Cradle to Grave: Inside Hollywood’s Push Into Preschool Programming

Batman for toddlers? Studios are realizing the importance of getting fans hooked on their biggest franchises when they’re young

The preschool market has become an important programming initiative for entertainment companies and it speaks both to the importance of creating young (and hopefully lifelong) fans of their more seasoned franchises and to the ability to expand those franchises to several versions of the same character.

In March, Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” was released theatrically. Somehow, Reeves’ version of the character (this time embodied with brooding intensity by Robert Pattinson) was the darkest yet. As the character explains in the opening, film noir-y voice-over, those who think that he hides in the shadows are wrong — he is the shadows. And just a few months later, “Batwheels” — a kind of version of Pixar’s “Cars” set in Gotham, with anthropomorphized vehicles — debuts on the Cartoonito preschool programming block of Cartoon Network and on HBO Max.

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Drew Taylor

Drew Taylor is a reporter at TheWrap. Before joining the organization in 2021, Drew was a freelance film journalist with a keen interest in animation and Disney history. Drew has been covering film, television and theme parks for 15 years. He has written for the New York Times, the New York Daily News, Time Out New York, Collider, The Playlist, Polygon, Vulture, Box Office Magazine, AOL Travel and Syfy. He was the executive editor and social media manager for Moviefone before it was purchased by MoviePass. Additionally, Drew co-created and co-hosts “Light the Fuse,” a weekly podcast dedicated to the “Mission: Impossible” film franchise that recently celebrated its 200th episode milestone. He also authored the book “The Art of Onward,” about the making of Pixar’s 2020 fantasy film, and provided liner notes for several Mondo vinyl releases for Pixar features (“Up,” “Coco” and “Lightyear”).