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Cartoon Network Launches Tickle U To Humor Preschoolers

Based upon studies that say humor will improve a childs life, Cartoon Network has launched a weekday morning franchise, Tickle U, featuring original and acquired television shows from around the world such as PEPPA PIG, GERALD MCBOING BOING AND YOKO! JAKAMOKO! TOTO! designed specifically for preschool children. Tickle U, which premiered Aug. 22, 2005, airs weekdays from 9-11:00 am, focuses on developing and nurturing a childs sense of humor and optimism as essential life skills.

The two-hour block is packaged within a distinctive, cohesive on-air environment and centered for this collection of funny, animated programs designed to encourage kids to laugh and have an optimistic view of themselves and the world around them. The shows are a colorful mix of 2D, 3D and 2.5D with a great variety of art styles and many British voices.

The package has got to be tickling animators in the U.K. and Canada where all the shows are made, especially the creative talents at Collingwood OHare, involved with three out of the seven shows. Rumor has it they are celebrating at a pub Aug. 24 to toast this huge showcase on a major U.S. broadcaster like Cartoon Network.

The lineup includes:* FIREHOUSE TALES: A young firetruck, Red, and his emergency response vehicle and helicopter friends train earnestly to learn what it takes to be a hero. A fascinating blend of 2D and 3D with nearly a stop-motion look, produced by Warner Bros. Animation.

* GERALD MCBONING BOING: Based upon the Dr. Seuss character, a new version about Gerald, a boy who can only speak in sound effects but attracts plenty of attention from his family and those in his community. The design and execution should not disappoint fans of the previous series, with nice colored line work by Classic Media and Cookie Jar.

* GORDON AND THE GARDEN CHONME: Gordon, a garden gnome, is a cheerful, optimistic guardian of a small plot of land he lovingly tends and solves special problems with a magical worm tucked up in his cap. A bright, toddler-friendly traditional 2D look from Collingwood OHare.

* HARRY AND HIS BUCKET FULL OF DINSOSAURS: Five-year-old Harry has a colorful world of dinosaur friends he found in a bucket who transport him on fun adventures and keep him company at home. This show has a storybook quality done in 2D by CCI Ent. and Collingwood OHare.

* LITTLE ROBOTS: Tiny robots discarded in a junkyard assemble their own community in a large dome on the heap. The robots come to 3D life with a stop motion quality in this show from Create TV & Film, part of Create Media Ventures.

* PEPPA PIG: Peppa is an impressionable young pig, who loves her pink-colored family and their everyday snort-filled adventures. This cutout-style series with its pastel, simple designs really stands out and has won many awards for the Contender Entertainment Group.

* YOKO! JAKAMOTO! TOTO!: A bird of paradise, a monkey and an armadillo are good friends who communicate through different musical instruments that reflect their characters and emotions instead of spoken words. Highly imaginative with bold graphic African design and a cutout look from Collingwood OHare.

The Tickle U package has special tips for the parents who are hopefully tuning in with their kids. In a first for kids cartoons, subtitles speaking directly to caregivers, entitled Mommy Bar, appear across the bottom of the screen. The subtitles provide research on humor and preschoolers packaged as fun commentary for the adults. For example, it might be used to let parents know how long a show lasts so they can grab a cup of coffee or finish other activities during the program.

A recent survey by Harris Interactive reported more than nine in 10 (92%) parents say that having a sense of humor will improve their childs quality of life. This is the first-ever media-based curriculum designed by Cartoon Network to specifically help preschoolers learn to have a sense of humor about life. Alice Cahn, a childrens programming veteran of PBS and Sesameworkshop, developed Tickle U, with both parents and kids in mind. Cahn is vp of development and programming for Cartoon Network.

U.S. television has truly embraced the preschool age group over the last 15 years, but whats been missing for me, both as a mom and as a TV programmer, was the acknowledgement that humor and optimism indicate intelligence; if youre not smart enough, you dont get the joke, said Cahn. Our review of the research showed that humor is a learned skill. We learn to create it and we learn to appreciate it. The children who learn those skills well are those who are more even-tempered, tend to lash out less verbally and physically, and have an easier time making friends. Tickle U is smart fun, a complement to the cognitive skills base of other pre-K networks, placing value on optimism and humor as essential developmental skills.

A recent Harris Interactive survey shows that while nearly all U.S. parents (99%) indicate that reading and writing is important, 98% say that humor is important for their child/children. More than half (60%) of parents would like to improve their kids sense of humor if given the opportunity.

This light-hearted approach is a good thing for todays stressed-out families, says Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, co-author of EINSTEIN NEVER USED FLASHCARDS, and professor of psychology at Temple University. Our children are growing up in a fast-paced world today, with little downtime for humor and play. Yet, play equals learning and humor is at the core of play, says Hirsh-Pasek. Humor helps our children learn about the world and cope with lifes situations. It provides an optimistic outlook that will stay with them for a lifetime.

Most parents agree that a sense of humor is an important trait for adults (99%) as well as for their children (97%). The majority of parents (82%) also said that humor is very or extremely important in relaxing during lifes challenging times, as well as for developing a healthy self-image (82%) and becoming a well-rounded adult (82%). In addition, many parents surveyed also felt that humor contributed to their child becoming a better student (72%) and an overwhelming majority (95%) thought humor was important for becoming stronger leaders.

Harris Interactive conducted the study on behalf of Cartoon Network via its QuickQuerySM online omnibus from March 25-29, 2005, among 2,819 U.S. adults, aged 18 and over, of whom 749 were the parent/legal guardian of a child/children under the age of 18 living in their household. Data were weighted to be representative of the total U.S. adult population on the basis of region, age within gender, education, household income, and race/ethnicity. Propensity score weighting was also used for respondents propensity to be online.

Tickle U fits the overall Cartoon Network ethic of fun, funny, and fearless, said Chan and addressed a need in the childrens media environment, as this is a set of skills not being addressed by our colleagues offering preschool media. Fun, funny, and fearless is a core competency for Cartoon Network overall; its new and complementary in the pre-K media environment.Rochester, New York-based Harris Interactive Inc. (www.harrisinteractive.com) is a global research company that blends premier strategic consulting with innovative and efficient methods of investigation, analysis and application. Known for The Harris Poll and for pioneering Internet-based research methods, Harris Interactive conducts proprietary and public research through U.S. offices and wholly owned subsidiaries: London-based HI Europe (www.hieurope.com); Paris-based Novatris (www.novatris.com); Tokyo-based Harris Interactive Japan; through newly acquired WirthlinWorldwide, a Reston, Virginia-based research and consultancy firm ranked 25th largest in the world; and through an independent global network of affiliate market research companies.

Cartoon Network (www.CartoonNetwork.com), currently seen in 87.8 million U.S. homes and 160 countries around the world, is Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.s ad-supported cable service offering original, acquired and classic animated entertainment for kids and families. Turner Broadcasting System Inc., a Time Warner company, is a major producer of news and entertainment product around the world and the leading provider of programming for the basic cable industry.

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