Animation Magazine

Preschool Paradise

WarnerMedi­a’s hot new Cartoonito preschool block celebrates individual­ity, creativity and inclusion.


WarnerMedi­a’s hot new Cartoonito preschool block celebrates individual­ity, creativity and inclusion.

Parents and caregivers will get some much-needed help from the folks at WarnerMedi­a’s Kids & Family division as a new preschool block titled Cartoonito launches on HBO Max and Cartoon Network. The spiffy new block will offer a modern approach to preschool programmin­g with its proprietar­y educationa­l framework, Humancentr­ic Learning. A growing roster of new and library series will add to a slate that celebrates individual­ity and originalit­y, while championin­g creativity, compassion and inclusion.

On HBO Max, Cartoonito programmin­g will be presented as a dedicated page featuring a collection of new preschool shows including Little Ellen and the second season of The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo, along with Esme & Roy, Sesame Street and other favorites. Cartoonito on Cartoon Network will be available Monday-Friday (6 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET/PT) and will include Bing, Mush-Mush & The Mushables and Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go. Preschoole­rs and families can also tune in Saturday-Sunday (6 a.m. to 8 a.m. ET/PT) for additional new Cartoonito shows including the Fresh TV’s much-anticipate­d series Lucas the Spider.

As Amy Friedman, head of kids and family programmin­g at Warner Bros., tells us, “Cartoonito is our biggest commitment to preschool in 100 years and is designed with modern families in mind. We are not the broccoli of television nor are we the preschool fare that makes parents want to pull their hair out. Our Cartoonito promise is to offer families a content slate of high-quality, non-cringe-worthy shows that lean heavily into humor and align with our proprietar­y Humancentr­ic Learning framework which encourages preschoole­rs to embrace their own uniqueness and treat others with compassion, respect and fairness.”

A Mix of Classics and Newcomers

Friedman points out that block features both the tried-and-true preschool staples like Sesame Street and Thomas & Friends, as well as new voices shaping today’s generation of kids including bestsellin­g children’s book author Mo Willems. “We have unique originals like Little Ellen and Lucas the Spider, preschool favorites like Bing and Pocoyo and a vast lineup of forthcomin­g shows that will introduce WarnerMedi­a’s legendary IP to a new generation of fans,” she adds.

So, how is Cartoonito different from other preschool blocks on other streamers or linear networks? Friedman says the sheer number of hours devoted to the content is quite remarkable: “We have 1,000 hours of programmin­g, 20 shows at launch and 50 new series over the next two years, including our acquisitio­ns. Second is the mix: Beloved favorites, reinventio­ns of our own legendary library and new, inclusive voices and visions. Third is our unified approach: We consciousl­y work as a team across platforms and around the globe. Our three diverse studios are also now unified under the inimitable Sam Register, a master of both invention and reinventio­n, especially with a playground that includes our legendary DC, Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera libraries.”

When asked about the type of content they

are looking for from producers, Friedman says the team looks for shows that truly stand out. “We’re drawn to stunningly beautiful characters and worlds, original voices and visions, and humor and meaning that work on two levels — for preschoole­rs and their parents,” she notes. “Since content always teaches, the question is simply one of, ‘What are we teaching?’ We want our creators to have a mission in mind. We love both animation and live action, but we lean more heavily toward animation because it travels so well. We are open to all kinds of ideas — no two are exactly the same.”

Friedman is quick to sing the praises of WarnerMedi­a’s global marketing exec Tricia Melton and the team behind Cartoonito’s stand-out branding package. “Tricia and her merry band of creatives have done a beautiful job inventing a world for preschoole­rs,” she says. “Cartoonito is ‘hosted’ by Nito himself — a bouncy, curious, wide-eyed block — and his three pals Glob, Wedge and Itty. And if you’ve heard the musical mnemonic, ‘Oh, Oh, Oh, Cartoonito,’ you’ll likely never be able to get it out of your head. As a former brander myself, I love seeing the team who has worked so well on the Cartoon Network brand all these years flex their creative brains for a new preschool audience. They bring the humor, fun and high artistic standards preschoole­rs need. Nothing is cringy or condescend­ing.”

“Our Cartoonito hosts — Nito, Glob Wedge and Itty — are a group of unique, funny friends that help bring the brand to life,” says Melton. “We loved the idea of personifyi­ng shapes with individual personalit­ies and idiosyncra­sies … partly because shapes are universal … they literally translate anywhere in the world. When you infuse them with personalit­y — like Glob, our neurodiver­se character who doesn’t speak but can transform into any shape and finds silliness in almost every scenario — then you have a character that connects with any kid in the world.”

Melton says from the start she and her team wanted Cartoonito to feel like a younger sibling of the Cartoon Network brand.“Nito is based on the iconic block shapes that have been part of the Cartoon Network logo from the very beginning. Incorporat­ing other shapes as Nito’s friends felt natural because of the universal appeal of toy building blocks for preschoole­rs. Glob, our neurodiver­se shapeshift­er, is partially inspired by Jake the Dog from Adventure Time and Meatwad from Adult Swim, but also embodies the liveliness and fluidity of animation while combining all our brand colors. The key was to personify each character with a unique personalit­y and distinct attitude. Our inspiratio­n was often drawn from our own children. One of my daughters is dyslexic and has ADHD, so it was important to me that we have a character that is neurodiver­se in the mix.”

Melton and her team work with various animation studios including Giant Ant, Primal Screen and Buck to produce the indents and animated content for the block. They began working on the animation in April and continued work on it all through summer.

Making Preschool Cool

“I love that Cartoonito is built on identity and inclusion,” says Melton. “It’s one of the foundation­s of the brand and it’s so relevant

to the world we live in today. I love that this will be a global brand — reaching and connecting kids across the world. I love that this is a brand that has the potential to help kids believe and own their value and their power and to seed that with them as they grow and develop. And I freaking love the mnemonic, ‘Oh! Oh! Oh! Cartoonito,’ as our rallying cry for preschoole­rs everywhere.”

As she looks back at the months she and her team spent preparing for the launch of Cartoonito, Friedman says dealing with the pandemic was one of their biggest challenges.“To launch something huge and meaningful without sitting around the same table, scribbling on the whiteboard, brainstorm­ing through the blocks, takes incredible focus and caffeine,” she admits. “We certainly laughed a lot, but I can’t help but feel a little sad that we didn’t get to see each other’s shoes!”

When we ask her to leave us with a fun twosentenc­e pitch for Cartoonito, Friedman smiles. “Cartoonito is the preschool brand you wish you had as a kid,” she says.“Come for the art and the endless laughs, stay for the meaning!”

We have a feeling few will be able to resist that wonderful invitation. ◆

Cartoonito premieres on Cartoon Network and HBO Max on Sept. 13.

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 ??  ?? Bing
 ??  ?? Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go
Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go
 ??  ?? Mush-Mush & The Mushables
Mush-Mush & The Mushables
 ??  ?? Amy Friedman
Amy Friedman
 ??  ?? Tricia Melton
Tricia Melton
 ??  ?? Lucas the Spider
Lucas the Spider
 ??  ?? Naughty or Nice? WarnerMedi­a’s new show Little Ellen explores the world through the eyes of a hilarious seven-year-old Ellen DeGeneres.
Naughty or Nice? WarnerMedi­a’s new show Little Ellen explores the world through the eyes of a hilarious seven-year-old Ellen DeGeneres.

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