Everything about Children’s Programming, eh?

CBC’s preschool Kingdom Force embraces diversity and teamwork

Matt Fernandes has made a career out of connecting with the preschool crowd. Whether it’s the adventures of Dot, a spunky eight-year-old tech whiz, or Top Wing, about four young birds helping their community, his shows captivate and educate.

Now Fernandes has got a new project, Kingdom Force, and has the Avengers franchise to thank for it.

“I was in a toy store, and I saw this boy with his mom and he was begging her for Avengers toys and Transformers toys,” Fernandes says. “It dawned on me, ‘You know what? This boy wants these toys, but I bet you he’s never watched the movies because he’s too young. Those movies are not for him, but the toys were.'” The result? Kingdom Force.

Premiering Saturday at 9 a.m. on CBC, the 26-episode first season follows five animal heroes as they protect the citizens of five unique animal kingdoms. Wolf Luka, ape Dalilah, cat Mittens, polar bear Norvyn and badger TJ are from different communities but must work together to take down baddies, sometimes as a combined robot named Alpha-Mech.

We spoke to Matt Fernandes about Kingdom Force, how it came about and what he wants kids and parents to learn when they tune in.

Where did the idea for Kingdom Force come from in the first place?

Matt Fernandes: I was in a toy store, and I saw this boy with his mom and he was begging her for Avengers toys and Transformers toys. And it dawned on me, ‘You know what? This boy wants these toys, but I bet you he’s never watched the movies and he’s too young. Those movies are not for him, but the toys were.’ I realized that there was a gap where these kids were going from, say, Paw Patrol or Bob the Builder and making this leap all the way to Avengers, which is a steep climb. I felt like there was a space in between and they were missing a hero that had all the sort of same, high stakes and thrills and spills and rough and tumble that was for them.

I’m a huge 80’s fan, so I put in some 80’s nostalgia in some of the shows. The other thing I really wanted to speak about was diversity. In the show, there are five different kingdoms that have their own history, their own culture their own way of doing things, and they’ve all sort of lived separately. Kingdom Force is a hero from each kingdom who have come together to create a hero for all kingdoms. It really is about unity, strength through unity and strength through diversity. This is sort of the main theme of the whole show and something that I wanted to attack. I combined those two needs into Kingdom Force.

Teamwork and diversity are very top of mind right now. It’s really poignant.
MF: Absolutely. Different cultures coming together to work for one goal for the good of everybody. We lean into that and that was something we really wanted to speak about and I think comes through in our show.

It certainly comes through in the first episode, even though they don’t always get along.
MF: That’s right. Not all of them are always going about a problem in the same way, and there is conflict within the team. But ultimately, there is a resolution and they learn how to work together. It’s not like everybody’s all happy-go-lucky all the time and always on the same page. We actually show a bit of that conflict. But in the end there’s this big learn that being together or taking, both of their strengths combined, they’re stronger.

Was it always the idea to have five animal heroes?
MF: It was always five, but the original designs were actually all five cats. We had a lion and a cheetah and a panther and it originally was called Big Cats. Then slowly, over time, as we developed it, we realized it would be stronger to make it, really vastly different animals and really lean into the culture of those animals and it made the diversity just a little more rich.

You’ve made a career out of working in this genre. What are some of the specific challenges that you face that may be a primetime drama doesn’t? Is education a big part of it?
MF: I would say yes, absolutely. Some shows are lean a little bit heavier on curriculum, some don’t, but, that’s something that really important that you’re giving them big sort of life lessons. Moral lessons are really important.

But the other biggest challenge is they’re a brutally honest audience. You need to grab their attention immediately or else you’ve lost them forever. But if you do get their attention, you have a fan forever. They don’t have the patience to sit through five episodes before you get into the plot, you really need to grab them right away. And that’s, it’s such a visceral response for kids.

You mentioned the 80s earlier. What were the shows that made an impact on you when you were growing up?
MF: I mean I was right in the heart of G.I. Joe, the golden era; there was sort of all lots of animé when I was a kid as well. For me that was the religion, right? Saturday morning cartoons, from six in the morning til noon, that was my day. That was my time. That’s probably had a huge influence on why I’m doing the things I’m doing now.

Kingdom Force airs Saturdays at 9 a.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Nelvana and Lambur Productions are on the case as production is underway on the new live-action series, The Hardy Boys

From a media release:

Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana, along with Lambur Productions, announced today that production is underway on a new live-action Canadian original series, The Hardy Boys (13x60min). Based on Edward Stratemeyer’s bestselling classic children’s books, the mystery-drama features the principal characters in their teen years. Production for the teen series continues to shoot in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area until January 2020.

Slated to premiere on YTV in Canada and premium streaming platform Hulu in the U.S. next year, the hour-long serialized action-packed series stars an all-Canadian main cast including James Tupper (Big Little Lies) as Hardy boys’ father ‘Fenton Hardy,’ Rohan Campbell (Mech-X4) as ‘Frank Hardy,’ and Alexander Elliot (Detention Adventure) as ‘Joe Hardy.’ The Hardy Boys joins Hulu’s established library of licensed and original book-to-television adaptations including The Handmaids Tale, Looking For Alaska, Killing Eve and Friday Night Lights.

After the tragic death of their mother, Frank Hardy, 16, and his brother Joe, 12, are moved from the big city to their mother’s hometown of Bridgeport for the summer. Their father, Fenton, is convinced his wife Laura’s death was no accident and leaves the boys with their aunt as he chases down a lead. Frank and Joe set out to solve the mystery themselves only to find the secret runs deeper than they could have ever imagined. The task of fitting into their new environment is made even harder when the boys begin to believe their mother’s killer is in Bridgeport and suddenly everyone in town is a suspect!

The Hardy Boys is executive produced by Joan Lambur; Peter Mohan, who also serves as head writer; and Jason Stone, who also serves as lead director. Madeleine Lambur serves as creative producer and Paula Smith is Supervising Producer. For Corus and Nelvana, Kathleen Meek is production executive and Doug Murphy, Pam Westman, and Athena Georgaklis are executive producers.

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Sinking Ship Entertainment in production on Season 2 of Endlings

From a media release:

Sinking Ship Entertainment announced today that it has launched production on season two of the highly anticipated sci-fi adventure series Endlings.  Season two will consist of 12 all-new episodes, with creator J.J. Johnson returning as director, writer and executive producer, alongside writer and executive producer Christin Simms.

The second season of the action-packed, intergalactic show for families is currently filming on location in Guelph, Ontario.  Set to return are stars Cale Thomas Ferrin, Edison Grant, Kamaia Fairburn, Michela Luci, Lisa Ryder, Neil Crone and Oyin Oladejo.

In Endlings season two, Johnny (Edison Grant), Julia (Kamaia Fairburn), Tabby (Michela Luci) and Finn (Cale Thomas Ferrin) face the fact that while their past cannot be changed, their future is still within their grasp. They learn to face their fears, and together they fight to change the future. It’s a fight that if they win, will save their lives and the planet as well.

About Endlings Season One
Set 20 years in the future, Endlings is the empowering story of four kids in foster care who discover they’re not alone in the universe, even though sometimes it can feel like they are.

Halfway across the world, following the death of her mate, Tuko becomes the last elephant in existence – what biologists call an Endling. Her endling status summons to Earth a mysterious Alien who is on an intergalactic quest to save the last member of near-extinct species. After Tuko is collected, the Alien’s ship malfunctions and sends it on a crash course with the farm where Julia (Kamaia Fairburn), Johnny (Edison Grant), Tabby (Michela Luci) and Finn (Cale Thomas Ferrin) live with their foster dad, Mr. Leopold (Neil Crone). Before crashing, the Alien releases all of its cosmic collection into the fields and wilderness surrounding the property. This kicks off a high-action life-altering mission to retrieve these fantastical creatures before the local police, Tuko’s caretaker (Oyin Oladejo) or a secretive industrialist (Lisa Ryder) can. Along the way, four discarded kids discover that “endling” doesn’t have to mean the end. It can also mean a new beginning.

The first season of Endlings will launch with nine international broadcast partners including Hulu and Universal Kids in the US, CBC and SRC in Canada, CBBC in the UK, NDR in Germany, ABC in Australia, SVT in Sweden, NRK in Norway, and Gloob in Brazil. The first season of 12 X 22’ will be available for international broadcasters in 2020.

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TV Eh B Cs Podcast 89 — Rev & Roll-ing with Scott and Julie Stewart

A family smiles into the camera.Scott & Julie Stewart are an award-winning, Vancouver-based husband and wife team in kids’ animated content. They are showrunners, executive producers, content creators and writers.

Their latest series is Rev & Roll, which airs daily at 8 a.m. ET on Family Jr., and is also available on Family Jr. OnDemand and the Family Channel App. The action-packed show follows eight-year-old Rev, and his best friend Rumble—a powerful truck with a puppy personality—as they go on wild adventures in their town of Fender Bend!

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Boat Rocker Studios announces seventh season of global smash The Next Step

From a media release:

Boat Rocker Studios’ phenomenally successful tween drama, The Next Step, is set to dance back onto the screen for its seventh season in 2020. The 26 x 30’ season will include its first holiday special which runs over two episodes.  The series is due to have its global premiere on CBBC, the show’s leading broadcast partner, with the holiday special airing in 2019, followed by the new series in 2020. Further international broadcast partners will be announced soon.

A huge international hit The Next Step has been sold to more than 120 marketsworldwide. The new season brings the series total to 206 episodes, a milestone achievement and first of its kind for a Boat Rocker Studios’ homegrown production.

The Next Step follows the lives of a group of dancers at The Next Step Dance Studio as they compete to be the best in their field. It’s not just about winning, though. During the course of the series, each of our characters will discover that the true victory is learning to put their individual differences aside to find a way to work together as a team. This season finds A-Troupe preparing for Nationals with an uncertain future as the Studio is bought by someone new. Will this new owner continue the legacy of The Next Step? Or will their plans take A-Troupe on a new path? Could there be something more than Nationals?

Cast from The Next Step are touring this autumn with the brand-new 90-minute live show The Next Step Live – Absolute Dance, with 24 dates in major cities around the UK, Ireland and Australia.

The Next Step was created by Frank van Keeken (Lost and Found Music Studios, Wingin’ It) and is executive produced by Ivan Schneeberg and David Fortier (Being Erica,Lost and Found Music Studios); Bob Higgins (My Babysitter’s A Vampire,); and Shaleen Sangha (The Next Step, Chuck’s Choice, Make it Pop). Rachael Schaefer (The Next Step, Wingin’ It) and Karen McClellan (The Other Kingdom, Being Erica) serve as showrunners and executive producers of the show. The Next Step is produced by Boat Rocker Studios, with the participation of the Shaw Rocket Fund and the Canada Media Fund (CMF), and distributed globally by Boat Rocker Studios and BBC Studios.

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