Classic TV kids' hits get digital makeover

by Audrey Stuart, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 06 2010 10:54 AM | Updated as of Oct 06 2010 06:54 PM

CANNES - From the Power Rangers to Angelina Ballerina, Le Petit Prince and "Sesame Street's" Elmo, children's favorite television characters are getting a digital makeover around the world.

The re-looked kids' classics that are being adapted to today's digitally-savvy youngsters were attracting strong interest at the influential MIPCOM audiovisual entertainment industry show that opened here this week.

Driving the trend is the arrival of smartphones and portable computer "tablet" devices that can entertain children with downloaded games and Apps at home or on the move, particularly young pre-schoolers.

"Smartphones like the iPhone and the new computer tablets are a great interface for pre-school children because they are very intuitive (to use)," Sesame Workshop executive Terry Fitzpatrick told AFP.

A number of companies are also updating their popular television programs and films, which until now have been produced in two-dimension computer graphics, into high-quality 3D.

HIT Entertainment's hugely popular "Angelina Ballerina" animated TV series has been given a bright new computer-generated 3D look, which allows the dancing mouse to perform like never before.

And the internationally-popular French children's book, Antoine de Saint-Exupery's "Le Petit Prince" (The Little Prince) is to be made into a 52-episode television series in top quality stereophonic 3D.

The Little Prince, who hops from planet to planet helping people solve their problems, will also inhabit a multi-platform galaxy offering books, online and musical formats.

"Apps" -- programs for portable devices such as smartphones -- are the newest addition to the array of tools to help children learn and be entertained via downloaded games and books.

And they are catching on fast with both youngsters and parents.

Sesame Workshop has launched 12 Apps to date, priced at between two and five dollars each. Seven are children's books in electronic format while the other five are original games.

HIT Entertainment's new mobile Apps, which are in a similar price bracket, are also catching on fast.

"We've done very well with Apps, which are proving very popular," HIT's Alison Homewood told AFP.

The first "Thomas The Tank" iPhone games that launched at the beginning of this year have notched up 180,000 sales to date, she added.

Familiar old favorites such as Thomas are less risky in today's difficult economic climate, industry experts here said.

"The return of a known brand is an easier sell," the managing director of Cake Entertainment's distribution arm, Ed Galton, told MIPCOM News.

"Sesame Street" is launching a new version of its Emmy award-winning classic "The Electric Company" show, which was extremely popular in the 1970s and 1980s.

The show's goal is still to help six-to-nine-year-old youngsters struggling to learn to read. But it can now also offer viewers a variety of interactive games to help improve their vocabulary and will launch an App for mobile phones and computer tablets early next year, Fitzpatrick said.

"Power Rangers", another classic US brand that launched in the 1990s, was also out in force here to promote its return to the television screen with its cast of updated but still brightly spandex-clad and helmeted teenage superheroes.

"We're going back to the original format," Fernando Szew, chief executive of the show's distributor MarVista Entertainment, told AFP, adding that there would be lots of humor and spectacular special effects in the new series.

The new series of Power Rangers will air on the Nickelodeon channel early next year.