Emmanuèle Pétry Sirvin, partner and head of international at Dandelooo, tells TV Kids about the strengths of the company’s slate, weighs in on trends in the preschool genre and shares her views on Covid-19’s impact on the children’s media business.
From returning, award-winning hits like The Treehouse Stories to the brand-new Billy the Cowboy Hamster, Dandelooo has built up a curated selection of preschool properties filled with relatable characters and emphasizing social and emotional learning.
TV KIDS: What are some of your main preschool titles?
PÉTRY SIRVIN: Our key preschool titles include Billy the Cowboy Hamster, now in production for France TV; season four of The Treehouse Stories, an Emmy Award winner in production for Canal+; Pompon Little Bear, based on the beautiful cult books by Benjamin Chaud commissioned by France TV; Shooom’s Odyssey, a 26-minute special that has won over 20 prestigious awards, including the Japan Prize and the Cristal for a TV Production at the Annecy Festival 2020; Petit, which is based on the Astrid Lindgren award-winning book of the same name; Cubs, a non-dialogue collection of shorts about how baby animals go to sleep; and Kosmix, an astronomy kids’ series explaining the mysteries of space in a fun way.
TV KIDS: In a crowded market, what does a preschool show need to stand out, both for broadcasters and platforms and audiences?
PÉTRY SIRVIN: Most broadcasters ask for well-known properties and established brands, but we at Dandelooo believe it is more fun to create the brands of tomorrow with strong “touchy-feely” elements. For example, programs that touch your heart, talk about emotions and have characters who are not just heroes but also human and have weaknesses and flaws. We aspire to have relatable characters and shows that deal with “real” daily issues. And humor, of course, that’s important too!
TV KIDS: What are some of the new trends you see emerging in the preschool space?
PÉTRY SIRVIN: Well, it is certainly not a recent trend, but there is a continued increase in demand for strong female/girl lead characters, and most of all, there’s an urge for diversity. As the company continues to grow and develop, we have given ourselves a parity and party rule—to have in equal amounts as many female characters as there are male characters. For example, in season four of The Treehouse Stories (currently in production), we have an equal number of girls to boys.
Also, we want to express to kids that there are different kinds of families, made up of different dynamics. In Billy the Cowboy Hamster, Billy is raised by a single parent, his dad. It is also very important for us, as it is for the broadcasters, to represent diversity. In The Treehouse Stories, we had to organize four castings to find the perfect quota of kids from different backgrounds. The same applied to The Upside Down River, where Hannah, the main character, is from a far-flung country. Furthermore, we have noticed, especially in Europe, a particular request to attach “specialists” for any minority culture representations in our projects.
TV KIDS: What impact has the pandemic had on the overall demand for the genre in the last year, with young ones spending so much more time at home?
PÉTRY SIRVIN: Every week we receive requests for edutainment shows because “traditional” broadcasters, VOD platforms, DVD players, etc., want to supply meaningful programs to parents and kids during the lockdowns and home-schooling. Currently, “entertaining” shows are simply not enough. For example, we have just closed a deal for all three seasons, 130 episodes, of Kiwi, a cute preschool series that teaches English words and literacy in a fun way. We also had a request from a public educational television network looking for a package of educational/edutainment rights.
TV KIDS: How important are digital extensions—picture books, games, etc.—when developing and distributing a preschool property?
PÉTRY SIRVIN: Most of our programs at Dandelooo are book-based; we are lucky in France, just like the U.K., to have an extremely wide range of children’s literature talent fostered through many large, medium and small publishing houses, ready to take risks and tell different stories. The books pre-exist the series but also accompany their development through international extension and continue to grow after broadcast. As for games, it is a different business, and we have decided not to dilute our energy in this area. Especially because broadcasters and platforms have never asked for them. Digital extensions, why not? But we try to focus on content first. If a program becomes a viral hit, there is a natural expansion to all other exploitation, but in our view, it should not be the objective.