With grown-up series like “Orange Is the New Black,” “House of Cards” and “Transparent” drawing major kudos for Netflix and Amazon, the streaming services are now looking to score similar acclaim at the toddler level.
Instituted in 2013, the Daytime Emmy Award for pre-school animated program has perennially played home to PBS fare, alongside various offerings from Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Sprout.
For 2015, last year’s winner, PBS’ math-centric “Peg + Cat,” from the Fred Rogers Co., returns with its second nom. But replacing the cablers are Amazon with Bix Pix Entertainment’s stop-motion animated “Tumble Leaf” (Amazon’s first original children’s series), which teaches about nature through play; and Netflix with DreamWorks Animation’s Bible-inspired “VeggieTales in the House.”
What all three shows have in common are high-minded ideals and high-quality animation — and no need to satisfy standard TV advertisers. The constituency is just parents and children, and if both aren’t happy, shows aren’t going to be turned on or clicked on.
Moreover, “Tumble Leaf” and “VeggieTales in the House” can’t be stumbled upon while changing channels or while a child has been left in front of a TV set. Caregivers or parents need to intentionally seek out streaming shows and put them in front of children.
“We saw a remarkable opportunity to provide a distinct and sophisticated series for kids, particularly since stop-motion animation was not actively being developed in the market,” says Tara Sorensen, head of children’s programming at Amazon Studios.
For Netflix, “VeggieTales in the House,” a spin-off of the original “VeggieTales” series of DVD specials — also available on Netflix — came to the service as part of overall deal with DreamWorks Animation. It’s a change of pace in original programming for an outlet more buzzed about for edgy adult fare.
“Our slate is maybe more broad than [many people’s] perception,” says Net-flix spokeswoman Jenny McCabe. “ ‘VeggieTales’ is definitely on the pre-school, sweeter end of it … (and) has the biblical undertones as well.”
This may be more familiar territory for PBS, but “Peg + Cat” is very recent for the pubcaster — it just got a second-season pickup in early March.
Lesli Rotenberg, general manager of children’s media at PBS, points to the show’s “witty storylines, engaging music and innovative approach to math and problem solving,” as representative of the pubcaster’s “mission to use the power of media to spark children’s curiosity.”