Sunday, March 30, 2008
Would you like to make a brief cartoon movie that might be aired on a new digital television network? That's the opportunity that Qubo is offering its viewers.
Never heard of Qubo? It's a collection of kid shows airing Saturday mornings on NBC and Telemundo (in Spanish). The shows were developed by a group that includes Scholastic, a leading publisher of children's books and magazines.
It might seem odd that a company focused on reading would get involved in a television project, but most of Qubo's shows are based on books. Take, for example, "Jane and the Dragon," a show about a 13-year-old girl in medieval times who has a dragon follow her as she trains to be a knight. Her story comes from the book series by Martin Baynton.
"Jacob Two-Two," about a boy who has to say everything twice, is based on the book series by Mordecai Richler. And the show "Dragon" (a different dragon from Jane's) draws from books by Dav Pilkey, author of the "Captain Underpants" series.
Recently, Qubo launched a 24-hour digital operation, called the ION Network, that offers even more programming. And there is an interactive Web site, http://www.qubo.com, that features a special challenge involving the 13-year-old "Zimmer Twins" (another Qubo program).
Visitors to the site are encouraged to create mini-cartoon movies starring twins Eva and Edgar. Web-savvy users can create their stories from scratch; first-timers can use built-in scenarios and add their own words. (You can get to this site directly at http://www.zimmertwins.com.)
The most popular movies -- based on page views and kids' ratings -- are featured as "must-see movies." From that group, the bosses at Qubo choose two per month to show on the digital channel as "shorts" between programs.
KidsPost asked Rick Rodriguez, president of the Qubo network, what grabs the judges' attention.
"We look for interesting stories, number one -- stories with an original idea or good dialogue," he said. "Basically, the Zimmer Twins application is pretty rich. You're able to make some pretty complex stories. A lot of kids will make the same story over and over again. We're looking for those where the user figured out more variety and is using more of the available scenes and putting them together in more interesting ways."
To sign up for the site and make your own movie, you need parental permission.
So far, Qubo has received thousands of submissions. The network is going to add more animation options as the year goes on, giving kids the chance to be even more creative.
"What I just love" about the movies, said Rodriguez, "is that they tell so much about the personality of the kids who make them."
-- Jennifer Frey