SCE grant big piece of ‘Puzzle’

“The Puzzle Factory,” a daily PBS preschool series, will receive a $ 3.5 million commitment — the largest corporate grant for a public TV preschool series — to its production and national outreach campaign courtesy of Southern California Edison Co. in partnership with the Rebuild L.A. community redevelopment effort.

It’s part of SCE’s $ 35-million, five-year pledge “to the healing of the community” in the aftermath of last year’s riots, stated John E. Bryson, SCE’s chairman and CEO. Bryson added the show — featuring ethnically and culturally diverse “people puppets” promoting such weighty issues as racial harmony, self-esteem and getting along with others — will foster harmony “in our region and beyond as the children who grow up with these values become members of our society.”

‘Vision and commitment’

Don Marbury, director of the Corp. for Public Broadcasting TV Program Fund, applauded the orgs’ “vision and commitment.” KCET president-CEO William H. Kobin added that the grant is “recognition that the age this series is aimed at is the age to really begin to train, teach and mold young children.”

Part of PBS’ Children’s Initiative, established by the pubcasters to expand educational programming for youngsters, initial funding for “The Puzzle Factory, ” scheduled to premiere in 1994, was provided by a $ 4.5 million grant from the CPB. That’s said to be the largest children’s program grant from CPB since it funded “Sesame Street” nearly a quarter of a century ago.

Total budget for “The Puzzle Factory” project is $ 13 million, which will include 65 half-hour episodes for its first season as well as the outreach element. The show is tentatively slated to start production this summer; a pilot was recently taped at KCET.

‘Puzzle’ weaves lesson

“The Puzzle Factory” will “show children the value of diversity and encourage and nurture the notion of decision-making and problem-solving,” stated Larry Lancit, president of New York-based Lancit Media, which is co-producing the series with KCET.

Lancit is exec producing with Cecily Truett, his wife and business partner, and Ricki Franklin. Sonia Rosario, who was on hand to unveil the series’ characters, is supervising producer. Senior creative consultant and puppet designer is Kevin Clash, Emmy Award-winner who has appeared on “Sesame Street.”

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