Manimation Reports – Research Insights

Posted on: Thursday 07 November 2013 9:17am

Research 1 – Maddalena Piras, Head of Audiences – BBC Children’s and Learning

Maddalena Piras gave a fascinating run-down on the understandings gained from the BBC Children’s Tracker, as to how children use different platforms to access content, and how children of different ages react to animation…

Maddalena  began by posing an important question. How can animation help overcome the challenges broadcasters face from new technology through its appeal to children?

The BBC children’s tracker helps gain insight into what children like. In terms of technology, 61% of children now have access to tablets in the household.  Although relatively new, tablet devices have become the “second screen” in many households and are used predominantly by young children.  As tablets become cheaper, Maddalena believes there may be an even bigger move towards tablet devices.

So what do children use tablet devices for? Research indicates older children use tablet devices for playing games, browsing YouTube, listening to music and looking for video on-demand content e.g. the BBC Iplayer.  Younger children use tablet devices to look for songs, music and cartoons.  It would seem that younger children, especially boys, look for funny clips and short form animation supports that.

So why do children enjoy using tablets?  Research indicated young children enjoyed watching shows over and over again, whereas older children seek more freedom to watch their shows when they want.  However, Maddalena also revealed that television sets still dominates the content that children watch but tablets are the second favourite method of watching cartoons, in fact overtaking the laptop.

For children aged six and up, cartoons help explore simple narratives – and what appeals to parents are stories with a moral tale. Boys tend to look to superheroes as a moral compass whereas girls tend to be attracted to princesses and characters they can care for. As children become older, they understand the difference between fantasy and reality and girls migrate to live-action comedy and drama whereas boys stick with cartoons with surreal settings and funny characters.  As children get older (beyond 9 or 10) it becomes more difficult to create characters that have en ought depth to maintain their interest. This is why titles like Family Guy and Futurama have become very popular with 10+ audiences.

Research Insight 2 –  Jon Gower, Head of Research at Kids Industries

Jon Gower focused on research based on how children respond to different characters, design aspects and story elements.

Age and gender play a part in how children view the world around them and in the same way characters, colour, voice, look and morals all impact on children and how they engage.

Jon asked “Why do children engage with some characters more than others?” Jon discussed how children under 6 are less capable of abstract reasoning so won’t understand a muddled up face. Therefore young children respond much better to simple characters with obvious shapes and thick lines.

Another aspect of character creation was colour. Research suggests the actual colour is not that important but the contrast between colours is actually really important.

There were four different ways in which children perceive characters.  Jon categorised them as: Nurturing, Reflective, Emulatory, and Dis-identification.

Nurturing – characters children can feel sympathy for and care for

Reflective – children perceive the character to be like them

Emulatory – children want to be like the character

Dis-identifcation – children partially identify with darker elements in the antagonist characters and use this to find their moral compass as they dis-identify with the character on the whole.

Parents also influence what children watch. Through research in different countries, Jon showed parents often want their children to watch shows with moral values and with educational elements to them.

Manimation is a new animation festival, created by the CMC for MIDAS, the Manchester Investment Development Agency.  It combines business development events with creative and social evenings aimed at the Manchester animation community.

 Blogged by Liam Rabbitte

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