possible. This is the best place to do that.”
Kids need a champion
MIPJUNIOR delegates were given an intriguing early insight into the strategic goals and ambitions of Crayola Studios, the newly-launched production arm of century-old arts and crafts company Crayola.
Victoria Lozano, Crayola’s executive vice-president, marketing, who oversees the new division, told delegates that Crayola was getting into content because “creativity matters. The founders of Crayola believed passionately that creativity is a life skill, and that it is critical to the future potential of both children and their countries. Fast forward 120 years, and there’s been an incredible amount of quantitative empirical research that has proven this to be the case.”
Crayola’s own research has shown that 92% of parents believe creativity is important for their kids — but many don’t know how to provide the necessary support. “They’re not well equipped. They need some help,” said Lozano. “That’s why Crayola is getting into this arena, because kids need a champion. Crayola Studios is based on wanting to create content that really focuses on creative self-expression, that empowers kids, that helps them build their confidence.”
The first Crayola Studios project is a 52 x 11-minute animation series called The Alien Adventures Of Finn Caspian. A co-development with MIMO Studios, the show is adapted from a podcast. Lozano also revealed that the studio has just signed a “multi-project development deal” with 9 Story Media.
Lozano stressed she was not being prescriptive about what a Crayola Studios show might look like: “We want to stay nimble and flexible. We’re talking across demos, genres, platforms. It’s about the best ideas and partnerships”.