Tag Archive: Nickelodeon


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Jan Fleming is a seasoned executive creative director, producer and brand builder who works in diverse media for some of the world’s most influential entertainment companies and lifestyle brands. Her clients include Sundance, The Walt Disney Company, Nickelodeon, Live Earth, Transworld Media and the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. Jan works in film, television, advertising, marketing, web/digital, publishing and consumer products.

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Notably, Jan served as VP/chief creative officer for Robert Redford, developing, designing and producing media and branding for many of the Sundance entities, including Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Institute, Sundance Channel and Film Series, Sundance Resort and Farms, Sundance Cinemas and Sundance Catalog.

As an executive at The Walt Disney Company, Jan led creative development for a major educational initiative, participated in the development of a learning channel for Disney ABC Networks, directed architectural/interior design and programming for Disney’s premiere regional entertainment initiative and collaborated with Walt Disney Imagineering on several innovative projects.

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Jan began in television, at Children’s Television Workshop in New York. She went on to create and produce a preschool series for Nickelodeon’s Nick Jr., serve as head of creative/content for Sundance Channel and participate in the development of LazyTown, the Nickelodeon/Sprout series and lifestyle brand focused on health/fitness for kids. She is currently in development on a series with MTV/Fox Digital.

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What in your background/education/life experience prepared you to do the work you are doing now?

“Growing up in a small town. Traveling out and away from that small town. A deep understanding and questioning of religion. Working from a young age. Working. Working. Working. Doing it.

Small town life can be very narrow-minded. There’s a lot of insular behavior. I was fortunate that my family was inherently creative and open-minded in ways that were important. My parents were/are both creative, in their own ways. They could just do things. They were artful, but not purposefully. They just were/are. 
 
I was very close to my grandmothers and my great-grandmothers. All these strong women were important in opening up my heart and mind to the world. They were survivors. They had been through depression and war and death of husbands and family, yet they went on and were happy.

My Granny Opal was a born teacher. She taught in a one-room school house in the 40s/early 50s in Northwest Arkansas. She also loved to travel, learn and experience. She took me and my other siblings/cousins with her. But, I think that I traveled with her the most.  She took us to see and experience things around us – naturally beautiful things, history, our roots and museums, theater, art, ballet – things that create imagery and magic in the mind of a child.

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I mention religion, because it definitely played a formative role in my life, and the way I see the world, in many ways. I realized, that when I was introduced to the world of “branding” – maybe during the days of Nick/Disney –  that branding is all about creating religion. The same patterns and methodology existed in what I’d seen growing up and in what “branding experts” were doing.

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Humans can create and direct thinking of other humans by sending and packaging messages. Branding is about creating an image and “systems” that support that image and keep it intact.  Even if the image/system is made to be “unsystem-like” it’s a system. Religions have created and managed image/systems for centuries.

Systems are comforting. Believing in something and it’s way of thinking/system, provides a certain security. Systems help us to make sense of the world. They create values. They have rules. They set boundaries. They are logical. When they are good, they behave as you would expect. They are made to control in ways that are healthy, but can be unhealthy at times – if taken too literally or to extremes. You start to understand that inconsistency within a system of thought and/or deed can destroy any system or way of thinking. The rules then have to be expanded and changed and manipulated to reframe the image/system. When a brand/religion doesn’t walk the talk, then you have issues..

Religion also taught me that it’s healthy to question everything. Question why you believe what you believe, and who you believe. Question the strength, validity and consistency of any brand or system. I did, from a very early age.  It can be disconcerting to question what is human-made, but also freeing.”
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 In creating Allegra’s Window, what were your chief concerns, stylistically? And how did those meld with your intentions for the viewers?

“Allegra was born out of opportunity. Nick Jr was just beginning and they were looking for a music series. I was head of development for Jumbo Pictures at the time. Such a youngster, doing all kinds of stuff. Jumbo had a relationship with Nickelodeon, because we made DOUG for NickToons.

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John Hoffman. a producer I’d met working on a series for HBO/Children’s Television Workshop (Encyclopedia), came to me at Jumbo and said, let’s develop something. We started working on ideas together and Allegra was the result.”

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“Originally, we liked the idea of using puppets and also having a live characters, so that they could sing. I had gotten to know Marty Robinson, originally because of Sesame Street, but also because he had a workshop/loft near the Jumbo offices, which I’d visited.  He is an amazing puppeteer and it’s hard not to want to incorporate that magic, once you’ve been introduced to it. As the lead puppeteer on Allegra, Marty brought us the best of the best. The puppeteering team on the series was top-notch amazing. All those folks are A-list: Kathy Mullen, Anthony Asbury, Pam Arciero, Tim LaGasse, Heather Asche…Isabel!”

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“We believed – and I still do believe – that puppets, used in artful ways, would add a certain warmth to the effort. Now that you can do so much with animation, it’s changed the game. Everyone want to use animation, and it’s beautiful. But, I still think that there is something new and fresh to do with puppets. Puppets rule.”  

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What kinds of considerations do you bring to a project when thinking about an intended audience? Do you want kids to see things in a new way? Think outside the box? Or is it more about pure entertainment?

“Looking back, I think of Allegra as very rudimentary, in many ways, an experiment, really.  Nick Jr was doing a lot of experimenting then.  As we were making the series, they were doing quite a bit of research on preschool viewing habits. They were thinking more and more interactively about tv for preschoolers, so we were playing with that as we got the research – trying to incorporate new thinking and information as we went along.  Obviously, we all wanted the kids to feel an affinity with the main character, Allegra and see the world through her eyes (Allegra’s Window).  It was about helping little kids through little kid things – feeling small, going to daycare for the first time, making friends, learning how to play with others, dealing with siblings, having fun, family – just the normal stuff. ”

If you were creating Allegra’s Window today, what would you do differently?

“A million things!  First, my style/tastes have changed DRASTICALLY. I’ve grown as a creative director/designer/thinker. There would be a radical shift in the way things were designed.  The look and feel was way too busy!  Oy. 

Form. I think it would truly be a mixed media series and incorporate more animation and interactivity. The writing was truly great, but I know we could think smarter with another go at it. The music. I would get some of my music industry friends to help and pump that up, make it more energetic and poppy. I just know so much and have had the opportunity to become acquainted with such talented people.  We had amazing artists working with us on the show before. They have all grown way beyond that point in time as well…maybe they’d come back. We’d super team it.
 
There are much cooler, less hand-made ways of incorporating a mix of media now — but I’d still want to keep it warm and tactile and little-kid inclusive. It would be incredible to do it again, knowing what I know now. Really fun.

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As a Creative Director, what do you need to know from a client before you feel ready to plunge in and start working on a project?

“A lot of things, but at the heart of it is, what is it that they really want? Finding that out takes time. Listening. I have become a good listener. Sometimes I have to listen and look for what’s not said overtly.”

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 What brands are effective re: kids?

 “Kids. Hmmm.  Apple. iPhone, iPad — all the smart phone/tech brands are doing pretty well.”

Sundance has become a gargantuan brand – how did you go about creating themes that would emerge through the clutter of hundreds of screenings and thousands of people?

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“Well, when you say “Sundance,” I assume that you mean Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance brand is something other.  Sundance is a family of related entities or brands: Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Institute, Sundance Channel, Sundance (the place) & Sundance Resort,  Sundance Cinemas, Sundance … etc.

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People should understand that Sundance is a real place.  It’s where everything started. That place is a mountain and canyon (Provo Canyon) that Mr. Redford stumbled upon in the late 50s. He bought 2 acres there in 1961 (for $500) and he preserved more land there over time and as he could. In the late 70s/early 80s, he and some industry colleagues started the Institute. He suggested that they do workshops up there for budding filmmakers, as he had this place and some land. That’s how it all came to be in Utah.
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The Film Festival came a bit later – to support those filmmakers and help to give smaller films a way to show up and possibly get out there. Sundance Film Festival is mainly held in Park City, which 40 miles away from Sundance.

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“I have worked on most all of the Sundance organizations and I worked on the Festival for 10 years. Over time, the Festival has become the best known. It’s the most famous, for many reasons, a combination of what was happening in the world/film industry and what Mr. Redford and others cared about and were doing.

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The Festival is a gigantic event. It’s like the Olympics of Film, so thematic, branded design for this event has to be both beautiful and very functional. When I started working with the Festival, one of the main things that we did was “clean up” the information design and create some clear forms for communicating with Festival audiences. That was done interactively with the Festival/Institute staff to help to not only present solid, well-designed pieces, but to make sure that all media served a purpose.  There is now very little superfluous junk. Everything you see or hear or touch or use works better as a system to help people get excited about, understand and navigate the Festival.  I believed that cleaning it up was very important and that work paid off.

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 Over the years, developing the “themes” to skin that infrastructure of information design became an interesting challenge. At its core, the big idea underlying the Festival/Sundance brand is the same each year. I found that it was about finding a new facet of the big idea and focusing on that.”

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Topping yourself is hard. It was always a process that Mr. Redford had a say in, but he let us fall or fly in the end. 

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I recently went through my attic and looked at the span of the Festival work. There is some smart, beautiful work there, done by amazing designers. The thematic ideas were solid and they carried through. Some of my favorite themes where the most abstract. One year, I had the wild idea of using FIRE. First, I love looking at fire because it can be amazingly beautiful and it’s a part of that landscape and the mountain lifestyle, especially in winter, when the Festival is held.  

I liked that fire was symbolic of many things about Sundance and The Festival:  the incredible passion and drive of the Festival and filmmakers; the elements of heat, danger and risk-taking; the drawing effect that fire has in the cold; and that Sundance is at the iconic, fiery, molten heart and hearth of it all.  

So, for me, seeing FIRE, interpreted in all the ways we could throughout the media and design of that year’s Festival, juxtaposed to the frozen white of that place….well, it just worked. And it popped. The other challenge is that Park City is a cluttered landscape of buildings and signage. Whatever is done there, has to stand out, but also fit in and make sense…so, yeah, good luck with that.”

If there’s a Hollywood creative job that Doug Wood hasn’t done, it’s because that job hasn’t been invented yet. He was born in Chicago, where he acted in productions at The Next Theatre Company, The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, The Forum Theatre and The Second City, among others. He formed a comedy duo with Cheryl Rhoads, entitled The Fine Line, playing comedy clubs and theatres in Chicago and later L.A., including The Improv and The Comedy Store. Wood has worked as the creative executive for the Annie Award-winning films The Iron Giant and Cats Don’t Dance. He also served as the creative executive for the Emmy Award-winning TV series Tiny Toon Adventures, and Animaniacs. Wood has created two successful animated television series: Little Einsteins for Disney and Mama Mirabelle’s Home Movies for National Geographic (for which he also authored the children’s book, “When Mama Mirabelle Comes Home). In addition to his work for Disney, he has written television shows for children at Nickelodeon, PBS, Discovery Kids, the BBC, Fremantle Media and more. At the Motion Picture and Television Fund he volunteers his services instructing senior citizens on the craft of Improvisation. In 2011, Wood directed, produced (with Jennifer Clymer), and wrote (with Maureen Kelly) a live-action short, Hi, Lillian, which stars veteran actor, Pat Crawford Brown, an improv student of Wood’s at the MPTV Fund. The film has won the Audience Award for Best Short at three film festivals: Dances With Films 15, Prescott Film Festival, 2012 and the 12th Annual Valley Film Festival. Wood also won an award for Best Emerging Filmmaker at the Prescott Film Festival. Hi, Lillian  is an Official Selection at the AWEsome Film Festival in San Jose, CA, the Reel Recovery Festivals in L.A., NY and American Independent Film Festival and the Legacy Film Festival in San Francisco.

You started out in the theatre, with all of its high highs and low lows – auditioning, finding the heart and soul of a character, receiving audience approval. Eventually you turned toward stage comedy; why did you make that transition and do you think comedy was always a driving force? 

“It wasn’t an intentional choice—it just happened, as is the case with many careers in this strange industry.  I was acting in serious plays in Chicago– I had done a show with Steppenwolf, then got my Equity card when I was cast in the Midwest premiere of The Shadow Box.  When that show closed I formed a comedy duo called The Fine LIne with a woman I had met during my two-year improv program at Second City under the great Josephine Forsberg.

It was something to keep me busy until I got cast in another play.  But after performing in comedy clubs, we started getting gigs in fancier nightclubs and within a few months I was able to quit my job at a bookstore and actually make a living as an actor.  I wound up doing The Fine Line for seven years.

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But I should mention that The Fine Line was not stand-up, it was sketch comedy—short vignettes on male-female relationships.  So we treated each sketch as a mini-play and had the awesome opportunity to explore different characters and different themes.  As The Fine Line moved from nightclubs into Equity theatres and television, the sketches were able to tackle more substantive subject matter, so in a way, I never strayed too far from my theatrical roots. 

I’ve never been able to see a clear break between comedy and drama. To this day, in all my writing, I aspire to find the humor in serious material and explore darker themes in the funny stuff.  And the choices I make are generally based on trying to keep things as real as possible, even the kids cartoon shows I write.  My favorite films (by Robert Altman, Nicole Holofcener, Alexander Payne, to name a few) shift effortlessly between comedy and drama because those directors acknowledge that life itself is a dramedy. 

And my favorite TV series (Taxi, Enlightened, The Comeback, Mad Men, Six Feet Under, The Larry Sanders Show, Friday Night Lights, The Sopranos to name a few) are all tonally mixed and character-driven.  As a kid The Dick Van Dyke Show was my favorite series because it was so much more real than other shows.  I usually find really broad material grating and unsatisfying.”

Improv is an innate skill that can be developed and mastered, but can it be learned? It seems like it requires a particular kind of freedom and/or daring that may not be natural to some people. 

“I don’t think one can learn to be a good actor or a good writer if one doesn’t already have natural-born talent in those areas, although, studying can certainly improve one’s skills.  But I genuinely believe that anyone can learn to be a good improviser.  It’s so much simpler than most people expect—it’s all about turning off the critical left-brain and being instinctive—acting from the gut instead of the mind.  I believe this because I’ve seen it over and over again with my own eyes.

For the past nine years I’ve been a volunteer at the Motion Picture and Television Fund (“the Old Actors Home”) where I teach improv to the senior citizen residents once a week.  The class includes both professional actors and non-actors and after a while I can’t see any division between the two.  It’s really satisfying to see my students learn to be “in the moment” and become playful children again.  When that happens, the words just fly out of their mouths and they give no thought at all as to what their next line of dialogue will be.  I should add that nothing is off-limits and more often than not the seniors take the material into R-rated territory.”

As an improv performer and teacher, do you find yourself giving a running mental commentary to most encounters in your daily life? And is this a potential source for what you may transform into written material at some point?  

“I don’t do this intentionally, but I did learn early on the importance of observing, so yes, I quietly soak everything in and am a huge people-watcher.  Sooner or later some of it is bound to wind up in my work.

Careers in Hollywood aren’t planned so much as they emerge over time – and you have become one of the prominent creators and executives in the world of children’s entertainment. Have all your roads naturally led you to this place, or did you make a wild left turn at some point?

“Lots of wild left turns.  I can honestly say I never even remotely intended to become either a studio executive or a writer/creator of family entertainment.  Opportunities present themselves and you sort of go with the flow.

 I feel fortunate to work in an industry that allows one to jump from one thing to the next– alternating writing, directing, producing, developing, acting and consulting.  Experience in one discipline often informs the others so the shifts aren’t at all counterproductive. 

What do you look for in a property that tells you kids will enjoy it? Whether it’s one of your own creations or a product you are being asked to shepherd, are there key elements that are personal must-haves for you to be interested?

“Humor and relatable characters are the most important ingredients for me, and there has to be genuine emotion in the storylines otherwise the shows just aren’t about anything.  

Unfortunately, the current trend in preschool programming is for curriculum-driven shows that can be didactic and condescending.  Executives are uncomfortable with conflict and emotion, which, of course, is what writers are always drawn to.

The note we get most often is that the characters have to be completely likable and “aspirational,” so displaying insecurity, anger, sadness or fear is pretty much off-limits.  Not only does this make for bland and humorless entertainment, it also doesn’t provide kids with the tools they need to exist in the real world.  It also explains why many parents no longer want to watch TV with their kids.  Sadly, smart and witty shows like Sesame Street and the Peanuts specials are a thing of the past.”

 

As an executive, did you think like a writer? And as a writer, do you think like an executive?

“The most fun part of my job as an executive was working hand-in-hand with writers and artists.  Nothing makes me happier than being surrounded by talented people.  I love working collaboratively with writers in a room, beating out a story with note cards on the wall.  Most executives, however, don’t have creative backgrounds so they’re often baffled by the creative process.

I remember being horrified the first time I was asked to compile a writers list for a project on which we hadn’t yet received the original writer’s first draft script—in other words, it was just assumed the first writer would be replaced and totally rewritten even before anyone had even read one page of the script.  And this turned out to be a common practice, not an anomaly.  

So, in answer to your question—yes, I did think like a writer while I was an executive but that trait often put me at odds with other executives which is why I ultimately decided to return to my writing.

As a writer, I try not to think like an executive until I at least get a first draft down on paper.   Trying to please people while creating isn’t a good idea.  But thinking like an executive is useful when I’m consulting on someone else’s screenplay because they usually want to know how to write something that will actually sell.”

You have found success as a hyphenate writer-producer-director on a live action short. Has it whetted your appetite to continue on that path?

 “Yes.  When I made my first short film, Hi, Lillian (which I co-wrote with Maureen Kelly), I did it mostly as a learning experience.  I was a little embarrassed by some of the technical flaws so when it began to win awards for Best Short at film festivals, I was pleasantly surprised and strongly encouraged to make another film.  Mostly because I was eager to apply what I had just learned (and to avoid a lot of the mistakes I had made.) 

I raised money via Indiegogo so my second film, Entanglement, (which is almost complete at the time of this writing) is far superior in terms of production quality, and a little more ambitious in terms of story.  Making it was an incredibly satisfying experience, mostly because of the level of talent involved including the actors, producers and crew.  I still have a lot to learn as a director so I’m hoping I’ll have the opportunity to do another film, although I don’t think I’m capable of forcing myself to go back to all my friends and family who donated money and ask for more. 

The most satisfying aspect of directing an indie film for me (and I suspect a lot of filmmakers), is that it’s a rare opportunity to have some control over your own material, to be able to say what you want to say.  I recently had lunch with a former writer who had enjoyed some success in the industry.  When I asked her why she gave up writing for television she said, “the n-word:  notes.””

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With a degree in Fine Arts, the animator Ennio Torresan, born in Rio de Janeiro, has been living for over ten years in Los Angeles, where he currently works as head of the story department at DreamWorks. Following his award-winning El Macho (1993), he became director of an animated series created by Ralph Bakshi for HBO, called Spicy City. Later he was screenwriter and storyboard director for SpongeBob Squarepants, for Nickelodeon. His next step was directing Disney’s Teacher’s Pet, for which he won an Emmy in 2003. At DreamWorks, he has helped to create Madagascar (1, 2 and 3), Kung Fu Panda, Megamind, and, most recently, Turbo. He has also found time to continue working in Brazil, on projects like the 2D feature animation Até Que a Sbornia Nos Separe, produced by Otto Desenhos Animados. He also still nurtures the passion for comic books that began it all, and has participated in the Scrambled Ink collection, by Dark Horse Comics, with an autobiographical story called The Guy from Ipanema.

The success of SpongeBob hit Nickelodeon like a tornado – no one seemed to anticipate how hugely popular the show would become. How hard was it to scramble and assemble episodes in the wake of such media and audience attention?

“Steve Hillenburg (creator of SpongeBob), who came from doing his personal short animated films, wanted to hire artists who’d had the same kind of experience and drive as himself. He wanted independent filmmakers on his show. I was free at the time after my show being developed at HBO, “El Macho,” was canceled.

The artists who first worked on SpongeBob were unlikely to succeed in other more conservative, script-oriented shows. The top management at Nickelodeon didn’t care much about SpongeBob so they left us alone to “try out” the script-less approach. Shows like CatDog and Angry Beavers were more in tune with what Nick’s top management wanted. However, the Sponge became an uncontrollable hit after being let loose. I saw Steve fight many battles to keep its integrity (including one executive who hated Southern accents!). Steve fought hard like he always did and Sandy remained a squirrel from Texas. That executive is no longer there, and Steve today has an estimated net worth of $90 million dollars.

Please don’t be naive, this kind of success doesn’t happen frequently. I’ve seen wonderful charismatic shows crash and burn more often than not. There are so many things that have to happen in the right order for a show to hit this big.”

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What does it take to connect to the mind of a child? Do you maintain a strong connection to your own feelings and point of view as a small boy? Do you find kids are similar in what they want to see, no matter where they live and grow up?

“Kids are kids. Regardless of ethnicity, origin, background. They will laugh at the same jokes and are scared when the scary music cues happen. Making them laugh and engaged in a particular story becomes much easier once you have kids yourself, as I found out. Before having kids I was digging deep into my earliest memories.”
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Your work is seen all over the world, and your personal projects have a distinctly international feel. Are all markets opening up to more diverse cultural themes in cartoons? Or is the industry divided between English and non-English speaking stories and types of characters?

“It seems that now more then ever, kids are in charge of what they want to watch. There are fantastic shows being produced straight to streaming video. Tinga Tinga and My Big Big Friend are just two of the most creative and well-realized shows these days. The first one was produced in Africa and the second was a co-production with Canada and Brazil. The world has become a much smaller place and great shows can be created and produced anywhere in the world.”

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There are so many requirements for a cartoon’s global success – merchandising, ancillary products, etc. Is it possible for a smaller, simpler idea to find an audience these days?

“There is more competition now. There are more creators realizing their projects now than let’s say ten years ago. Streaming is changing the way we watch TV.

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The way an idea goes viral these days depends on how much energy the creator can exert, and how persistent they may be. It took me five years to make my first short, which I had started in ’87. It was all animated on paper and shot on a 35 mm camera. There weren’t that many places to screen it afterwords. Today I could accomplish that in a fraction of the time and with much better tools, and it would be accessible to the whole world instantly.”

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What are your hopes for the future of the animation industry?

“I wish there were directors as important as Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, PT Anderson, Francis Coppola, Luc Besson, Roman Polanski, William Friedkin or Jonathan Demme who would be doing new kinds of animation. I wish animation would grow up and venture in the world of adulthood. That’s my wish for the future of animation.”

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2005: Iceland – It was another long day of production on the LazyTown sound stage. In fact, it was the start of the next day, as we continued our creative brainstorming session past midnight. Everyone was packing up their belongings and heading home for a few hours’ sleep. There would be yet another early call for the crew and cast to assemble for that days’ shoot.

The phone rang. Usually, the answering machine would pick up the call, but for some reason, this time it didn’t. A colleague, Dean Koocher, picked up the phone.

On the other line was a gentleman named Rob Stock, calling from Belleville, Illinois. Rob didn’t know it was the middle of the night in Iceland. He had tracked down the office number and simply called, hoping to connect with someone. He said that his young daughter, Jenny, was a big fan of LazyTown. He had scoured the local stores, and had checked online, but was having a hard time finding any merchandise for sale. In particular, he was trying to find a “Stephanie” costume for Jenny to wear.

Dean knew that my home in the US wasn’t far from Belleville, and he put me on the phone with Rob, thinking I might be able to help.

But LazyTown had only debuted on Nickelodeon a few months earlier, and there was simply no merchandise available at the retail level just yet. Rob asked if there was anything else we might have – photos, or possibly even autographs.

Rob explained that Jenny had been diagnosed with leukemia. She was in the middle of long months of chemotherapy sessions. They were prolonged and brutal, and young Jenny’s energetic, normally upbeat personality was being drained.

One of the few things that made her smile – a bright spot on chemo days – was watching episodes of LazyTown. She was charmed by the stories, the silly humor, its can-do spirit. Most importantly, it gave her something to look forward to. Instead of dreading the hours spent having toxic medicines course through her body, she could find some relief by focusing her attention on the antics of Sportacus, Stephanie and the LazyTown gang.

As it happened, I was due to make a trip home, which was fairly close to where Rob and his wife Greta took Jenny for chemo treatment. I gathered autographs from the cast members, took tons of photos, and found some props that the production graciously allowed me to have. And I took the whole package to Jenny.

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She greeted me with a tremendous hug that belied her fragile physical state. The smile on her face lit up the room as her parents and nurses watched her unwrap one-of-a-kind mementos from her favorite show. She thrilled at the personal notes from the cast, and she seemed to gain energy not from the gifts themselves, but from the kindness of those who had given them.

Rob and Greta beamed, filled with joy at seeing their daughter so happy. They had been through grueling months, and there would be many more to come. But in that moment, their weight seemed lifted.

Eventually, Jenny’s strong will and her unbreakable spirit – along with top-notch medical care and the loving support of her family – beat back the leukemia. Jenny grew healthy and was even able to travel to Iceland where she met her heroes on the very sound stage where the episodes were produced. Jenny returned to school and, last year, she graduated from high school with top honors, well on her way to what will surely be an amazing life.

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Because of the persistence and dedication of Rob Stock and her whole family, Jenny found the strength to survive her illness. And LazyTown played a small part in her recovery, thanks to a Dad who wouldn’t give up until he found a way to make his daughter smile.

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No doubt there are many stories of children connecting to their favorite shows during times of crisis. But this one feels special; it’s almost unbelievable the good that came from what might otherwise be considered a run-of-the-mill kids’ TV show. A production shot in the middle of a lava field somewhere in Iceland went halfway around the world, into the heart of a little girl with a desperate illness. That, combined with a very determined and loving father, produced something that feels an awful lot like a miracle.

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