Amazon Seeks a Hit Kids Show Through the Classroom

TumbleLeaf

Company launched its first three shows for kids Thursday

Amazon is serving kids a side of education with their daily dose of TV shows.

The Seattle-based tech giant launched its first slate of children’s series Thursday with shows from Emmy winner Drew Hodges, “Blue’s Clues” co-creator Angela Santomero and Emmy nominee JJ Johnson. Hodges’ “Tumble Leaf” and Santomero’s “Creative Galaxy” are intended for pre-school aged children while the third, Johnson’s “Annedroids,” is intended for kids between the age of four and seven.

Each of those shows fits into a broader curriculum, a term Amazon executives use frequently that underscores their focus on educating and entertaining at the same time.

“Creative Galaxy” chronicles Artie, an alien artist who lives in the eponymous realm of ingenuity and ends each show by urging kids to do something creative. “Tumble Leaf” follows a fox who goes off on an adventure each day.

“In all of these shows, you see these characters exploring and learning, and in all the shows we are asking kids to be active,” Tara Sorensen, Amazon Studios’ head of kids’ programming, told TheWrap. “It’s not just about the story on the screen but how we can extend that learning.”

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Six episodes of each show will debut over the summer, beginning with “Tumble Leaf” on May 23. The popularity of Amazon’s kids programming will play a large role in determining the success of Amazon’s larger push into original shows.

Amazon Studios has launched a couple of new series thus far, with several more on the way. Though “Betas” did not survive past its first season, political comedy “Alpha House” was popular enough to merit more episodes. Analysts are quick to compare new subscription video service to Netflix, where kids’ programming has been so popular that the company created a separate section of its service for kids. Letting parents control what their kids watch was another reason.

Amazon has licensed rights to popular shows from Nickelodeon, among others, but hopes to produce one of its own. Sorsensen joined Amazon two years ago after several years working for National Geographic and Sony.

“Ever since tables were introduced, I saw kids watching and interacting with media in a different way,” Sorensen said. “Amazon is a customer-obsessed company and Amazon got in the kids business because kids and family are a core part of our customer base.”

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One of her first calls was Dr. Alice Wilder, with whom she’d worked at National Geographic. Wilder worked on the hit TV show “Blues Clues” right out of graduate school and has developed a process of understanding what kids want to watch through conversations with adolescents and their parents.

“[Tara] is working for this new unique service providing content for kids and called me and said ‘I really wanna build this with you,'” Wilder told TheWrap. “I’ve been sitting on the floor talking with kids for the past 20-25 years.”

Amazon gathers more feedback from its audience than most, soliciting feedback on its pilots before deciding whether to order more episodes. Sorensen wanted Wilder’s  help talking with potential viewers — both kids and parents — as well as help crafting the curriculum, which runs through all of their shows.

“The curriculum serves as a roadmap for us,” Sorensen said. ‘Creatively we develop characters and stories, but we make sure the curriculum is woven throughout the story in an organic way. We hope kids will not necessarily smell the education.”