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Claudia Schmitt on Beta’s MipJunior Slate, Led By ‘Dave Spud,’ ‘Helium,’ ‘Ninja Nanny’

Claudia Schmitt, VP international sales and acquisitions, kids and family entertainment, at Munich-based distributor Beta Film, talks about their MipJunior slate, led by animated series “The Rubbish World of Dave Spud.”

How important is humor in “The Rubbish World of Dave Spud”?
“Dave Spud” is a comedy adventure. And the humor is at the heart of the show, which has been created from the core everyday relationships. Natural humor within a family environment, but expanded with the absurdity of the adventures that they face.

Which broadcasters have picked up “The Rubbish World of Dave Spud” so far?
“Dave Spud” was produced by The Illuminated Film Company and has been commissioned by CITV [in the U.K.]. It has already been pre-sold to S4C in U.K., ABC Australia, and SVT in Sweden. The first two episodes have just been finished and will premiere at MipJunior. Many kids programs are labelled “family” but they are not. “Dave Spud” really is. Different from Beta’s “usual” animated kids shows, which are mostly picked up by public broadcasters, we could imagine “Dave Spud” also being of interest to commercial networks like Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon.

How important is it that viewers can identify with the central characters and the situations they find themselves in?
I think the most important thing to get the acceptance of kids for programs is that they are either really authentic and genuine, like our international format hit by NRK, “Skam,” or they offer a space where everything is possible; giving them wings, so to speak. Dave is a character that could be any kid, and the Spuds could be any family unit, except for their unique gift to unwittingly involve themselves in misadventures. This has been key from the get-go so the audience can connect with their world. The adventures start from just another normal day and from there twist into the ludicrous!

What are the trends in programming in pre-teen shows?
While pre-teen shows still have their place, the rise of streaming services has brought some changes. Kids from the age of eight want to watch the trendy teen programs. For the producers for that target group that means that in order to get their attention, the show’s protagonist has to be older, about 15 years old. At the same time, they have to avoid overexposing kids aged nine to 12 with the problems of these protagonists. Their problems have to be problems of a 12-year-old. That is one trend that I see emerging more and more. Still, there is a great emphasis being put on the subject “Stay true to yourself, believe in yourself.” Kids are exposed to many stimuli these days; and the ease of the digital age, where you just press a button to execute things, may give you the illusion that actions won’t have any serious consequences. In “Helium,” our new show from Fabelaktiv in Norway, Martin has to get out of the hideous shadow of the internet and trust that he is just fine the way he is. Because love also happens offline.

Do kids shows reflect the changing reality of children in society, such as the patchwork family?
We have many programs coming from Benelux and Scandinavia, and these countries are extremely outspoken and straight to the point about these issues, which is also reflected in their programs. In “Campus 12,” a Studio 100 program made for Ketnet (VRT), the protagonists will only be able to solve the problem if they overcome their prejudices and their limitations and work together. Patchwork families are the least “problem” these days…

Does “Ninja Nanny” suggest that action is a genre of interest to pre-teen girls?
Of course! As soon as producers of action shows are interested in girls, girls are interested in them. The most important thing is and will always be the story. And in “Ninja Nanny,” Hunter’s teenage need for more attention is just totally absorbed by her mother’s new marriage, new family and her wish to belong to the High Society, which is all kinds of fake – while Hunter is looking for the “real” thing. Her little brother’s new nanny projects courage and self-confidence and doing the “right” thing camouflaged by humor before it gets too serious.

Has the rise of viewing on mobile changed the format or content of the shows?
Yes, generally programs have become shorter. It seems that kids of all ages can’t focus for longer than 7 to 14 minutes. And for very little kids the programs are between 3-7 minutes only. There used to be a lot of programs with a format of 26 minutes for kids aged 8-12 but this has become very rare but precious and are mostly to be found on linear television.

Are the streaming companies buying more kids content?
Yes they do. We sold our first animated movies (“Princess Lilliefee,” et al) in 2010 to Netflix followed by live-action movies (“Bibi and Tina,” et al). We have experienced that Amazon is more appreciative of local content though. Both of them are now also producing original content (like Amazon’s “Bibi & Tina” series order last week). It is not only about more kids program they buy and produce but also about the wider range of kids programs we now have thanks to them. They show us that different genres work out while linear channels had a more limited focus.

Are the Northern European countries still the major producers of quality children’s drama?
It depends on how you define “quality”. Does quality mean educative or entertaining? And who is to judge this? Parents or kids? What I really like about Scandinavian programs, for instance, is that they dare to say it as it really is and that even heavy subjects like the death of a parent, sickness of a family member or divorce are being told in a way that you can laugh about it, where you are given space to step away a bit and then you would automatically do something to ease your pain. Have a good laugh even in the biggest mess. That is what makes these programs remarkable and valuable. But Northern Europeans are not only good at drama alone. A docu-fiction format, our upcoming “Heroes with a Tail,” produced by Dutch NTR Television, presents an exciting mix of fiction and reality. It follows an international team of young researchers trying to get to the bottom of incredible but true rescue stories as try to figure out what makes an animal a hero.

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