There is a constant need for preschool programmes with a science-, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) inflection, but shows of that ilk are few and far between compared with language-focused and comedy efforts.
UK-based distributor Cake is going some way to rectifying the imbalance with Ready Jet Go!, which Dinosaur Train and Hey Arnold! creator Craig Bartlett has created for PBS Kids in the US. Wild Dancer Films (Roseanne, Home Improvement) is attached to produce.
The 3D-animated show for kids aged 3-8 has a focus on astronomy, technology, scientific exploration, innovation and invesntion, and will debut on PBS nationwide with integrated digital elements.
Ready Jet Go! follows Sean, who has an all-consuming drive for science facts, and Sydney, a girl who love science fiction and the imagination. They befriend a new kid on their street, Jet Propulsion, whose parents are aliens, and together the three explore the solar system, while learning about friendship and teamwork.
Each episode comprises two 11-minute animated stories and a live-action interstitial, and includes curriculum and character-driven original songs that the entire cast sings. These include a romantic duet from Mr. and Mrs. Propulsion and a description of the galaxy’s stars.
“Ready Jet Go! is a balanced blend between entertainment and education and there are elements that will appeal to all ages – for example, the songs are rock ‘n’ roll and show tune inspired – they are not your typical, sweet preschool songs,” said says Cake’s managing director, Ed Galton.
“The ‘sweet spot’ is five-to-six-year-olds, but the material will very much appeal to older kids because of the older characters and the fact what they are doing is aspirational, as well because of facts, footage and photographs from the NASA library which will inspire and educate.”
Galton says much of the comedy in the show is physical, “as epitomised in Sunspot, the alien pet that can just about do anything and is actively involved in whatever the kids are doing”.
The learning elements are “woven into the story and are organic to what the kids are doing”, says Galton. “The series has guidance from Jet Propulsion Laboratory astronomer Dr. Amy Mainzer as science consultant and Jordan Brown, child development consultant, to ensure that each episode has accurate information that will engage kids ages three-to-eight,” he adds.
Galton says the show avoids skewing boy and was “created to appeal equally to both boys and girls”, and notes the lead character, Jet, is an alien.
“Science can still be male-orientated so by showing girls actively engaged in astronomy and earth science adventures, we hope to interest them in choosing a STEM field later on,” says Galton.
As a show for a public broadcaster, Ready Jet! Go will work for similarly-organised networks, says Galton, but is sufficiently “funny, entertaining, well-written and produced” to work on “multiple platforms”.
Cake will have an episode available for buyers to screen at MIPJunior and MIPCOM, and further episodes for clients to screen at the firm’s stand.
The show: Ready Jet Go!
The producer: Wild Dancer Films
The distributor: Cake
The broadcaster: PBS (US)
The concept: An alien kid leads his friends on a journey of discovery around the galaxy