This is preschool edutainment

Following a recent German acquisition, the international launch of Canuck preschool show This is Daniel Cook is well underway. The next step will be to roll out the concept as an international format, writes Jenn Kuzmyk.

With a premiere in sight for June 10, Disney Channel Germany has picked up season one (65×6′ episodes) of This is Daniel Cook (left), a live-action magazine style series for kids 2-6 years old produced by Canuck indies marblemedia and Sinking Ship Entertainment.

A German dub has been made for the series, which is shot from a kids’ perspective, following the show’s pint sized presented Daniel as he explores, learns and creates with everyone from yoga instructors to ballerinas to bakers to stunt car drivers.

Two seasons of the show have been completed, airing as both compiled half-hour episodes and as stand-alone six minute shorts on Corus-owned preschool channel Treehouse TV, TVO Kids, Knowledge Network, Access Alberta and SCN in Canada, and on Playhouse Disney in the US. Australian diginet ABC 2 has taken on 25 finished episodes of the series, and has also licensed the accompanying interactive content which it is tailoring to become part of the ABC online portal.

Now as the show’s host is growing up, however, he’s also growing out of the preschool target demographic. That’s precisely why the producers have a whole lot of expectation riding on little girl Emily Yeung: the show’s successor. “We were very careful with Daniel to make sure we were gender neutral. We had no problem with him doing a ballet segment and then a construction segment in the same episode. That was deliberate. But we also wanted to explore the opportunties of doing a version with a little girl, says Mark Bishop, executive producer and a partner in Toronto based marblemedia.

With Emily taking over for Daniel, the new incarnation of the series is slated to premiere on Corus-owned preschool net Treehouse TV in September.

The ‘This Is’ concept was designed to work as an international format from the start, and with Emily, the producers will have the very unique opportunity of testing their own format in its original market. According to Bishop, doing so will address one of the biggest concerns among international broadcasters considering a pickup of the “This Is” format: whether they could find a kid to fill the lead role.

“It’s not easy to do, but it can be done,” says Bishop. “Part of our goal in doing this new version featuring a little girl is to really be able to prove our own format to a number of international buyers. Then we can very confidently say that you can find a child that is magical, unique and has the same charm Daniel has,” he says.

There has reportedly been strong interest in developing a French language format of the series from Quebec based Canadian producers and broadcasters, and of course, along with the recent Daniel Cook sales to Disney Germany, and ABC Australia, the groundwork is being laid for future format deals in these territories.

According to Bishop, the format package is ready to go with materials and support to replicate everything from casting to scripting, to music and graphic elements, along with production advice, and a plethora of ancillary content for promotions and marketing.

However, one of the most interesting aspects of the format package involves the web content. The site, which recently won a Prix Jeunesse award in Germany features an illustrated version of Daniel Cook in his virtual playroom, and includes bright visual prompts and audio to guide kids through activities and games.

The website has been designed so that the illustrated character of Daniel – or Emily, can be removed, and a new child inserted. Bishop says marblemedia will service web format deals in-house, creating new illustrated characters, while a licensing broadcaster would simply provide a voice record with their new show host using existing scripts and audio prompts.

“We’ve designed the site with almost no English text,” says Bishop. “That was important not just for international licensing, but also because we are dealing with a preschool 2-6 year old demographic, many of who are preliterate.”

Meanwhile, the rollout of an extensive licensing and merchandising plan is chugging along nicely. “The brand is all about exploring, learning and creating. It is not about selling mass merchandise in Wal-Mart stores, so we are being very careful, and very gradual,” says Bishop.

In Canada, This is Daniel Cook is offered on mobile and VOD TV platformsthrough a deal with telecom Rogers Communications and Corus’ Treehouse TV channel. Plans are afoot to roll out the Emily Yeung version of the series on multiple platforms as well. In the US, the producers are currently working with an aggregator to take the property into the mobile space.

The This is Daniel Cook ringtone and theme song are currently offered on Canadian based music download site Puretracks and on Apple’s iTunes as well. And through the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund Daniel Cook has an additional outlet on MSN/Sympatico’s High Speed Zone video portal.

A ‘This is Daniel Cook’ book series is in the works for Q3 2006, and on the DVD front, marblemedia is reportedly closing in on an international deal for both the Daniel and Emily series. This will compliment a pact currently in place with kaBOOM! Entertainment in Canada that saw the winter 2006 release of ‘This is Daniel Cook Making Gingerbread’.

Looking ahead, the producers are working with Corus and other third parties to ensure that episodes of Daniel Cook and the new Emily Yeung series will be available for online download by Q3 2006.

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