Diggin it at Henson Studios with PBS

Published on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

I was delighted to receive an invitation to screen the latest offering of PBS Kids at the Jim Hensen Studios, so this afternoon I put the Critter down for a nap, got Uncle Robert to oversee the napping, and headed over to Hollywood. Wilson and Ditch is the new web series that the two titans of educational kids’ programming have put together to satisfy ever growing need for online kids’ content. My interest was trifold – it’s incredible education for me as a person who is developing an illustrated character myself (and knowing nothing about it), to see the historic studio lot on LaBrea, which was originally erected by Charlie Chaplin 1918, and to be in the prescence of Jim Hensen’s own kids, Brian and Lisa.

As Halle Stanford told us, “We’re excited to bring an innovative series like this to the web, where a variety of online and offline activities will help inspire kids’ interest in learning more about he United States. As they travel the country with these lovable gopher guides, our audience will gain a greater understanding of their national citizenship that extends beyond their own community”.

After viewing a few of the hilarious episodes which take two brother gophers who miss their mom and their “homeland”(go to France and take a left) all over the United States, I can see how the grade school crowd will love to learn with them . The web site will see the furry faces through their hijinks and will eventually have webisodes with all fifty states including the top three destinations for families to travel. There are games, video and a blog from each brother. This is content that will be emblazoned on the minds of kids in the same way that Schoolhouse Rock taught my generation, as I mentioned to the group during the Q and A. I can still sing the preamble!

After viewing the new show, we were given a studio tour of the grounds and had the unexpected treat of seeing inside “The Loft” where we had access to Brian Henson (son of Jim, genius of all things puppet and muppet) and the former A&M Records soundstage where production for the Critter’s favorite show Sid the Science Kid was happening. If I wasn’t overjoyed enough to have all this wonderful perspective, a very smart mom asked Brian “What was it like?” to grow with the creator of creatures that every child in the world loves – I wondered this too, as everything I think about these days is what it is like for my little Critter. You can see his response in the video – I’m sure his dad is smiling from heaven.

Sid the Science Kid premiere – Hooky in Hollywood

Published on Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

While it certainly would have been a worthwhile event for the Critter to play hooky and skip school, we had the good fortune that his school had what is mysteriously referred to as a “Pupil Free Day”, so no such infractions had to be committed. It was a great morning in Hollywood for a premiere, and the folks at PBS SoCal hosted a nearly full house of excited kiddos to watch the first Sid the Science Kid feature length film, which premieres Monday March 25th on PBS. The film is chock full of learning tidbits, from critical thinking to simple machines, to complex computers and how to work as a team, which all combined to captivate all said kiddos for the entire movie – a mom’s dream!

It was also a treat to be able to chat with Lisa Henson, daughter of Jim Henson and CEO of Henson Studios, THE studio for all things creative involving puppets and digital animation. You may remember the awesome time I had at on the lot, where I got to see how Sid and Wilson and Ditch were created. I was really happy that I was able to tell her how proud Mississippi is of her family, and what a fan I have been since childhood. To see the empire that creativity built is truly inspiring – make sure to tune in on Monday!

Summer Goals Met: Art + Tech with KUBO and Splash & Bubbles

Published on Friday, September 16th, 2016

We are already in school for a month, Labor Day has come and gone, but the fun memories linger on from what felt like a super lazy summer. I didn’t make The Critter do summer camp, but secretly made a pact with myself that we would do some fun, stealthily educational and creative things to keep us sharp while we lolled in the pool or the freezing air conditioning that I love when it’s scorching heat. He told me that he had a GREAT summer, which comes to light in these photos taken from the last month(ish) of our break.

The entire month of June until June 26th, we were dealing with the loss of my wonderful father in law Harry, and tried to keep busy. He was truly one of the best people I have ever had the privilege to know.

It was quite fortunate that there was plenty of busy work getting ready for Woofstock 90210, which we worked on steadily until the event finally happened after its reschedule from the usual springtime date. It was SUCH a fun community event – we met hundreds of new dog lovers, and they all loved on the Lou. Since then, I have been minding the little store, and planning the next two Louis XIV of Beverly Hills books. The Critter learned a bit about having a paying job – he bought a ton of new Skyanders for his XBox360 with the money he makes helping me get prints mailed out and stuffing greeting cards into cellophane. We had a great Mommy and Critter lunch with my BFF Debra, where we learned to truly appreciate craft cocktails with video games for the kid and UBER. The journey to find the perfect publisher and agent continues – it’s learning a whole new set of rules and creating an entirely new network. Part of this learning was that I took a great webinar from literary agent Maria Vicente, and I feel like with each bit of information I glean, I am closer. I will probably write about this process more in the future, because it has truly blown my mind.

On two of the hottest days of the year, we trekked down to The Broad. The first trip was The Critter and me, because we did not have the impossible to get reservations and I knew that the no reservation line wait could be uncomfortably lengthy. This would be recon to assess what the absolute easiest way to handle wrangling kids, which involves eating, peeing, taking shelter from the heat, and doing a quick visit to Pershing Square to see Shard, the kinetic sculpture on display with an impending ending limited engagement. Post recon strategy worked really well! Elise and Lola joined in this time (yay they’re back for a while!), too. We valet parked ($15) at the Broad, then walked down to Pershing Square, which was really great; a flea market and live jazz, but we were completely scorched from the heat. We took a short respite at The Biltmore to cool down and rest stop, then lunch, then the Broad. My advice to non reservation line peeps: buy a ticket to Cindy Sherman (or whatever the featured exhibit is) and your two hour line wait becomes fifteen minutes. If you have the time to wait, it’s free. Check out MOCA across the street and Disney Music Hall while you’re at it. Kids love downtown – Lola and the Critter took on a whole different “city” vibe.

KUBO and the Two Strings was not a film that was on my radar this summer, but now it’s one of my all time favorites! A huge thanks to Focus Features and Laika for the invitation to screen the movie, tour the Magic of Laika exhibit at The Globe Theater and attend the premiere afterparty. I have to say that each of these invitations could have stood alone as a creative’s feast, so we were in heaven, experiencing the stop motion animated film and the exhibit of the making of KUBO, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, and Coraline. Beautiful Japanese folklore and the art of Origami were themes throughout, and we were able to talk to the filmmakers, including Travis Knight, the Oscar nominated CEO of Laika and director of the film. The party was a fabulous fete complete with cool activities and gifts like origami and lollipops that look like blown glass. The best part of this entire scene was the ease the filmmakers had with the open sharing of the creative process and being able to look at how digital printing and technology open new worlds for this art form. Laika is clearly at the top of the game in stop motion in the way that The Jim Henson Company paved the way for puppetry. They all are highly talented artists who love sharing their craft. As you’ll see from the photos, I could have written a book about all I learned that day, and The Critter may have discovered his future livelihood. If you haven’t seen KUBO, do it immediately. It’s that good!

Bringing up the Henson Company, I am VERY excited about the newest PBS Kids program for the little bitties, called Splash and Bubbles, which will air on PBS Kids November 23rd. Headlining the talented cast and crew are Sesame Street alums John Tartaglia and Leslie Carrara-Rudolph. The show incorporates not only the unparalleled voice and puppetry talent of the duo who performed as Oscar the Grouch and Abby Cadaby, but the puppetry has been taken to an entirely new level, using a tech board that incorporates puppetry with digital technology, creating a beautiful, hilarious animated program with STEM lessons in oceanography. Splash and Bubbles are modeled after actual fish, the series is based in real marine biology, and there are plans to work with local aquariums to create more ways to learn. I visited with Leslie and Lisa Henson about the wonderful ways that the technology gives new methods to practice the craft of puppetry. You may recall when I was first introduced to the digital artistry coming out of Henson for Sid the Science Kid by Lisa’s brother Brian – even more techniques have been created, and the result is sure to entrance your preschooler and cause them to say things like “Look! There’s a mandarin dragonette!”

When school commenced, I decided to join my creative bff’s Jeannine and Shannon at The Entrepreneur Edge Live (#TEELALive), as Jeannine would speak on one of the panel that would address branding. The event was organized by Joanna A. Turner, a globally known Advanced EFT & Master NLP Practitioner, Motivational speaker, and author, and promised to be “An EXCLUSIVE fun, TRANSFORMATIONAL and inspiring event for Female entrepreneurs, coaches, consultants, healers and thought-leaders who are on a mission to change the world!” As someone who is open to trying new things on the front of self motivation but a good fifteen to twenty years older than the average age of the 150 attendees, I can honestly say that I walked away from the event HIGHLY motivated and secure in my process and progress. The other really big message I took away from the three days of meeting relatable, intelligent, empathetic, strong, and successful women is how wonderful it is that now young women who are ready to face up to their life goals, challenges, obstacles, failures, and successes have events and a group like TEELALive to turn to for connecting and support. In my late twenties, a group like these women would have given me SOOOOOOO much courage that mere group therapy could never provide. I thought Joanna and her team did a great job of bringing out the best of a new whole new breed of entrepreneur willing to break it down and work it out to get the quality life they envision. I’ve made new connections with women I like for all different reasons who bring fresh perspective to my life and I’m so happy to have this infusion of energy. When your life’s work is all about creating things out of nothing, that energy is precious.

The Critter has also kicked off fourth grade with his Cub Scout Troop as a Webelo 1. My Perfect Husband and I have the agreement that I do the gathering of stuff for the meetings and activities, and he’s the one to take the boy to said events. So far we’ve served homemade desserts to the second shift of the Beverly Hills Police Department, rocked the annual Water Splat, and gone on a geocaching expedition. My two men spent Labor Day weekend at Mammoth, while I celebrated Elise’s birthday with Jamie and Danny at PUMP, the recovery from which took the entire weekend…er week. This gave me the perfect excuse to finish binge watching the entire Gilmore Girls seven season series on Netflix. I SO love that show, and I actually miss the characters and wonder what they’ve been doing. I cant wait to see the new season – Hooray for the revival!

Coming soon – fun photos from two awesome events for Nintendo and YoKaiWatch, and more of my new affair with old school publishing.

Nothing’s Impossible with the Possibility Shop!

Published on Monday, October 17th, 2011

We always have such a great time when the folks from Disney Family and The Jim Henson Company get our blogging families together to introduce us to creative fun for our children. I adore being able to take the Critter to the iconic studios where imaginations are free to roam. We recently spent a delightful afternoon having a mock campout with Courtney Watkins, the creator of Possibility Shop, a wonderful collaboration of Henson and Watkins that can be found on Disney’s Family.com. Courtney is really my kind of people – she is all about finding ways to say “YES” to your children’s big ideas, and her solutions are so clever! Our adventure that day was the big idea of Courtney’s daughter Mary Charles, obviously a great imaginary mind herself, who wanted to go camping with a campfire, tent and shadow puppets.

Courtney faced the challenge head on with safe and creative ways for an urban mom to emulate the feel (and taste) of a real camping trip without having to load up the truck. Courtney and Mary Charles taught Critter and pals how to cut out shapes to make shadow puppets so they were able to perform their own little puppet show with flaming flashlights, and then after they retreated to the screening room of the historic studio lot to watch Dinosaur Train and eat some mores out of a mason jar. I will definitely be stopping by the Possibility Shop again soon for those days of cabin fever when a real camping trip is out of the question.