Blues Clues creator on creative young minds

A new series aims to encourage art appreciation among children
Published: 4:03 AM, June 28, 2014

LOS ANGELES — Vincent Van Gogh and Georges Seurat may not be part of your children’s kindergarten curriculum, but Amazon is betting they will be central characters of a new online series.

Creative Galaxy is one of the company’s first children’s shows and it is trying to strike a delicate balance between education and entertainment with its children’s programming, a combination Angela Santomero knows well. She co-created Blue’s Clues, the Nickelodeon show about a man who solves puzzles with his dog.

Creative Galaxy encourages kids to make art — and learn its history in the process. It stars a character named Arty and features the voices of Daily Show correspondents Samantha Bee and Jason Jones as Arty’s parents.

The first episode discusses pointillism, a painting technique invented in the late 19th century and popularised by Seurat.

“I had the concept and a pilot for an art-themed show and it was pretty clear Amazon was the best partner in terms of the curriculum and what it was trying to do. It could be its signature show,” said Santomero. “Blue’s Clues was about kindergarten readiness and I made a reading show; I am zeroing in on what kids need and love. The idea of arts and creative, it’s the future. Given how many arts programmes are being cut from schools, this is something we need. This is about how we can get around the curriculum.”

Santomero added that they wanted a show that kids will be excited about. “We write a script, turn it into a storybook and take it into the kids and read it to them. We want them interacting and playing with the characters. We want the kids to be a part of our world.”

That Arty breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience is not dissimilar to what Blue’s Clues host Steve Burns (and later Donovan Patton) used to do. And it is a technique Santomero likes. “I want the audience to be a part of the experience; I want kids to propel the storyline and be a part of it. If you can get kids invested in interacting, they will learn more. It was never a question of whether the character would talk to the audience, but how to use it.”

Like Blue’s Clues, the action on Creative Galaxy is paused to give children time to react to the questions Arty asks. “That’s the secret sauce; I can’t tell you exactly. When you watch a kids’ show, the pacing feels slow,” she said. “This has a lot of the same formal features (as other children’s shows) — talking to the audience, bringing them in. We didn’t shy away from words like pointillism or Seurat and Van Gogh; the kids are with you because of the way we write it. It’s real.” REUTERS