by Ryan Conti

Have you ever wondered how SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Bob the Builder, and Chuggington came to be? We know that the right product connected to the right audience puts millions of dollars into everyone’s coffers. he Kidscreen Summit, held last month at the Hilton New York, welcomed people from all over the world, giving them the opportunity to pitch their properties to various production companies.
I liken the Kidscreen Summit to Roald Dahl’s classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the five golden tickets, but everyone has a chance at success. The stakes are high, the payoff enormous. There are so many benefits to attending, where do I begin?

At a breakfast sponsored by the international children’s television festival, Prix Jeunesse, and the American Center for Children and Media, I had the opportunity to see marvelous completed animated shorts from around the world. All were brilliant, colorful, humorous, educational, insightful, and awe-inspiring. My favorites included Tikitiklip Pre-Columbian (Ojitos Producciones/Chile), where artifacts sing, dance, and educate; the must-see What’s Your News (TT Aninmation/UK); the great anti-bullying message in See  Something, Say Something (Bold Creative/UK), and the utterly stunning The Boy and the Beast (ZDF/Germany). I won’t ruin the ending, other than to say it was reminiscent of the great Shel Silverstein’s work with a dollop of Shrek added for good measure.
Kidscreen Symposiums included Introduction to Licensing 101; lectures on specific age-targeted viewing habits; a comprehensive study on the buying/spending habits on apps by U.S. kids; vital pitch clinics, where one’s work is given an honest assessment and invaluable feedback to better promote one’s products; ample speed pitching sessions with reps from Disney ABC Television Group, Nickelodeon, Zodiak Productions (UK), Teletoon Canada, Cartoon Network, and Corus Entertainment. My favorites included Heroes
and Superheroes, a spotlight on Corus Entertainment, which lucidly explained the Canadian laws and the complexities of Canadian and Canadian/foreign co-productions, and, lastly, the behemoth Moshi-Monsters, which boasts 30 million registered users and a $100 million consumer products program.
The works I saw and the pitches I overheard fell into one of four categories:
either the property in question had strong content and weak illustrations, weak content and strong illustrations, strong content and strong illustrations, or weak content and weak illustrations.
Interstitials were displayed on flashy iPads or cell phones, in glossy catalogs,
or in the form of published books. Some even came with prototype merchandise to showcase its potential viability.
I was surprised that there wasn’t a strong publishing presence. I think that it
would have benefitted some publishing houses to seek out emerging trends and fresh domestic and international talent.
I had the pleasure of meeting Paulo and Silvia Gomes from BigMoon Animation Studios out of Portugal, whose current properties include Tic Tac Tales and Pikaboo. Their presentation was well thought out, and their passion and commitment to their product palpable. Met Vivek Kalyan of Tigerbells out of India, whose product raises the bar. Will they become the next Scooby Doo, or Mickey Mouse? Only time will tell.
I can say that for any artist, illustrator, author, or animator wanting to take their product to the next level, this is the one event I strongly suggest attending.