The Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times
August 1, 1985, Thursday, Home Edition
Calendar; Part 6; Page 1; Column 1; Entertainment Desk
HEADLINE: EXPLOSION IN CHILDREN'S FILMS AND TV PROGRAMS
BYLINE: By LEE MARGULIES, Times Staff Writer
international conference on motion picture and television
production for children opened here with an overwhelmingly
upbeat report on the booming market for such fare in the United
to the 30th annual meeting of the International Centre of
Films for Children and Young People, convening at USC this
week in their first such session ever held in the United States,
were told that the last few years has seen an explosion in
film and TV programming for children. For example:
Loesch, president of Marvel Productions, which makes such
animated programs as "The Muppet Babies" and "Spider-Man
and His Amazing Friends," said that the animation industry
is enjoying its busiest year ever. Ten years ago, she said,
there were four major animation companies in the Los Angeles
area producing about 300 half-hour shows; today there are
eight companies working on at least 900 half-hours.
Tom Griffin, president of Sunbow Productions, which produces
"The Great Space Coaster" and the "G.I. Joe"
and "Transformers" cartoon series, said that when
his company had tried to launch "The Great Space Coaster"
in the syndication market five years ago, it was an uphill
battle just to get it on 56 stations. This fall, he said,
there will be 16 such first-run series battling for viewers'
attention, from "Masters of the Universe" to "Inspector
Gadget" and "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids."
Phyllis Tucker Vinson, vice president for children's programs
at NBC, said there is now so much children's programming available
in syndication that her network, despite ranking first in
the competitive Saturday morning ratings, is having difficulty
selling advertising time for the fall. "It makes the
networks a little nervous," she said.
Nancy Steingard, vice president for programming and business
affairs at Family Home Entertainment, said that in the area
of home video, children's programming is the most important
segment of the industry after feature films.
Catherine Wyler, director of children's and cultural programming
at the Public Broadcasting Service, noted that children's
programming has been listed as the top priority of the Corporation
for Public Broadcasting.
Kathryn Galan, vice president of Atlantic Releasing Corp.,
which distributed the theatrical films "The Smurfs and
the Magic Flute" and "Here Come the Littles,"
said there is new respect for the earning potential of G-rated
movies, provided that they can be produced and marketed within
tight budget limits.
They and other executives active in the children's TV and
film area spoke Tuesday at a symposium sponsored jointly by
the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the Children's
Film and Television Center of America. The latter organization,
which is headquartered at USC and is affiliated with the university's
school of cinema and TV, is the U.S. representative to the
Paris-based International Centre of Films for Children and
Young People and is hosting the conference here this week.
conference is being attended by 28 foreign delegates, representing
such countries as China, the Soviet Union, Australia, France,
Yugoslavia, Colombia, Finland, West Germany, India and Italy.
They are educators, film makers and film commission executives
whose national affiliates of the International Centre sponsor
children's film and video festivals, promote the production
of children's movies and TV programming and initiate and exchange
research about the effects of media on youngsters.
with about 150 members of the public, they heard a variety
of reasons at the symposium for the boom in U.S. production
for children. Among them: the growth of independent TV stations,
which have created new outlets for syndicated programming;
the growth of the cable TV and home-video markets; a spurt
in the birth rate; a new emphasis on retailing to the young,
and a greater interest on the part of parents in what their
children are watching.
they didn't hear, however, was an assurance that the increased
quantity will necessarily result in increased quality. While
that was the implied message of most of the speakers -- whose
rationale seemed to be that the more times that children's
producers get to bat, the more they will hit home runs --
there were several discordant notes sounded.
the motion picture and home-video areas, both Steingard and
Galan said, quality is not as important to the success of
a children's product as the degree of marketability it has
-- either in brand-name association, such as Disney, or in
recognizable characters (from TV series or toys, for instance).
Television cartoon series increasingly are being based on
a sad fact," Galan said, "but it appears to be true
that 'Care Bears' and 'He-Man,' which are not great movies,
will outdraw movies like 'Return to Oz' or 'The Black Cauldron,'
which have many more millions of dollars poured into them
and which are of tremendous quality."
hearing the presentations, PBS' Wyler remarked during a question-and-answer
period that, "I think it's fairly pathetic that the only
things that go are what's already known. If that were true
in books, where would we be?"