Nancy Kanter Disney Junior Interview

Nancy Kanter Disney Junior Interview

Nancy Kanter Disney Junior Interview

Nancy Kanter was recently in Australia with Mickey and Minnie Mouse to launch the Disney Junior channel.

Disney Junior debuted on Australian screens on Sunday, 29 May, 2011 - combining magical storytelling and classic Disney characters, with new characters and programs, including "Jake and the Never Land Pirates".

Disney Junior (formerly Playhouse Disney) is a new multiplatform brand and channel devoted to children aged 2-7 and their families.

Disney Junior will invite parents and grandparents to join their children in the Disney experience of magical, musical and heartfelt stories and characters, both classic and new, while incorporating social and emotional learning and developmental themes. Disney Junior will launch content across a 24-hour channel, an integrated website, video on demand, mobile and paid download platforms.

Interview with Nancy Kanter

Nancy Kanter, Senior Vice President, Disney Junior Worldwide.

Question: Can you talk about the new programs on Disney Junior?

Nancy Kanter: The first show audiences will see after the launch of Disney Junior is Jake and the Never Land Pirates which we're so excited about. We launched Jake and the Never Land Pirates in the US eight or nine weeks ago and it is also launched in a couple of other territories around the world and we are seeing such instantaneous success for it that we are sure kids in Australia and New Zealand are all going to love it.

Question: How will Disney Junior be different to Playhouse Disney?

Nancy Kanter: The difference that you'll see is that there is a real emphasis on the Disney part of Disney Junior, in ways that maybe weren't quite as apparent with Playhouse Disney. We really want to embrace the things about Disney that people have loved for so many years now, which is that great storytelling and the kinds of characters that you see when you were a little kid and you carry them with you and remember them as an adult and you can't wait to introduce them to your kids, later on. The hallmarks of what it really means to have a Disney experience are evident in Disney Junior, most importantly the special storytelling aspect with heart; I think the Disney Junior shows will reflect that.

We are still embracing learning for kids; all of our shows have a clear learning developmental piece which is organically incorporated in the show, itself. There are lots of great messages for kids within the shows in terms of social learning, emotional learning and even some academic learning; it is all part of the experience of watching the show and hearing a really great story with wonderful, rich characters.

Question: How important is it to Disney to create new characters whilst still presenting the classic Disney characters?

Nancy Kanter: It is very important, we definitely want to make sure that we have that mix of familiar characters that kids know and their parents know. You will see Captain Hook in Jake and the Never Land Pirates but then we have created the new kid pirates Jake, Cubby and Izzy in that show so we are creating new characters for kids that are very relatable to them, today. What we are finding is that kids are loving the humour of Captain Hook and they recognise him from the Peter Pan stories and movies which sets the tone, the mood and the atmosphere of the show. Kids really love Jake, Cubby and Izzy too because they can really relate to the characters - they are kids and they are who they want to be; kids think of Jake as a hero.

Ongoing we will certainly look to find some classic characters that we will bring forward into new shows but we also have shows that don't have any immediate touchbacks to a Disney heritage character but they still embody what the Disney storytelling is about.

Question: Are you able to provide insight as to how children's programs are created and developed?

Nancy Kanter: Sure. The general path involves an idea and for instance, with Jake and the Never Land Pirates we knew we wanted to do something around pirates and the Peter Pan mythology. We then went out to writers, producers and creators to give them the broad strokes of what we're looking to do; then they come back and pitch us their ideas. Very often creators and writers will come to us with an original idea and we'll evaluate it and see if it feels right for us and then we work with them and that can take anywhere from a year to three years until we are really feeling like we have everything solidly in place. After that we make a pilot which is a sample episode of what the series would be like. Then we go out and test that pilot with kids, mums and we send it around the world to our programmers in the countries that have Disney channels and we gather a lot of input. From there we try and make a decision whether this is a series we'd like to see on air.

Question: How do you ensure you have the most important factors when creating a children's program?

Nancy Kanter: With kids, especially in this age demographic, a lot of what they pick up from watching television, reading books or playing a game is how the characters behave. That modeling of behaviour is really important for us and also that kids are able to pick up good social and emotional skills and learning. Kids watch how characters behave in the story and then they predict how they might behave in other situations and they enjoy predicting what is going to happen next in the story based on the character behaviour, that they see. We take it very responsibly and carefully because we know kids are going to watch something on television and then they are very likely to imitate it, in their own lives. If we can give them good things to imitate, in their own lives, that's great.

Question: Parents are often confused as to how much TV their children should be watching, what do you suggest?

Nancy Kanter: My suggestion is as a parent you should definitely make the time to sit down and watch with your child, the programs that they are watching. Sitting with your child is a great way for you to become familiar with the shows and decide how comfortable you are with them watching the show and how much you want them to be watching it. Equally as important is if the parent takes the time to sit there and watch an episode with their child it really opens up the possibility to have a conversation around what you're seeing together and to extend it beyond a television experience into your own life. Your child may have a question about how somebody behaved such as 'Why did Captain Hook do that?' or 'Captain Hook didn't behave nicely, he shouldn't have done that to Jake, Cubby and Izzy!' that starts a whole conversation of real relevance, for you and your child to talk about kindness or truthfulness, honesty and even loyalty; that's what we hope comes from parents watching.

I think you have to make the decision by what's right for you and what's right for your family on any given day, week or month and we hope parents obviously have a balance in mind for their children in terms of the activity that they participate in. Nobody can imagine that a child will sit and watch television and do nothing else but it is a very individual family decision that needs to be made.

Interview by Brooke Hunter