Now it seems that Amazon has gotten on the bandwagon of downloadable original programming for kids. Premiering earlier this month was their latest series called Wishenpoof, about a little girl with the power to make her wishes come true. From Marketwatch.com: “Created by Angela C. Santomero (Blue’s Clues, Creative Galaxy, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Super Why!), and produced by Out of the Blue Enterprises, Wishenpoof is an animated preschool series that revolves around Bianca (Addison Holley, Annedroids, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) as she solves life’s problems in her own creative ways because with magic, or without, we all have the power to make good choices.” Bianca’s constant companion throughout her adventures is a plushie known as Bob the Bear. Wishenpoof is available as a free download to subscribers of Amazon Prime.
And once again Disney Junior keeps marching forward with Goldie & Bear, a new CGI series that is coming as a downloadable app in September and then a TV series later in the year. According to the article in Variety: “Each episode of the new program, which will debut on Disney Junior in November, includes two 11-minute stories that show Goldie and Bear — reunited after an infamous ‘porridge incident’ — in the midst of escapades with their neighbors in Fairy Tale Forest, all of whom have roots in familiar storybook figures. The protagonists might help Jack and Jill get up a hill or ask the Big Bad Wolf to consider others’ feelings before blowing down the houses of those who reside within.” The article also features interviews with Disney Junior folks and a preview video.
The Walt Disney Company found great success with their Palace Pets app — a down-loadable spin-off of the endlessly-profitable Disney Princess line, this time for younger kids. The idea is that each of the famous Disney Princesses has a cute funny animal pet, and they (the pets that is) often meet up and go on adventures together. Well the success of that app lead Disney to now create Whisker Haven Tales, a series of cartoon shorts airing on Disney Junior. Check out the Disney Wiki article to learn more about it, or take a look on YouTube for one of several official uploads from Disney Junior.
And another article from Variety. The big news in animation this year has been China: Not only working on farmed-out animation for American productions, but actually hiring American talent to work on home-grown Chinese productions intended for international release (hello, Rock Dog!). China is having its biggest year ever for domestic animation. The film Monkey King: Hero Is Back (yet another adaptation of Journey to the West) has set box-office records for an animated film in China. In the midst of all this the Chinese animation house called Original Force have announced they’re opening an office in Hollywood with the intention of working with American talent to create new films. Cool thing is: Several of them are furry. “Original Force is currently in production on Duck Duck Goose, the story of an unlikely family, directed by Christopher Jenkins, who recently produced DreamWorks Animation’s Home, from a screenplay by Jenkins and Rob Muir. Voice talent includes Zendaya, Greg Proops, and Lance Lim. OldZilla and QQ Speed are in the early stages of production. OldZilla follows King Saurus as he starts to deal with his advancing age and urges his elder monsters to go on one last rampage. Bob Bendetson (The Simpsons) is directing, and co-wrote the script with Art Everett. QQ Speed is based on a popular online game and is a co-production with Tencent Holding, which is behind the game. The action-adventure follows a brother-and-sister racing team and their car equipped with a voice that sounds like their late father’s. John Eng (Rugrats Go Wild) is developing the project and will direct.”
According to Cartoon Brew, Lionsgate Features is set to release their next animated feature, Norm of the North, on January 15th, 2016 — which would put it in direct competition with the planned release of The Nut Job 2. Lionsgate, of course, is best known in animation circles for the Alpha & Omega films as well as (shiver!) the infamous Food Fight! movie. This time around they present the story of Norm, a polar bear who travels to New York City to try and save his arctic home from development… but winds up distracted by the glamour and glitz all around him. (Sort of “The Bear Who Fell To Earth”.) Directed by Trevor Wall, Norm of the North stars the voice of Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo). The article at Cartoon Brew includes the first trailer.
The world of Virtual Reality entertainment keeps moving ahead. (By leaps and bounds, or by steps and stumbles? Depends on who you talk to.) Recently Cartoon Brew put up an article about Henry, “an Immersive Virtual Reality short”. “On the surface, Oculus Story Studio’s new 12-minute short film Henry is a sweet story about a lovable hedgehog who just want to make friends, but can’t stop spiking whatever he hugs. ” But actually, it’s one of the first animated films ever created for the environment of the Oculus Rift head-set. Once “inside”, viewers can either watch Henry’s story — as he attempts to hug flying balloon-puppies with disastrous results — or explore the levels and rooms of Henry’s tiny home. Or both. There’s a non-Oculus “making-of” video that explains it more.
When anthropomorphic characters aren’t the star of the show, the most common place to find them is as a human character’s sidekick. Such is the case with two more pre-school animated TV series on their way to Netflix in the near future. First up there’s Kazoops (from Cheeky Little studio) in 2016, which “…follows the inquisitive young boy Monty and his best friend, a pig named Jimmy Jones, as they seek answers to the questions children routinely ask about everyday life.” There’s a teaser trailer over at Cartoon Brew. Then in 2017 look for True & the Rainbow Kingdom from Guru Studio: It stars a young girl who “…with the help of her best friend Bartleby the cat navigates the magical Rainbow Kingdom using her creativity and ingenuity in search of harmony and love for all.”
According to our friends at CartoonBrew, in addition to the four new animated TV series announced recently by Netflix (and discussed here as well), the network has added an additional three new animated shows that are squarely aimed at the preschool set. One of them, at very least, is especially anthropomorphic: “Arriving worldwide in 2016 exclusively on Netflix is the Jim Henson Company’s Word Party. Produced through Henson’s digital puppetry studio, Word Party’s 11-minute episodes follow the adventures of four baby animals, whose singing and dancing aims to help build the vocabulary skills of its preschool viewers. Jim Henson Creature Shop’s digital puppetry innovation ‘allows puppeteers to perform digitally animated characters in real-time, enabling the animation to be more lifelike and spontaneous.'” Watch for it next year.
The future can be scary — and welcome to it! Writer Brian Ashcraft notes in an article at Kotaku.com that he’s not very thrilled with the re-design of the characters for the upcoming CGI feature version of Ganba no Bouken (also known as The Adventures of Ganba). If you didn’t know, Ganba no Bouken was originally an anime TV series in the 1970’s about a rat and his rodent companions who sail off on adventures while trying to avoid a terrifying white weasel. In the 1980’s the series was made into a popular 2D anime feature as well. The article includes a trailer for the CGI version. See what you think.