For creator and director J.J. Johnson, producing a children’s series is not just about entertaining kids but also about getting them excited about interacting with the world around them. It was with this in mind that he created Annebots, a science show that is one of Amazon’s original pilots.
J.J. is one of the partners of Sinking Ship, a production company based in Toronto, Canada. Formed in 2004, its credits include This is Daniel Cook, Are We There Yet?: World Adventure, and Dino Dan.
Annebots is about Anne, who learns about the world and science while hanging out in her junkyard lab with her best friend Nick and android helpers Hand, Eye and PAL.
We spoke with J.J. about what inspired Annebots, opportunities for interactivity, and the thrill of getting kids excited about science.
How did you come up with the concept for Annebots?
I wanted to do a science series for a long time, especially having touched on some scientific theories with Dino Dan but I could never figure out what kind of show would allow me to do the science that I particularly like and that I think kids generally like too like with actual explosions and things mixing and melting and some of the stuff that is a little more dangerous but certainly has a bigger cool factor. I think that if you’re dealing with subjects like science and the environment and your goal is to get kids excited about the real world, it’s important that you show them the real world. As we got comfortable with CG characters, it got me thinking about having robotic characters and perhaps robotic characters that could be built so that they’re the ones doing the dangerous so we can establish that some of the stuff is crazy and shouldn’t be done by humans, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get into that subject matter. Aesthetically being a kid that explored junkyards when I was younger, I think that is such a cool landscape. It’s really full of forgotten things that all have secondary uses and I think that bleeds into the characters as well that there are things that are built that have been tossed aside but have a second lease on life. So that’s where the setting came together.
There’s no reason to be afraid of math – in fact, it can be fun! Just ask Carol Greenwald and Angela Santomero, co-creators of Sara Solves it, one of one of 14 Amazon original pilots now playing for free at Amazon Instant Video and LOVEFiLM.
Sara Solves It celebrates problem solving with 9-year-old whiz kid Sara and her younger brother Sam. Together, the solve mysteries in their apartment building and beyond, using the power of math.
We asked Carol and Angela about their show, their influences, and their Amazon experience:
Why did you want to tell this story, with these characters, in this world?
We have a vision to help every child and every parent with math homework!
Seriously, we heard from parents that they needed help with some of the strategies in math that will help their kids get off to a strong start in school. And we heard from kids that they wanted to solve mysteries and be in on the action. So, Out of the Blue (Blue’s Clues, Super Why, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) and WGBH (Curious George, Arthur, Martha Speaks) teamed up to create a series designed to help young children acquire the mathematical foundation necessary for future academic success. The math curriculum is designed by Dr. Herb Ginsberg, from Teachers College, Columbia University, and creator of Big Math for Little Kids, the groundbreaking math curriculum for young children.
What do you want every parent to know about your show? Every kid?
It’s Schoolhouse Rock for today’s kids!
Just like with a reading show (Super Why, Martha Speaks) we wanted to have our characters jump into a world surrounded by math. There are numbers everywhere. Even the elevator in their apartment building operates in math equations. Sara is a math whiz while Sam still uses his fingers. We love showing the brother and sister duo work together to solve dramatic (to them!) mysteries…. All with math!
But don’t think for a minute that it’s all work and no play. The show is also lots of fun to watch and kids will be caught up in the mysteries, laughing at the jokes and singing along to the songs. And without even realizing it, they’ll be learning and practicing those math skills they need to succeed in school.
With Sara on the case, there’s no reason for kids (or parents) to be afraid of math.
Watch Sara Solves It, and other kids’ pilots from Amazon Studios, for free.
Fig the fox is a dreamer and inventor in a world full of surprises and adventures. And kids can join him in Tumbleaf, one of 14 Amazon original pilots now playing for free at Amazon Instant Video and LOVEFiLM. Viewer response will help determine which of these shows return with full seasons.
We asked Tumbleaf producer Kelli Bixler about the show (created by Drew Hodges and Bix Pix Entertainment), what Bixler would want every parent and child to know about Fig and his world, and their inspirations.
Tumbleaf is a world in nature, where Fig the fox lives and plays. Fig is a dreamer, a thinker, an inventor of new solutions, solutions no one else has ever thought of, not because he has a magic wand, but because he is an inventor of new solutions inspired by his unique experiences and surroundings. Fig figures things out, he earns his knowledge; thus what he learns is unique to him but also a universal truth.
Why did you want to tell this story, with these characters, this world?
We wanted to create a world that is beautiful and surprising, to create characters that are real, like your nutty but lovable aunt, the odd shy kid down the block, or the mailman who’s never at a loss for words. Fig (like all of us) needs to know how to deal with different people and situations, because the world does not revolve around you, you need a certain amount of independence and resourcefulness, a confidence of knowing “I can figure this out!” to be a purposeful human being – we wanted to create something of value.
What do you want every parent to know about the show? Every kid?
For parents … we love and respect kids – for the intelligent, creative and fun-loving souls they are!
For kids … Fig is going to surprise you and give you new ideas that you can explore and play with on your own – hopefully he’s a kindred spirit – an interesting friend.