7 Tips on Writing Children’s Television

May 20, 2012 by

7 Tips on Writing Children’s Television

A few years ago I was asked to turn the wonderful series of OLIVIA children’s books into a series for Nickelodeon. Having never worked in animation or written for preschoolers, I had to negotiate a pretty steep learning curve. Here are some of the things I discovered about writing a TV series for preschool age kids which might help you.
• There are endless rules having to do with safety. For example, if Olivia fantasized she was a pirate on a ship, she had to be shown wearing a life jacket. If she was a chef, she could not operate the stove and had to have an adult in the kitchen with her. While I don’t think many children are going to find themselves on pirate ships, I got the basic concept.
• It is no longer enough for children’s TV to merely entertain, it has to educate.
• There are two types of education in preschool TV. The first deals with social education; Things like how to get along with your sibling, how to behave in school, how to persevere when things don’t go your way. This is the type of show that Olivia was. The second type of education is concrete things like letters, numbers, geography, technology etc.
• Picture books often don’t have enough plot to translate easily to series. For Olivia, I had to invent two new characters for Olivia to play off of, a male best friend and a female frenemy.
• If you can come up with something that parents can watch with their kids without wanting to put a stake in their eye, you will garner a loyal audience. I remember when my kids became old enough to watch the Simpsons instead of Barney. It was one of the best days of my life!
• Animation is a laborious process and therefore, in a TV series, you have to limit sets and new characters in order to keep the costs down.
• If the animation studio is in Dublin, as ours was, finding times to conference call when everyone was awake but the Irish group hadn’t started drinking yet might be difficult.

Hope this helped and remember to keep writing!

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