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Editor's Notebook: The Coming of Age of Kids

Licensing and merchandising is playing to kids and teaching them that they can get what they want, in a big way.

It's funny. A few years ago a certain United States President went on record decrying the disintegration of the family unit and a loss of "family values." While certainly, yes, there have been radical, rapid changes to the typical family unit, I don't think it is necessarily a terrible thing. Parents, whether or not they are single parents, or both work long hours outside of the home, still love their children and want the best for them. That is what is most important. However, I do think this shift in home life has far-reaching impacts. This issue sharply focuses on one of them - licensing and merchandising to kids. Children are now left on their own more frequently and are pressed out into the world through camps, daycare, day school, etc. at an earlier age. Is this bad? Once again, I don't necessarily think so. As a result, they get to make their own decisions and form their own opinions at a much earlier age. They are now their own little society that can determine what is cool, and what they want to have. They are a new market to which to sell.

Parents, on the other hand, are often just a little too rushed, a little to occupied, and will purchase an item that a child wants without a single, second thought. We've all seen it in our local grocery store. About 5:00 p.m., a mother with two children is grocery shopping. One child is going one way, the other is going another. All are tired and just want to go home, have a meal and call it a day. As the mother is making her selection of the yogurt that she thinks is best for her child's lunch, the child exclaims, "No, I want that kind!" And the mother, while reaching to grab her other child and keep him from scattering tomatoes all over the floor, says, "Okay." When I was a child, and that wasn't too long ago, I didn't know which kind of yogurt I wanted in my lunch. There weren't commercials for that, and so, I didn't even know I had choices. But today's kids know. It really isn't that big of a deal. We aren't talking about a matter of life and death here. It's only a yogurt in a kids' lunch, but it does add up to big money for a large number of businesses who are seeking a new market to exploit. It also adds up to a generation of people who know from practically day one that they have choices and they will continue to demand them.

Licensing and merchandising continues to escalate, not only in the children's market, but also for adults. It is all to create a splash and grab our attention, if only for a minute. We are all so busy, and there is so much going on. How can we be expected to know of everything that is interesting? It is a tough job that marketers have. Several of this month's articles mention the struggle just to be heard above the din of competition.

It seems to be a recurring theme in most areas now - the merging of companies and efforts to make things bigger. We all know of the mega-merger business deals, and as a result we are getting mega-campaigns to draw our attention. However, how soon is it going to be before all of these forms of entertainment realize that they are all just splitting each other's profit dollar? We, as consumers, have so much from which to choose and only so much money to spend. That, right there, makes things risky. Currently, a company is forced to spend so much on promotion that the situation is made even more risky. Jennifer Deare states in her article that for a "theatrical film to make a `blip' on the consumer radar screen [it takes] ... a combined $100 million for promotion and marketing." If you were running a studio, wouldn't that scare you? It would scare me, especially since I know how fickle an audience (me) can be. How can the little guy compete? How much will it grow, this one-upping each other to keep us, the consumer, the audience, interested? I am waiting to see what unexpected impacts occur out of this development.

In other news, the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and Market (MIFA) has gone annual. On one hand, it is important for Europe to have a central location to meet yearly in order to do business. European production is growing and in order to foster and build upon that growth Annecy's MIFA will probably become an instantly essential place to be. However, I hope that other festivals worldwide do not suffer as a result. It is important that each region continues to have its own healthy festival to showcase to the world their unique atmosphere and work. Plus, a healthy festival circuit proves that animation is of global interest. The screening of international works in all corners of the globe can inspire new ideas and techniques within artists thereby, ensuring that the art is kept vibrant and growing. Every month I look forward to reading the event reviews and every month I say, "Next year I am going to go there!" This month's example is oTTo Alder's fantastic review of KROK. Festivals aren't just screening rooms; they are a mixing of ideas and culture that make it truly exciting to be a part of the global animation village.

Until Next Time,