Feeling Chipper about the Great Outdoors
As a young child, Stephanie Rach-Wilson played outdoors–a lot. She still enjoys hiking with her two daughters. But Rach-Wilson is aware that today’s kids spend much of their time indoors with electronic devices. She wants to inspire them to get out and play. Her solution is creating Let’s Go Chipper!, a compelling eco-educational tale delivered via a series of illustrated children’s books, animated properties and interactive applications. This award-winning multimedia endeavor from IAG Media playfully teaches young kids about character, community and caring for the environment. The nature infused stories of Let’s Go Chipper! are correlated to national academic standards in arts and literature, science, and social skills.
With a mission to reconnect children and families with nature, the Let's Go Chipper! series combines animation and live action. Chipper is a city squirrel, who learns that fabulous adventures await in the great outdoors. Rach-Wilson, who created Chipper, modeled the character on herself. "Since high school, I've had friends who called me a squirrel because I was always zipping all over the place and I was always outdoors," she recalled. Rach-Wilson created the Chipper character as a way to celebrate her own childhood adventures and to provide parents with a resource that makes discovering the outdoors fun and stress-free. Chipper encourages children to investigate and play. Respect, good character and environmental stewardship are the underlying messages in each story.
In one adventure in the series, Into the Great Outdoors, Chipper explores a National Park for the first time and meets a cast of friendly wildlife creatures. Through music, mishap and humor Chipper and young viewers learn the importance of respecting creatures big and small and how to be guardians of the environment.
“The outdoors offers the perfect venue to enhance our physical and mental well-being at any age,” enthuses Rach-Wilson. “The hardwiring of the brain and emotional development is most active between the ages of birth to six years old, yet many parents don’t slow down from their busy lives to provide meaningful, multi-sensory experiences,” observes Rach-Wilson. “Our hope is parents will see the positive benefits stimulation in natural settings provides in both a parent-to-child connection and the delight in experiencing a child discovering something new.”
Rach-Wilson had some help in developing and animating her vision from advertising and animation industry veteran Douglas Rowell. Rowell, who currently serves as Chief Creative Officer and Executive Managing Partner for creative studio Mediatavern (www.mediatavern.com), became involved with the project when his good friend and fellow animator Alex Orrelle (former Pixar animator and Animation Director of the recent theatrical live action / animation hybrid Yogi Bear) introduced him to Stephanie in 2004. Rowell reflects, “I was already working with several eco-minded projects and Let’s Go Chipper seemed like a good fit for me culturally and philosophically. I helped her translate her vision into the animated medium, and helped develop the character designs and produce a pilot to shop to investors. Around 2007, when I became a partner in Mediatavern, Stephanie found investors and wanted to start the process of turning Chipper into a complete eco-focused children’s property. Over the course of the next several years Mediatavern helped Stephanie and IAG Media develop an animated feature, iPhone applications, illustrated books, online experiences and promotional material. It has been a truly rewarding partnership and creative journey.”
Rach-Wilson also had help from Pete Michels, director on Family Guy. “My role has been to add my experience and my knowledge from 20 years of animation, ranging from The Simpsons to Family Guy, to help Stephanie and Doug realize their combined vision of quality animated interactive entertainment with a clear and important message,” shares Michels.