David Roberts, the founder and CEO of Calm Island, speaks with TV Kids about its educational brand Badanamu, as well as the new series Badanamu Cadets that will launch to the international market at MIPJunior and MIPCOM.
The world of Badanamu was created in 2011 when Calm Island identified the need for children to learn foundational skills before they enter kindergarten. The concept behind the property is that kids learn better when they are engaged emotionally. Badanamu first launched as an educational preschool brand and currently features more than 7,000 lesson plans combining technology, animation and traditional teaching practices. A series of short videos followed, now totaling more than 200 with over 3 billion views. Calm Island will unveil the first episodes of its 52×11-minute CGI-animated series Badanamu Cadets at MIPJunior and MIPCOM.
“Our motto is ‘learn and play together,’” David Roberts, the founder and CEO of Calm Island, tells TV Kids. “We want children to have fun but also learn something. The necessary first step is emotional engagement with our characters. We want to dazzle children with the quality and emotion of our animation and narrative so they love the characters and can start on a wonderful learning adventure. The name Badanamu has no meaning, but we want children to feel it is mysterious and almost enchanted: a modern-day Narnia.”
“Through beautiful animation, lovable characters, compelling stories and delightful songs, Calm Island has created content that builds an emotional connection with kids that makes learning a fun and natural experience,” Roberts says.
The short-form musical clips introduce infants and toddlers to the world of Badanamu, where they learn everything from phonics and vocabulary to simple math to life skills like good manners. After first rolling out in 2013, 200-plus Badanamu videos are now available, distributed by VOD partners such as YouTube, Alibaba, Naver, Roku and Amazon. The Badanamu YouTube channel counts 640 million views and more than 600,000 subscribers.
The longer narrative superhero adventure series, Badanamu Cadets, is aimed at kids aged 4 to 7 and follows a team of six heroes-in-training who are studying under Professor Pip and his team of Eccos. The cadets learn everything they need to know to protect Badanamu from the forces of chaos. “Amidst the narrative, we also subtly interweave STEM topics such as environment or electricity,” Roberts says. “The accompanying app, Bada’s Learning Adventure, highlights and expands on STEM subjects and will surprise in its depth of content and learning.”
He adds: “The uniqueness of our offering is the fully integrated entertainment and learning experience, which delivers real academic results and sustains children’s interest.”
Badanamu Cadets has been presold to France’s Lagardère Active for its Gulli and Tiji channels, and Cartoon Network Italy. “It is very exciting that such major networks embraced our concept and dream relatively early in the development process,” says Roberts. “It validates our vision and hopefully provides the springboard for further deals.”
“Badanamu is a very global IP,” he continues. “I am English, with a very traditional upbringing and family, the storytellers and scriptwriters are Canadian, and all of our music is recorded and written in Los Angeles. The animation production is done in Seoul, South Korea, which provides an East Asian cultural understanding while leveraging new render technology and fantastic animation skills. It feels fresh, new and very modern.”
Season one of Badanamu Cadets is set for delivery in the first quarter of 2018. Roberts notes: “We plan to do at least three seasons between 2017 and 2019.” Additionally, a global consumer products program is in the works for the new series, with target categories that include educational products, publishing, apparel, toys, gifts and more.
“We would like to see how the IP develops before considering other formats such as a family theatrical release,” adds Roberts. “Calm Island will also continue to extend its educational activities. The company operates and franchises over 60 early-learning centers in eight countries, with plans for 200 more by the end of 2018. As always, we are full of energy and dreams that all children have the opportunity to learn and play together.”