Innovation Forum – Report

Posted on: Friday 04 July 2014 3:05pm by Danny Stack

How important is innovation to the development and production of children’s media? This session set out to explore this issue through the examination of seven digital/broadcast projects.


Innovative online and broadcast projects are not just about the virtual or viewing experience, they’re about what happens offline, too. Kids love to create and get involved in the physical world, which only enhances the digital/viewing experience. Innovation goes beyond tech as it impacts all parts of people’s lives.

Session Details

Juliet Tzabar, MD of Plug-In Media, chaired the session where seven innovative projects were detailed and broken down.

First up were Dan Berlinka (writer) & Anita Turner (CBBC) who have developed ‘Dixi’, a cyber mystery interactive show. The whole purpose of Dixi is to get children engaged and inspired, as well as promoting safer online presence. This is done through ‘Dixi’, a fictional networking site, where a drama unfolds through the characters’ various social media feeds. The audience has the ability to interact with the characters directly and, interestingly, the audience treat the characters as real people.

Night Zookeeper
Next was Joshua Davidson with his interactive project, ‘Night Zookeeper’. It’s the first children’s brand to come out of educational technology. It encourages children to be the creatives rather than just consumers. It’s a fully immersive world based on the adventures of a ‘Night Zookeeper’ and the fantastical animals he meets on his nightly rounds. In essence, the kids can create their own creatures so Joshua now has the world’s first market place for magical animals created by children!

Fly High & Huggy
Donnie Kerrigan, MD of Chunk, and Mario Dubois (CBBC Interactive) got to speak about ‘Fly High & Huggy’, an interactive game/story but a digital first in that it’s a ‘bridging property’ for audiences to make the transition from Cbeebies to CBBC (indeed, it was the first time Cbeebies & CBBC made a joint commission).

Audiences can play age-appropriate versions of the game, following the adventures of ‘Fly High & Huggy’, two animated characters. For example, older audiences can make strategy decisions about what happens while the younger audience will simply go along for the ride. There were challenges with the project in terms of making an original idea work across the platforms, and establishing characters through a casual game but the use of cut scenes and quick inserts helped to overcome this.

Globe Playground
Harper Ray, Head of Digital at Shakespeare’s Globe, is actually the least tech savvy Head of Digital you’re likely to meet. He’s no digital background whatsoever but he’s big on interaction, and relies on his digital team to inform him on what is and isn’t possible. His project is ‘Globe Playground’, which introduces younger audiences to the stories and themes of Shakespeare in a fun and interactive way. Animals run the Globe and stage Shakespeare’s work but the audience has the ability to stop and start the action to get various snippets of info or video about what’s going on. The audience can even build a scene the way they want it played – they become the director!

Hippo Seasons
Jonathan Charles, Director of Hippotrix, presented his ‘Hippo Seasons’, an app that encourages gestures and interaction for children on their iPads/tablets. Jonathan has a passion and background in mixing techniques (animation & filmmaking) so this came in particularly useful for developing the app. The audience can create different reactions between the four seasons by using various taps and swipes on screen. Crunch in leaves! Roll a snowball! Plant a bulb! Mow the lawn! Simple, visual, interactive, but also a way to entertain and educate alongside a beautiful soundscape.

Junior Storytellers
Rob Barnes, Creative Director of Project Factory outlined his storytelling app, ‘Junior Storytellers’, where kids create their own stories. They learn how to craft stories through the app. They have the ability to select background & setting, characters & props. There’s a sandbox mode to play, and an Emotion Wheel for reactions and feelings. Kids can even voice their own stories, save them to the app, and/or share them online. The app was released last month and its innovative features the art of storytelling, as well as teaching spatial and emotional awareness.

Last but by no means least (and this blogger’s favourite!) was Ylva Hälllen from SVT in Sweden. She’s the producer and host of a unique kids’ TV/online show that can be best pitched as “X Factor with toilet rolls!” Stay with me: children (the TV/online audience) make pop group figures out of toilet rolls. They then send them to Ylva, and she organizes original music to be composed for the toilet pop stars. The toilet pop stars then ‘perform’ this song (basic puppetry), and the audience then vote for their favourite group/song. I may not be doing the genius of the idea justice here. It really has to be seen to be fully enjoyed! Hilarious!

All of these great projects go to show that while the future of kids’ content may be mobile, the interactivity and creativity involved in the real world is also key to a child’s engagement and enjoyment. Let’s not all get fully virtual just yet…?

For full details of the speakers, check out the Session Guide here.

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Danny Stack

About the author

Danny Stack

Nelson Nutmeg Pictures, Screenwriter

Danny’s writing credits include 'Octonauts', CBBC’s 'Roy', and the new 'Thunderbirds' for CITV. He also writes/directs, and is in pre-production for a live-action children's film called Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? Danny is known for his popular blog, Scriptwriting In The UK, which inspired him to set up the Red Planet Prize (a… Read more