Thud at Kidscreen Summit 2017

On February 11th Thud Media andCloth Cat Animation went cross-continental, jetting off to Miami, FL to attend the Kidscreen Summit 2017. Known as the place to be in the world of kids entertainment, this huge global conference is packed with sessions, networking events, pitching opportunities and more – and we couldn’t wait to dive in.

We were part of the CMC delegation at Kidscreen, which represents the wealth and variety of children’s media production companies and studios here in the UK, while encouraging international relationships and collaborations.

As a seasoned games and interactive design company, we can offer our development experience in kids digital content to network and independent producers alike, so we headed to Kidscreen looking to promote our skills and showcase the great projects we’ve had the pleasure to work on. With lots of new folk to meet, collaborators to catch up with, sights to see (and only a few days to do it all in) we wasted no time getting stuck in.

In amongst it all we managed to fit in some of Kidscreen’s top sessions and panel discussions. The theme of this year’s summit keynote was ‘Making Caring Common’, which explored the importance of promoting empathy, caring and well-being in content for kids. Dr. Richard Weissbourd described a culture that places achievement and happiness over empathy and tolerance, where it is important expand a child’s circle of concern to promote kindness.

‘Inside Amazon Studios’ Approach to Preschool’ saw a panel of Amazon’s key show creators and thought leaders discussing how their original preschool programming encourages play, creativity, art and early life skills. No ABCs and 123s but STEAM learning at the core, where characters are not perfect and discover through trial and error.

In ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’s Cross Platform Quest: A Marvel animation case study’ we learnt how the little known Guardians of the Galaxy IP was grown into a hit family franchise by producing animation for diverse platforms with flexible format lengths. We are approaching our current project in a similar way, with animation hits, games and promo content.

‘From Toys-to-Life to Life on Netflix: A Skylanders Academy case study’ delved into the adaptation process behind bringing the bestselling video game franchise, Skylanders, to a worldwide Netflix series. It was very interesting to hear about Activision Blizzard’s media plans and the potential for its 8 to 10 franchises (being played by 10+ million users) that could be adapted – Skylanders Academy being one such approach. It also got geeky about the production and asset tracking, in this instance Shotgun, which is in our field of expertise – making collaboration more productive.

In the wake of Pokemon GO, ‘The Evolution of Play in a Virtual World’ explored how traditional play patterns will change and evolve as kids interact with virtual objects and characters in the real world around them. AR is something we are focused on and Legacy Games use of Google’s Tango was a nice example of what can be achieved at this early stage.

Google Play’s Shazia Makhdumi discussed ‘Making the AR/VR Grade on Google’, specifically focusing on ways developers can create innovative and nurturing kids apps on Google’s AR and VR platforms, Cardboard, Daydream and Tango – lots of potential that we are very excited about!

In ‘VR Storytelling Evolution: The challenge of an ever-changing point-of-view’, the panel discussed the possibilities and challenges of the future of storytelling in VR. This was an interesting and pertinent panel discussion for us with some great examples of immersive narrative such as Nexus Production’s ‘Rain or Shine’ and the Lockheed Martin shared VR experience ‘Beyond Mars Bus’. We have immersive animation in development here in the studio, so watch this space…

STEAM learning is something we are passionate about, so the ‘STEAM Research: Entertaining kids where creativity and technology intersect’ session about delivering STEAM concepts in fun and accessible ways was great to see, mirroring work with have recently done with school children.

We were also lucky enough to have a chance meeting with Hololens thanks to Jay Benton. The Microsoft HoloLens is a self-contained, holographic computer that enables users to visualise and work with their digital content in the world around them. Since the keynote at Pocket Gamer Connects this year, we’ve been itching to test out the Hololens for ourselves. It has loads of potential, and the AR games Robo Raid and Fragments gave a glimpse of what could be achieved with the hardware.

We always have a fantastic time at the Kidscreen Summit, and this year was no exception. It was lovely to speak to old friends and new contacts about the shared interests we have, and we’ve left feeling inspired, excited for the future… and partied out!

As a Cardiff based games and interactive developer specialising in kids content for the global market, we always relish the chance to showcase what we can do on an international stage. Together with our sister companies Cloth Cat Animation and Bait Studio our complete production pipeline is an exciting offering for producers of children’s content, and we can bring the skills from those creative areas into the interactive work we do.

Shout out to CMC’s Greg and Sarah for their help and support leading up to and during the event – thanks guys, see you in Sheffield. Shout out to Kidscreen for another great summit. And shout out to Uber for getting us where we needed to be!!