From a groundbreaking Marvel series and the return of beloved Minions to family-friendly podcasts and global gaming platforms, Variety spotlights content creators, producers, directors and executives that have made impressive moves over the past year in the G-rated space.
Bisha K. Ali
Ali is the creative mind behind Disney+ series “Ms. Marvel,” which centers on Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old girl who struggles with fitting in until she gains superpowers via a magical bangle. Critically reviewed as one of the freshest additions to the MCU, stylistically and content-wise, Ali’s storytelling also offered an authentic take on Pakistani American culture. Ali says she hopes the series “opens the door a little wider for creatives to tell truthful stories whose authenticity is rooted in specificity, with the confidence of knowing that these kinds of stories have universal appeal to viewers of all backgrounds.” The series won the 2022 Harvey Award for adaptation from a comic book/graphic novel, and at the 47th Saturn Awards, the series was nominated for limited event series (streaming), and lead actor Iman Vellani won for performance by a younger actor (streaming). Looking towards the future of family entertainment, Ali would like to see creatives being able to “tell difficult, complicated stories that empower creatives from minority backgrounds, and grapple honestly with the issues of our time — even if via metaphor.”
Exec VP, General Manager
Sony Pictures Television, Kids
D’Ambrosia oversees many of the best-loved, award-winning shows for kids such as “Octonauts,” which has been released in 190 countries and 19 languages and holds a place in the top 10 children’s shows in 44 countries. “It has been a crazy couple of years for kids across the globe as it’s been for all of us,” says D’Ambrosia, who is a lifelong fan of “Scooby-Doo.” “Kids are looking for relatable characters and are seeking out some level of comfort in the current content they consume, whether it’s going back to shows and characters they grew up with like the fearless Captain Barnacles on ‘Octonauts,’ or disappearing into a fantasy world with Hilda and her delightful ensemble of friends and creatures.”
Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production
Honoring the legacy of an iconic brand while ensuring new productions attract new audiences is a delicate balance Bailey manages well. That’s no small task with 11 titles coming up in 2023, including “The Little Mermaid” live-action film, and hundreds more in development. Between “The Beatles: Get Back” and “Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers,” the studio garnered six Emmys this year and a handful of wins. “Looking ahead to 2023 and Disney’s 100th anniversary celebration and beyond, we have so much to be excited about,” Bailey says. “We believe there will always be a market for great stories and characters that have heart and humor and that connect with fans and families around the world.”
“Minions: The Rise of Gru”
With “Minions,” “Despicable Me 3,” “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” which made $937 million worldwide, among many others, Balda has been a force in animation for decades. He worked as an animator on “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2” and “Monsters Inc.,” before moving onto directing films including “The Lorax,” and into the internationally famous “Minions” franchise. The BAFTA-nominated helmer had his first breakthrough when he realized animation was a real job. “For me, the song ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ is the whole north star of ‘The Rise of Gru,’ because Gru wants to be part of [the gang] the Vicious 6, but the Minions want him to be part of them and he doesn’t want to,” says Balda. “It’s all these complicated things that we look for in life and in stories.”
Creator and author
In February, PBS Kids aired an emotional 20-minute block that ended “Arthur,” which, with 25 seasons, is the longest-running animated children’s show in television history. The series launched in 1996 based on Brown’s books. “We decided a few years ago that 25 would be a nice place to end,” Brown says. “We have gathered over 600 stories about topics that I think are going to be timeless. They’ll go on helping kids and families.” The show has done just that — in small, everyday ways, including by validating childlike daydreams about aliens and superheroes, and with bigger, life-affirming stories, like specials that gently discuss topics like disability and racism. When Brown reflects on “Arthur,” it’s the audience interactions that stick with him
Traci Balthazor, John Derderian, Mike Karafilis, Karen Toliver
Balthazor: VP, Animation Film Productions Operations
Derderian: VP, Content and Head of Animation Series
Karafilis: Director, Animation Series Production
Tolver: VP, Animated Film
Balthazor works closely with Toliver, who was brought into a new role earlier this year, and together they oversee Netflix’s animated content from inception to production. “I know I’m not alone when I say I came to Netflix to make [and support] the best movies of my career,” Toliver says, reflecting on her career move. Derderian began his job in the U.S. in July after spending about three years at the streaming platform’s Japan HQ. His mission, however, has remained the same at the company, Derderian says, which is to “make shows that matter to our audience.” Adds Karafilis, “With the large amount of change we’ve undergone over the last year, I believe the most important thing moving forward is to continue to build a solid studio foundation for longevity, community and even better support for the slate of amazing projects to come.”
Exec VP and Executive Producer
Brenner joined Mattel in 2018 and helps to create full-length feature films based on Mattel’s iconic portfolio of brands in partnership with major studios, to be distributed globally in movie theaters and on streaming platforms. Currently in production is the star-studded adaptation of classic doll line “Barbie,” set for release July 21, while big-screen efforts “Masters of the Universe” and “Hot Wheels” are due in 2024 and 2025, respectively. “The future holds a lot more heartfelt storytelling derived from our brands that so many around the world have grown up with, simultaneously reaching new generations in all-new ways,” she says.
Creator and animator
Brumm is the creator of “Bluey,” the children’s animated show that’s been a top performer for Disney+ and a global phenomenon. It broke the Australian Broadcast Corp.’s streaming records by becoming the most downloaded show in the history of ABC’s on-demand service, and it won an Intl. Emmy Kids Award. “Bluey is my proudest achievement from both a creative and business standpoint by a long way. I didn’t make any creative sacrifices with it, I just made the cartoon I wanted to make, had a great time doing it and it’s been a commercial success. It’s how I will work from now on,” Brumm says.
Partner and Co-head, Motion Picture Literary
Burns oversees UTA’s animation division, which has the largest roster of animation clients, and is the only major agency with a dedicated animation division. Movies directed by UTA animation clients have grossed more than $20 billion worldwide, and include Kyle Balda (“Despicable Me 3,” “Minions: The Rise of Gru”), Rich Moore (“Zootopia “), Chris Williams (“The Sea Beast”), and Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe (“The Mitchells vs. the Machines”). The family entertainment landscape remains Burns’ highest priority. “I have a 6-year-old daughter and I’ve quickly learned how important shared experiences are for bonding and the growth of children.”
Cohn oversaw two major animated theatrical releases for 2022, including April’s “The Bad Guys,” which was both a critical and box office hit and might become a franchise for the studio, and the upcoming “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” which continues the iconic “Shrek” franchise into new creative territory. She also helped turn the hit Netflix series “Gabby’s Dollhouse” into a major property, with 45 episodes spread out over six seasons. Her desire for quality family entertainment is unending. “The world is so stressful these days. We think of our mission to entertain kids and their families as crucial!” she says.
Disney Branded Television
Davis’ talented and dedicated team is the leading provider of original content for the Disney title on Disney+, with notable originals this year including “Spidey and His Amazing Friends,” “Firebuds,” “Sneakerella,” “Zombies 3” and “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.” Upcoming, starfilled projects from her group include “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” “National Treasure,” “American Born Chinese,” “Muppets Mayhem,” “The Santa Clauses” and “Star Wars: Young Jedi Adventure.” “We create stories and characters that are full of wonder, imagination and optimism, forging deep emotional connections that live within the hearts of kids and families for their entire lives,” Davis says.
Spin Master Entertainment
Dodge is coming off the success of the company’s first box office hit, “Paw Patrol: The Movie,” which grossed more than $150 million worldwide, and helped pave the way for families to return to theaters during the pandemic. “Our team delivered a beautiful movie, with poignant storytelling that was loved by our little fans and their entire families around the world.” She also oversaw the launch of SME’s first series on Apple TV+, “Sago Mini Friends,” with future 2023 titles including “Vida the Vet” for BBC’s CBeebies and Corus’ Treehouse, and the new “Paw Patrol” spinoff series for Nick Jr., “Rubble & Crew.”
Chief Creative Officer
Fred Rogers Productions
Doherty, an Emmy Award-winning producer with more than 20 years of experience in children’s entertainment, oversees the creation of television and digital content for the company’s numerous PBS programs, including “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Peg + Cat,” “Odd Squad,” “Donkey Hodie” and “Alma’s Way.” She also created and serves as head writer and executive producer of the award-winning “Through the Woods,” which is a short-form series that revolves around nature. “Many of the stories and characters from our childhood stay with us always, so making good stuff for growing minds and growing hearts offers opportunities for long-lasting impact,” Doherty says.
President, Family Brands
With shows including Nick Jr.’s “Peppa Pig” and Netflix’s “My Little Pony: Make Your Mark” under his supervision, Dumont possesses a wide-ranging spectrum of children’s programming that continues to bring in colossal sales. Retail revenue generated across eOne’s brands reached approximately $3 billion in the past year alone. “Our children’s programming has a unique balance of heart and humor. Peppa is a great example of that,” Dumont says. “EOne programming encourages children to engage with the characters and stories we create in more ways than one and to reach across the screen to play with them.” Other properties in Dumont’s portfolio include “PJ Masks,” “Power Rangers: Dino Fury” and “Transformers: Earthspark,” which released on Paramount+ in November.
President, Disney Consumer Products
Games and Publishing
Filippatos leads the team of product, licensing and retail experts, artists, storytellers and technologists who bring Disney’s stories and characters to life through immersive products and experiences. As she describes it, “our products magnify kids’ incredible imaginations,” adding that “through fostering creativity, children are able to become storytellers in their own homes every day, and we take great pride in that.” She helps to create and deliver products across a variety of channels, including Disney store, shopDisney, Disney Parks and retail/e-commerce partners, as well as the world’s largest licensing organization. She’s also a member of the board of directors of Make-a-Wish Intl.
Head of Kids and Family Programming
Warner Bros. Discovery
Friedman oversees creative and overall strategy for kids and family programming, and helped launch the preschool programming block Cartoonito, which represents the biggest commitment to preschool for the division ever. She works in close collaboration with the animation studios, Warner Bros. Animation, Cartoon Network Studios and Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe. “Everything we do is based on Humancentric Learning, which helps kids be their true selves and treat others with respect, kindness and fairness,” Friedman says. “I’m most proud of the fact that all our shows have educational extensions, so families can play and learn together when the screens go off.”
Dan Gregor and Doug Mand
“Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers”
This duo has worked in both live action with “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and hybrid “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” and are writing “Prince Charming” for Disney and attached to rewrite and direct “Rookie of the Year.” Gregor is also at work on a holiday musical feature at Amazon and Mand’s series “Pretty Smart” was recently released on Netflix. “With ‘Rescue Rangers’ we just wrote the movie that we wanted to see,” says Mand. “We’re not trying to make the distinction that this is a kid’s movie because story is story, and the things that make us laugh and the things that make us feel emotions are the same from childhood through adulthood.”
Chief Creative Officer of Natural History and Science
Holmes is a BAFTA- and Emmy-winning producer who also holds a doctorate in marine biology, and oversees a department of 150 and productions including “Night on Earth,” “Animal,” “Hostile World,” and environmental and conservation programming such as “Patagonia: Life on the Edge of the World.” “After completing my research on coral reef fish and recognizing that I was not an academic, I decided to see whether television production offered me the chance to indulge my passions and get paid for it,” says Holmes. “I was lucky enough to get a job in the industry, and I haven’t looked back.”
Senior VP, Animation
As a key player in some of the most notable streaming deals for anime, Ige was part of brokering a deal for Tite Kubo’s “Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War” where the anime will be simulcast as part of a partnership with Disney+ and Hulu. Ige and his team have also worked to secure deals for the lauded “Death Note” anime series and “One-Punch Man” series, among many others. “We are already starting to see signs that anime has hit the mass market, and streaming has been one of the catalysts fueling that growth,” says Ige. “In addition, social media has helped popularize the format by reaching new audiences with endorsements from some of the biggest names in Hollywood, music and sports as they share their love of anime.”
Bin Jeong, Marina Lee
Lee: Chief Content Officer
Jeong and Lee turned 2015’s biggest earworm, “Baby Shark” — the first video to surpass 10 billion views on YouTube — into an unstoppable franchise, with a TV series, live shows, NTF collections and “Baby Shark’s Big Movie” due in late 2023. They’ve led the company, which rebranded from SmartStudy to Pinkfong in January, to expand its portfolio; “Bebefinn” had a million YouTube subscribers within 100 days of release. “With all the segmentation in the market today, it’s becoming extremely challenging for a piece of content to be discovered, and even more challenging to retain the attention of the audience,” Lee says, noting that optimizing content and quickly responding to market changes are vital to success in the kids’ market.
President, Universal Products & Experiences
Klaseus and his team work to extend and deepen fan excitement for the company’s brands. Just recently this meant working with global properties like “Jurassic Park,” “Minions” and “Gabby’s Dollhouse.” “The ‘Gentleminions’ trend went viral over the summer with fans dressing up in suits and taking over movie theaters worldwide,” says Klaseus. “It was a completely organic phenomenon that speaks to how powerful a connection the Minions have with fans all over the globe. We tapped into this fandom by collaborating with Gen-Z designers like graphic artist Verdy and Lyrical Lemonade to drop capsule collections, with many of them selling out in minutes.”
Motion Picture Agent
Lanzetta works with some the biggest figures in family entertainment such as Amblin, Imagine and Mattel on many of the most beloved properties like Polly Pocket, Barbie and Masters of the Universe. She has also put together deals for stars like Vin Diesel to produce and star in “Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots.” “With properties like ‘Barbie’ or ‘Polly Pocket,’ there is always going to be a nostalgia element that brings a core fan who want to see this IP come to life; but by approaching the property’s storytelling from an edge, with inspired, contemporary creatives and star power, there is tremendous opportunity to expand the audience,” says Lanzetta.
Owner and CEO
Larian’s roots as owner and CEO of MGA Entertainment extend as far back as 1979, when he started the company under the name Surprise Gift Wagon. Even then, the company’s mission rang true of “building great toys that become great brands,” the 68-year-old billionaire says. “When we created our first doll in 1996, we changed the name to MGA Entertainment — the first toy company to include entertainment in their name at a time this wasn’t common — as we knew the future was in the intersection of toys and entertainment,” Larian says. His prediction would prove to be accurate with the creation of MGA Studios, which began to produce animated series based on some of the company’s popular brands. “L.O.L. Surprise! Winter Fashion Show” premiered on Netflix earlier this year, marking the second animated feature for the brand.
Chief Creative Officer
The Oscar-winning director and screenwriter (“Frozen,” “Frozen II”) has been in her current post since 2018, and since then, diverse female characters have been front and center in the hits “Raya and the Last Dragon” and “Encanto.” In November the studio also released “Strange World,” a film about a family of explorers who learn to set aside their differences and work together. Lee is also co-writing an upcoming animated musical feature, “Wish,” for release in 2023. “As we embrace the opportunities for Disney+, we’ve had to evolve to handle a bigger slate,” Lee says. “I am most proud of how the folks in our studio have navigated through so much growth and change. They have had to work more efficiently, more cohesively [while mostly apart], while still bringing their best to our projects, without compromising quality. It was only possible because of who they are, the care they give their work and each other, and their trust and support they’ve built.”
Head of Entertainment Partnerships
Lichten works with many of the world’s biggest digital entertainment brands, talent and TV and studio companies to shape metaverse content. Recent significant partnerships include Dwayne Johnson’s Roblox debut with “Black Adam,” and a watch party for Netflix’s “Stranger Things” that blended series scenes with an interactive 3D environment. “Through platform trends, we already know that shared 3D immersive experiences in the metaverse are a lot stickier than watching something on TV or interacting on traditional social media, so over the next few years, expect to see a continued shift toward content that’s less structured and more user-augmented,” says Lichten.
President, Warner Bros. Consumer Products
Warner Bros. Global Brands & Experiences
Lifford is behind the scenes of the iconic franchises under the Warner Bros. umbrella, with a heavy hand in developing brands around popular intellectual property from Harry Potter to DC Entertainment. “So many of the TV shows and movies I grew up with and watched over the years were actually made by Warner Bros.,” Lifford says. “A lot of people don’t even realize what studio makes what show or movie. I didn’t as a young person, and now I work here. I love how WB has been with me from the very be- ginning.” Lifford increased business by 47% in her first year since joining Warner Bros’ Consumer Products division in 2016. Now, with the acquisition of Discovery, Lifford says she believes the studio’s global portfolio of brands will maintain its successful trajectory.
Jonathan Linden, Stephen Shaw
Round Room Live
Experts at turning popular kiddie IP such as Peppa Pig, Blippi and even Baby Shark into engaging and dynamic live events is what Round Room Live does best. When the pandemic shut things down, Shaw and Linden used the time to polish a new slate of shows, including 2023’s “Go Noodle Live!” “Partly because a lot of this entertainment can be consumed whenever, wherever, you don’t always have a captive audience at any one time,” Linden says. “A live show becomes a unique opportunity to have all of these fans in one place at one time and when they’re captive in the theater.”
Mike Lowe, Neil Gruninger
Lowe: Co-Founder, CEO
Gruninger: Co-Founder, President/CPO
A Parent Media Co.
Lowe and Gruninger brought APMC from a gutsy startup to an international tech and media company. Their most notable endeavor, Kidoodle.TV, is a safe streaming service geared for kids 12 and under. In just the past year, brands such as SpongeBob SquareP- ants, Little Angel and Blippi Wonders and the viral hit Recess Therapy have joined the service. “There’s no question that we’ve seen an explosion of viewers coming to Kidoodle.TV since the pandemic, which speaks to the need for families to have safe and affordable places where children can be free to explore,” says Lowe.
Founder and CEO
With the release of “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” Illumination’s founder and CEO Meledandri revisited a global phenomenon and solidified his position as one of the most successful Hollywood producers of all time. Generating more than $930 million worldwide, the film is the highest domestic grossing film in the “Despicable Me” franchise, plus the most successful animated franchise in cinematic history. Next up is the highly anticipated “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” which he is producing alongside Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo. The film will be released worldwide by Universal Pictures in 2023.
In the gaming world, Miyamoto’s name is legendary. Nintendo’s game director is revered as one of the most accomplished and influential designers in the history of video games, having created best-selling franchises such as “Mario,” “The Legend of Zelda,” “Donkey Kong,” “Star Fox” and “Pikmin.” He has been working as a producer on “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” alongside Chris Meledandri of Illumination, with the film releasing next April. Throughout this year, Nintendo has released a plethora of games connected to beloved franchises as well as fresh offerings including “Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope” and “Kirby and the Forgotten Land.”
President of Animation
Paramount Animation & Nickelodeon Animation
With Naito at the helm, Nickelodeon’s animation pipeline has grown from nine titles to more than 70 in the past four years. To Naito, who also leads Paramount Animation, the most crucial elements in any project at Nickelodeon and Paramount are “talent, loving the characters and the big idea.” “Creator-driven content is key, so putting artists at the forefront of everything we do and trusting their story and vision opens the door to telling the best and funniest stories for today’s kids and families,” she says. Along with new franchise plans for “Transformers,” “Smurfs” and more, Naito oversaw the deal for the newly formed Avatar Studios, which will expand “this rich universe into multiple animated series and movies based on this beloved world.”
Ebony and Denise Nunez
Team 2 Moms
The Nunezes use their own experiences as heads of a diverse, two-mom family to create engaging content for their nearly eight million followers across YouTube, TikTok and other social channels, all while redefining what family means. “We’ve seen more representation, more diversity, more families that look like us,” Ebony says. “We definitely see a lot of content in the industry become more family-oriented and family-focused. We love to see that industries are looking at ways, and exploring ways, to represent a multitude of different families.” The couple also serves on TikTok’s Diversity Council and worked with Mattel to make Barbie programs more inclusive.
The Pokémon Company Intl.
The brand just celebrated a quarter century, and the Pokémon Co. Intl. recognized the milestone with several fan-focused offerings: the first-ever open-world core video games for the franchise with “Pokémon Legends: Arceus” and “Pokémon Scarlet and Violet,” the “Pokémon 25: The Album” featuring major artists such as Katy Perry and J Balvin, and the 25th season premiere of animated series “Pokémon Ultimate Journeys: The Series” with streaming partner Netflix in the U.S. The Pokémon Co. Intl. also announced its first-ever formalized CSR initiative, committing a minimum of $25 million over the next five years to global and local organizations dedicated to improving the lives of children and supporting social equity. Okubo says it’s of the upmost importance to keep Pokémon fan-focused. “We believe this intentional focus on brand integrity serves us and other similar entertainment brands well,” Okubo says. “We pay homage to our legacy, but we also have an eye on the horizon for how to maintain relevancy in the hearts and minds of fans of all ages around the world.”
Zack Olin, Shauna Phelan
Executive Vice Presidents and Co-Heads
Nickelodeon and Awesomeness Live-Action Series and Films, Paramount
From ideas to distribution, Phelan and Olin ensure Paramount has a robust pipeline of scripted kids, family and YA IP for multiple platforms, including musicals, dramas, comedies and even revivals of classic Nick properties like “The Fairly OddParents.” They’re also seeing more interest in family programming. “In recent years we’ve seen more and more creators from different backgrounds reach out to us passionate about telling stories in our space,” says Olin. “This enthusiasm is elevating our work and cutting through in a busy marketplace where more than ever we need to ensure our content is worthy of the audience’s attention.”
Unscripted TV agent
Since Hasbro acquired eOne Studios at the end of 2019, Raphael — a partner in WME’s non-scripted department — has helped tailor a non-scripted packaging strategy for Hasbro IP that has already led to the sale of 11 Hasbro properties. “Family-friendly non-scripted content has become increasingly important to streamers, broadcasters, celebrity talent, athletes, musicians and many more,” he says. “Having a focus in this area along with sports, docs and lifestyle, has allowed me to service my clients along a broad spectrum of relevant programming.”
Rechtman has held massive influence over children’s programming in his four years of tenure, pumping out global hits such as “Cocomelon,” “Mia’s Magic Playground” and “Little Angel” — a Candian YouTube show the company acquired earlier this year. “Whilst on one hand kids are becoming more digital, on the other hand, high-quality and enriching kids’ entertainment has been limited to user-generated content,” Rechtman says. “This is the vacuum that we are fulfilling at Moonbug by creating high-value and learning-based content in formats that children love, on the platforms where they are spending more time.” Now, the entrepreneur is heavily focused on expanding the company into the gaming space. The Cocomelon brand recently launched on Nintendo Switch in October with its first-ever video game, “Cocomelon: Play With JJ.” Under his oversight, the company also expanded to acquire the Singapore-based animation studio One Animation in May.
President and CEO, Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon
Chief Content Officer, Movies and Kids & Family, Paramount+
Along with expanding Paramount Plus’ Kids & Family portfolio in the 15 months since assuming his current role, Robbins has aligned the studio’s theatrical and streaming releases. Six movies and franchises including “Star Trek: Prodigy” “Kamp Koral” and “Rugrats” drew viewers to the streamer’s kids and family space. “A big change in the landscape is how linear TV has been flanked by the explosion of platforms that kids today use to find the content they love the most,” Robbins says, noting the future of kids’ TV is already here. “Successful programmers understand that you have to marry great, premium content with platform ubiquity to make the biggest impact. Otherwise, you’re nowhere.”
Benjamin Salka, Lee Overtree
Salka: CEO, Co-Founder
Overtree: Co-Founder, Creative Director
“Story Pirates” Podcast
The “Story Pirates Podcast” currently has more than 65 million downloads, worldwide, won the 2022 Webby and iHeartRadio awards for kids and family podcast. Salka and Overtree’s not-so-secret to success is understanding that kids — and their imaginations — should be at the core of all they do. Salka says recognizing children as full humans, not just as consumers, is making the content better, more sophisticated and appealing to multiple age groups: “Audio content is especially good at this because of the way it activates listeners’ imaginations, and because of the group settings [like car rides] where adults and kids of all ages are co-listening.”
Jo Sharon, Casey Kriley
“Top Chef,” and “Nailed It!” are among Magical Elves’ biggest hits, but one of the things Sharon and Kriley are proudest of is that 76% of their permanent staff comprises women and people from underrepresented LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities. Producing shows in which men, women and kids compete against one another is vital, too. “Our brand at Magical Elves is very aspirational,” Sharon says. “And that family quadrant is where it should be. We want to inspire the younger generation to dream to be whatever they want to be.”
Founder and CEO
From expanding children’s author Mo Willems’ reach with TV specials and a publishing imprint, to Stampede’s HappyNest’s joint venture with UTA and an equity investment in the GoKidGo podcast channel, Silverman meets today’s kids everywhere they are. “As families are consuming content in different ways now, there’s a thirst for more IP and more diverse characters kids can attach to and that parents will enjoy,” he says. “Family Entertainment grows with society, adopting what is currently modern, allowing for openness and acceptance as well as giving children the ability and knowledge to learn about something.”
Chairman and CEO
A. Smith & Co. Productions
Two decades into the game, Smith is still as excited about his job. He loves that current hits including “American Ninja Warrior” and “The Floor Is Lava” teach viewers, young and old, about the importance of challenging themselves. Smith says family programming is more than fun, it’s good business. “Linear networks, and even the streamers, are trying to pull as many people in as possible. And I hear it all the time from people who watch ‘Ninja’ and people watching ‘Lava’ — ‘This is a show I feel comfortable watching with my kids.’ That’s why we put a lot of our resources into programming that has broad appeal. And when I say broad appeal, I’m talking about family appeal.”
Bruce W. Smith, Ralph Farquhar
Smith: Creator, Executive Producer
Farquhar: Executive Producer
“The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder”
Disney Branded Television
Smith and Farquhar, who inked a deal with Disney Branded Television in 2020, sought to build a diverse team of writers, animators and other creatives for “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.” “Working in a predominantly Black writers’ room means we can speak in shorthand as opposed to explaining everything,” Smith and Farquhar say. “Because we have authentic voices in the room, this authenticity is reflected in the scripts and on the screen.” The reboot of the beloved animated series, which originally ran on Disney Channel from 2001 to 2005, spotlights such prevalent topics as colorism, slavery and LGBTQ+ identity. “We will also delve into gender pronouns, male chauvinism and reparations,” Smith and Farquhar say, adding that the upcoming season is “exciting, hilarious and provocative.”
Senior VP, Music and Soundtracks
Disney Branded Television
Vincent has supervised the music of myriad titles at Disney Channel and Disney+, from “High School Musical” to “Zombies” to “Hannah Montana.” “It’s really about trying to figure out which styles of music service those stories and characters,” he says. “Their journey is what dictates the songwriting.” A particular favorite on the horizon: the next chapter of the “Descendants” franchise titled “The Pocketwatch.” “It’s got a little time travel, and it’s got a new kind of approach to the music, and yet it’s very much in the tradition of the first three movies,” he says. “I want our music to sound as cool as everything else that kids are listening to on TikTok.”
Chris M. Williams, Kerry Tucker
Tucker: Chief Marketing & Franchise Officer
At Pocket.watch, Williams and Tucker position partners’ content everywhere today’s digital-first kids are, from streaming services and FAST channels to SVOD and apps. They know the economic impact of children’s entertainment, and now the rest of the industry is catching on, too. “‘Does kids content bring new audiences, to channels and services?’ That was the question when we launched ‘Ryan’s Mystery Playdate,’ a television series we created and produced for Nickelodeon back in 2019,” Williams says. “The premiere episode literally attracted the largest audience they had that year. But more importantly, 40% of that audience had never watched Nickelodeon before.” Five years and 90 episodes later, the “Ryan” franchise — and ancillary businesses — are still going strong.