First, there was Dino Dan. Then Trek’s Adventures. Now, TVO has got a new dinosaur-themed kid’s series in Dino Dana. Debuting with two episodes on Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET before moving to its regular timeslot on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Dino Dana is from Sinking Ship, the same folks who have partnered with TVO for Annedroids, Dino Dan and Odd Squad.
Where Trek’s Adventures picked up with Dan’s younger brother, who can also see, learn and educate about the ancient beasts, nine-year-old Dana heads off on 16 new adventures. Wednesday’s premiere storyline, directed by creator J. J. Johnson, is “Dino Field Guides,” and sets up the rest of the series. A chance encounter at the library causes Dana (Michela Luci) to begin her adventure; she runs into Trek Henderson (Trek Buccino) who presents her with his and Dan’s field guide. Turns out there are still experiments that need finishing and Trek invites Dana to have at them as the newest palaeontologist in training. Of course, once the fabled guide is in her possession, Dana can see and interact with dinosaurs all around her—beginning with her favourite, the Troodon—and the journey kick-starts in earnest.
Michela Luci is great as Dana, an enthusiastic girl with a voracious appetite for anything dino-related. And Dana’s knapsack is to die for: a carry-all that can transform to look like any dinosaur Dana desires. Saara Chaudry is the perfect foil, playing Dana’s eye-rolling, mp3 consuming older sister Saara who is often drawn into her sibling’s undertakings. Nicola Correla-Damude plays mom while Amish Patel is dad on Dino Dana.
The stunning CGI we’ve come to expect from Dino Dan is in full effect here, offering plenty of education in an entertaining package.
Dino Dana debuts Wednesday, May 24, at 5 p.m. ET before moving to its regular timeslot on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. ET on TVO.
Get ready for a season filled with friendly rivalries and fierce competition with the return of Family Channel’s hit series The Next Step. Debuting Friday, May 26 at 4:30 p.m. ET/PT, season five represents a new chapter for the studio as the dancers are divided into two separate teams, led by fan-favourites Victoria Baldesarra (Michelle) and Alexandra Beaton (Emily). Fans who can’t wait for the new season to begin, can check out the new short series The Next Step: The Off Season, on The Family Channel App, to find out what A-Troupe has been up to since their Regionals loss. Following the premiere, new episodes of The Next Step will air regularly Fridays at 4:30 p.m. ET/PT with encore presentations at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Season five of The Next Step brings about a lot of changes for the studio. Since losing at Regionals, A-Troupe is once again the underdog, but that won’t deter them from getting back to the top. As many dancers leave to pursue their goals and dreams, former dance captain Emily (Beaton) steps in to take control of the studio. But her strict regime isn’t welcomed by everyone and the studio quickly divides into two: Emily’s classically trained dancers, and the self-trained/hip-hop crew led by veteran Michelle (Baldesarra). In the end, only one team can make it to Regionals and it’s a full out battle between East vs. West.
New dancers joining the cast for season five include: Dylan Ratzlaff as Jacquie; Jessica Lord as Lola; Milaina Robinson as Zara; Julian Lombardi as Ozzy; Hanna Miller as Heather; Noah Zulfikar as Kingston; Dawson Handy as Josh; and Julian Elia as Elliot. In addition to Beaton and Baldesarra, returning familiar faces include: Myles Erlick as Noah; Briar Nolet as Richelle; Alexandra Chaves as Piper; Isaiah Peck as Henry; Shelby Bain as Amy; Brennan Clost as Daniel; Lamar Johnson as West; and Akiel Julien as LaTroy. Fan-favourites Brittany Raymond (Riley), Trevor Tordjman (James), Taveeta Szymanowicz (Thalia) and Isaac Lupien (Eldon) will make guest appearances throughout the season.
The Next Step is produced by Radical Sheep Productions, a division of Boat Rocker Studios in association with Family Channel and is executive produced by Ivan Schneeberg and David Fortier (Lost & Found Music Studios, Wingin’ It); Michelle Melanson Cuperus (The Bagel and Becky Show, Fangbone!); Rachael Schaefer (The Next Step, Wingin’ It) and Karen McClellan (The Other Kingdom, Being Erica). The Next Step was created by Frank van Keeken. The Next Step is also produced with the participation of the Shaw Rocket Fund, the Canada Media Fund (CMF) and CBBC. BBC Worldwide handles the international rights to the series.
To walk onto the set of Odd Squad is to be immediately immersed in the world occupied by the heroes of TVO’s kid’s show. A slide from the second floor here, a trophy room there, a hallway filled with a riot of coloured doors is steps away from a ball pit. It’s all designed, says co-creator Tim McKeon, to aid in the ease of filming, something he was inspired by when he was an intern on The West Wing during Season 2. Those legendary walk-and-talks brought viewers into President Bartlet’s world, so why not do it with Odd Squad?
TVO’s math-centred series is on a hot streak of late: Season 2 just wrapped production in Toronto’s west end and the program won five Daytime Emmys last week and McKeon captured a Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award for the second season script “Drop Gadget Repeat.” Not bad for what McKeon refers to as “a workplace comedy for kids” that incorporates the education angle to include math.
“You never see their home life,” McKeon says from Odd Squad‘s production offices. He’s just taken a group of families on a set tour in support of Make-A-Wish Canada. “That’s very deliberate and you never see them in school.” PBS approached McKeon (Adventure Time) and Adam Peltzman (The Backyardigans) about creating a math series for kids. Their first challenge? Not to make it lame. They sought to create a program about a secret world where kids were powerful and figured out strange, X-Files-esque math problems as detectives. Making the kids professional by dressing them in suits was the next step. The key for the pair was to have the agents—played by Millie Davis, Sean Michael Kyer, Dalila Bela, Filip Geljo, Anna Cathcart and Isaac Kragten—solve the problems for the adults rather than the other way around.
“Our secondary goal, along with PBS and TVO, was to put girls in charge and show diversity,” McKeon says. “This [second] season, we have four leads and three of them are girls.” What makes a program like Odd Squad unique—and children’s television overall—is how non-dramatic having female leads and a diverse cast is. Where primetime television is being criticized for a lack of those things, Odd Squad has been doing it for two seasons. It’s a natural part of the storyline and accepted by viewers without fanfare. Also natural? The math. There are no blackboards being pulled out with long division on them.
“I think the role of educational TV is to teach kids, but more specifically, to help them over bumps,” McKeon says. “We’re going to try our hardest to get across a concept so that kids can then go into the classroom and say, ‘I kind of already know this.'”
“It’s not only that Odd Squad is funny and has clever scripting, characters and wardrobe, they’ve made math the solution to all of the cases the agents have to solve,” says Marney Malabar, director of kids TV at TVO. “They didn’t make math a bad thing. They made it, organically, normal. It’s never a token learning moment. It’s of course, everybody should use math, rather than let’s just show you that math is important. Math is used to further the story because if they didn’t use it. they’d never be able to solve their problems.
Aside from working math into each episode, McKeon and Peltzman, knew one key to successfully writing for children is to never talk down to them or do “kid” jokes; strive to be funny for adults and the kids will get it too. The Odd Squad writer’s room has been an established core that includes co-executive producer Mark De Angelis and writer Robby Hoffman and a massive list of freelancers.
“Oddness is a pretty open idea,” Peltzman says of the writing process. “And once you’ve set this concept where there is oddness in the world—whether it’s dragons, dinosaurs or made-up creatures and weather phenomena—you’ve created a box where you can go to all of these different places.”
Canadian television productions Odd Squad and Beat Bugs took home several trophies Friday night at the 44th annual Creative Arts Daytime Emmys, held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.
Isaac Kragten of TVO’s Odd Squad won for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s, Preschool Children’s or Family Viewing Program. Series co-creators Tim McKeon and Adam Peltzman and executive producer Mark De Angelis won Outstanding Writing Special Class for Odd Squad: The Movie. McKeon’s win comes days after his Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Awards win for his Season 2 episode “Drop Gadget Repeat.”
Odd Squad‘s Christine Toye won a Creative Arts Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Costume Design/Styling, Liz Roelands for Outstanding Hairstyling and Jenna Servatius for Outstanding Makeup. Odd Squad is a co-production between Sinking Ship Entertainment and The Fred Rogers Company for TVO and PBS.
Beat Bugs, produced by Vancouver’s Thunderbird Films, was awarded Outstanding Writing in a Preschool Animated Program.
TVO’s leadership in digital learning was further recognized last week with 12 nominations for the 2017 Youth Media Alliance (YMA) Awards of Excellence, and a record-setting 23 nominations for the Daytime Emmy® Awards – the most TVO has ever earned for its children’s content by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Among the nominations was an important recognition by the YMA for TVO mPower in the category of Best Original Interactive Content. mPower is a new, creative online game that helps build foundational K-6 math skills for students in the classroom. All of TVO’s nominations serve as a strong acknowledgement of TVOKids’ exciting and innovative kids content that reflects the Ontario school curriculum.
The Daytime Emmy® Awards will be held on April 30. The 2017 Youth Media Alliance Awards of Excellence gala will take place on May 31.
The complete list of nominations is below. All nominated programs can be viewed on demand at tvokids.com and on the TVOKids YouTube channel. mPower is available to educators at tvo.org/mPower.
Youth Media Alliance Awards of Excellence nominations
Hi Opie! (Opie’s Ladybug Friend) –Best Program, Live Action, Ages 3–5