As the CEO of DIC, a producer and frequent writer of children’s programming, and a father of three, Andy Heyward understands that his commitment to his viewers doesn’t end the moment they turn off the TV.
“The whole essence of DIC is serving kids,” he says. “That’s our audience, and they really have a lot of needs that we can help with.”
Heyward’s desire to help out his young demographic takes a variety of forms, primary among them his willingness to work with teachers and childhood development experts to produce educational content. But his charitable projects, which often incorporate DIC’s own resources, expand on his mission even further.
For years, Heyward has served on the advisory board for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, whose former director Dan Broughton in turn sits on DIC’s board of advisers. Together, the two have attempted to coordinate their respective orgs: Inspector Gadget became the official spokescharacter for the NCMEC two years ago; DIC produced a number of PSAs for the center; and there are other collaborative projects on the horizon.
“We’re cross-linking our various Web sites with those of the NCMEC,” Heyward says. “We’re going to be facilitating a number of PSAs on DKN (syndie package DIC Kids Network), and we’re going to be incorporating some of the center’s safety messages into future scripts for our shows.”
Also in the works is a plan to align DIC’s Saturday morning series “KOL Secret Slumber Party” with both the NCMEC and KOL, AOL’s kid-friendly server site.
Heyward also seeks to introduce children to the entertainment business early on, actively supporting the Omaha Children’s Theater and its Beverly Hills counterpart, which is set to open next year.
“Amazingly, there is no significant children’s theater in Southern California,” says Heyward, who a year ago heard of plans to construct a cultural center in Beverly Hills and urged the builders to include a children’s theater in their drafts.
“And it won’t just be for Beverly Hills,” he continues. “It’s going to be a resource for all of Southern California.”
As with the theater in Omaha, Heyward plans to recruit young actors from the Beverly Hills program to do voiceover work for DIC toons.
Assimilating talent from children’s theater is not the only instance of DIC opening its offices to pro-social projects; Heyward has established a more ambitious endeavor with the Los Angeles County Probation Dept.
Working with Carol Biondi, philanthropist and wife of former Viacom prexy Frank Biondi, Heyward spearheaded a program to provide 90-day paid internships to outgoing inmates of the Camp Gonzales Juvenile Detention Center.
The camp, whose rehab programs were also the inspiration for Sony’s football feature “Gridiron Gang,” was a pet cause of Heyward’s late father, who volunteered there as a reading teacher.
Heyward’s program provides troubled teenagers with positions inside DIC, ranging from animation apprenticeships to writing and computer work.
The idea, Heyward says, is to introduce former Camp Gonzales inmates to a situation in which “they would have their first job, learn a new skill, get their first paycheck and develop self-esteem.
“It’s constantly a revolving door where they get out and just go right back on the street with the gangs and the drugs, with all of the horrible social influences that are surrounding these kids. We’re just trying to break the cycle,” he says, before proudly noting that one of his former interns recently secured a permanent job at Warner Bros.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is another beneficiary of Heyward’s efforts. After underwriting an annex to the hospital’s emergency ward, Heyward recently announced plans to endow a chair for substance abuse research.
UCLA professor and pediatrician Jeffery Wilkins will oversee the venture, which will focus primarily on youth psychiatry and addiction studies.
Heyward attributes his philanthropic passion to his father, writer-producer Louis M. Heyward.
“When he retired, he wasn’t the kind of guy who was going to go out and hit golf balls. He wanted to do something to help people out.”