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Extremely hairy paunchy mammal puppet with round pink nose sits in tree Snook the sloth and pals will inject with basic science concepts for preschool kids. (Photo courtesy of PBS and Big Big Prods.)

A cuddly sloth is set for science series stardom

Originally published in Current, May 2, 2005
By Karen Everhart

It’s a Big, Big World, a preschool science series from Mitchell Kriegman, promises to be the next big thing for PBS Kids. The series, which will launch with a major promotional push in January, “was an inspiration to us when we thought about what PBS Kids can be,” said John Wilson, PBS co-chief programmer, during the PBS Showcase meeting in Las Vegas.

Kriegman, Emmy-winning creator of Disney’s Bear in the Big Blue House and Nickelodeon’s Clarissa Explains It All, unveiled the series during an April 12 [2005] breakfast at the PBS conference. “From my point of view, I’ve arrived in my career” by bringing to PBS a competitive show that will help children learn and grow, he said.

Kriegman began developing the concept after 9/11. “I wanted to create a show that helps parents and kids feel good about the world,” he said.

It’s a Big, Big World conveys a life-science curriculum and introduces world music through the songs of Red-Eyed Tree Frogs who live in the World Tree, home of the central character, Snook, a cuddly giant tree sloth — an “active” sloth, PBS said. The first 40 half-hour episodes go into production this summer, with a sneak preview of two or three episodes around Labor Day, according to Karen Fritz, station relations executive for presenting station WETA in Washington, D.C.

Kriegman wowed his breakfast audience with a clip from Sizzling Kung Fu Mice, an HD film he directed using Shadowmation, a visually lush production technique combining Bun Raku, an ancient form of Japanese puppetry, with computer-generated animation and virtual sets. He’ll use the technique to bring to life marmoset monkey siblings, a bossy bird and a wise ancient turtle, among other It’s a Big, Big World characters. Oko, a prankster monkey puppet, pounced on Kriegman’s head and professed his love for Las Vegas, Wayne Newton and WETA.

Producers plan a national outreach program to parents and children, an extensive promotion campaign and an interactive and educational website to kick off the series. Sony Pictures Consumer Products is developing a licensing program that includes toys, books and interactive products.

Web page posted Nov. 3, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Current Publishing Committee

LINKS

The series debuts Jan. 2, 2006, according to its page on PBSKids.org.

With union writers on strike against the production, Kriegman is using nonunion workers at a Long Island studio, Newsday reported in October 2005.

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