Amazon Pilots Inside Story: Why Sara Solves It is “Schoolhouse Rock for Today’s Kids”

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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.

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On “Tumbleaf,” Inventiveness, and a World Where Kids Can Explore and Learn

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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.

Describe Tumbleaf:  

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.

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Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick on Zombieland’s TV Roots, Humor, and Post-Apocalyptic Upsides

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What fans of Zombieland may not realize is that the 2009 hit movie, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, was originally imagined as a TV series.

“We wrote it in 2005 as a spec pilot and sold it to CBS and – this was pre-Walking Dead – and the idea was that zombies had been so successful on the big screen but they have never really been tapped on the small screen,” Paul said.  “The success of Zombieland in some ways paved the way for The Walking Dead to be on-air, and The Walking Dead is obviously a huge success. We’re so happy to be back on TV.”

Zombieland: The Series, is 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 with Paul and Rhett about zombies, their cast, and what the future might hold for their characters.

There are a lot of zombie stories out there, but you  but you guys have taken it in a direction that I think is more humorous than one might expect, post-apocalypse. 

Rhett:  Well I think what we wanted to do is to treat the post-apocalypse like an escapist fantasy.  There are a lot of post-apocalyptic stories like The Road and similar movies that treat the post apocalypse as a grim experience as it likely would be in real life, but we thought we wanted to turn it on its head a little bit and imagine the post-apocalyptic landscape as a fun one, and one where you could be free and do the kind of things that you wanted to do.  Maybe you were the last guy on Earth and maybe there was a cute girl who is also alive, and what would that mean?  So we wanted to look at the post-apocalyptic world as a playground full of toys and full of zombies to bash over the head and full of fun experiences and that was a jumping off point for us.

Paul:  It’s kind of like Los Angeles during the holiday season when everyone goes out of town, and traffic is a lot less and the air is cleaner and people are happier and we thought my God, that feels a little bit of what it would be like in the post-apocalypse, except you’re being chased by zombies.  So the wish fulfillment of that world is something that we really wanted to tap into that really sets us apart from all the other zombie projects, the idea that again you can drive Lamborghinis.  You can just go to the Lamborghini dealership and grab a yellow Lamborghini if you wanted to.  And you could get the hot girl because, you know, there aren’t a lot of choices out there.

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Lisa Henson on Teeny Tiny Dogs, Teaching Happiness, and Her Father’s Influence

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The canines are small, but the legacy is huge – Teeny Tiny Dogs is an Amazon Studios pilot from the Jim Henson Company (and created by Howard Baker of Rugrats fame). “Our company has had a long history of creating great dog characters and we knew that we could bring Howard’s vision to life in a fun, meaningful way with our Henson style of puppets,” said Jim Henson Company CEO Lisa Henson.

Teeny Tiny Dogs is 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 Lisa Henson about the show, what she would every parent and child to know about it, and her inspirations.

Describe Teeny Tiny Dogs …

Teeny Tiny Dogs follows four dogs - Butch, Butterfly, Dinky and Polly - as they help one another navigate the big world despite their teeny, tiny, small size. The series is for preschoolers and follows our company’s history of great, funny, entertaining puppetry.  As important, it also has a solid educational goal, promoting happiness in our young viewers through friendship, learning, growing and developing a strong sense of self.

Why did you want to tell this story, with these characters, in this world?

Teeny Tiny Dogs was created by Howard Baker. Howard had worked with us on some previous projects and he’s a very talented artist and director.  He came to us with the little dog characters and we all just fell in love with them.  … And when we began developing the series, this wonderful curriculum emerged that centered on happiness, helping preschoolers build their self-esteem, confidence, and resilience. We started to see that these four teeny tiny dogs could tell big important stories to our young audience at home.

What do you want every parent to know about your show? Every kid?

I want parents to know that many of us here at The Jim Henson Company are parents ourselves so when we develop a show for preschoolers, be it Sid the Science Kid, Dinosaur Train, Pajanimals or Teeny Tiny Dogs we take that responsibility seriously, even when the show we are creating is a lot of fun! Teeny Tiny Dogs is a great addition to our preschool projects because these are relatable characters that we know kids will see as friends they can trust and learn from.

I want kids to know that Teeny Tiny Dogs is a hilarious playdate with four of the greatest furry pals you’ll ever meet.

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"Those Who Can’t" Q and A: Adam Cayton-Holland, Andrew Orvedahl, Ben Roy

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Adam Cayton-Holland, Andrew Orvedahl, and Ben Roy, the co-writers and stars behind Amazon’s new original pilot, Those Who Can’t, recently sat down with one another in Adam’s living room in Denver, Colorado to talk about their show, which is now available for free on Amazon Instant Video. It went a little something like this:

Adam: So I’ll start with the first question: Who are you guys and what are you doing in my house?

Andrew: Adam, it’s us. Your early-onset dementia is getting the better of you again.

Ben: Alright, are you guys excited about the premiere of Those Who Can’t?

ADAM SCREAMS UNINTELLIGIBLY.

Andrew: I’m very excited. … I don’t know what the average daily visitor count to Amazon’s website is but I’d imagine it’s quite a few. To think of that many people being able to watch our show for free is kind of intimidating.

Andrew: What other sitcoms inspired you guys in writing this?

Adam: I was watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia a fair amount during this. I was watching The League a little bit too. I was also watching The Larry Sanders Show a lot. That’s a great show.

Ben: I watch a lot of older sitcoms. Now that my son is old enough I’ve been re-watching some of my old favorites with him — The Wonder Years, Freaks and Geeks, a few others…

Ben: We definitely were influenced by Strangers With Candy. We all mentioned that one when we started brainstorming the show.

Andrew: Probably one of my favorite shows ever. We all like high school shows and high school settings so it was really fun to make one of our own.

Adam: Andrew, what was your favorite part of filming?

Andrew: Anything other than getting hit in the face with a kickball over and over again. Not that for sure.

Ben: That was my favorite part.

Andrew: The most fun part was watching other people’s scenes, because then you could just sit back and it was kind of fun to watch. I don’t know, pretty much every scene I was in with Rory was pretty fun and really hard not to laugh. I broke like forty times.

Adam: Rory Scovel is hilarious in this episode. He plays the principal of Buchanan High School, where the show is set and where we’re all teachers.

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