PBS KIDS Family Night
PBS first launched PBS KIDS Family Night as a great opportunity for families to gather on a Friday night for some kid-friendly movies, specials and events. We collaborated with the network to create packaging which included a series open and plenty of other elements. Taking style cues from other branding we’d done for the network, Family Night soon became a PBS mainstay.
After four years PBS contacted Primal Screen to update the Family Night look. Previously our work for the show featured the green, stock characters who are so identified with all PBS KIDS packaging. Now the network sought to populate their world with characters who look less generic and more like people in the audience.
As long as there’s been a PBS KIDS, the network has featured characters designed or inspired by Richard McGuire. And while the charming green kids are well-loved, the broadcaster was ready to put a more inclusive cast on-screen. As the project began, the difference in approach, compared to previous PBS KIDS projects, was clear. Here were characters who accurately reflected a range of races, abilities, ages, orientations, as well as family and class dynamics.
The new pieces were expected to stand alongside the original package, not replace it. Our goal was to develop a cast that could embrace a variety of characters while retaining PBS KIDS’ longstanding illustrative approach.
Meet the Families
The package focuses on four households. Among these groups viewers find live-in grandparents, a two-mommy family, a mixed-race family, a pregnancy and so much more. These are the kinds of characters kids seldom get a chance to see onscreen. That representation means we had to experiment to find the best way to show authentic hair, skin tones, movement and lifestyle. Advisors helped assure that our work rang true with the many groups watching.
The vignettes also remain true to life. Audiences see three Black triplets braiding hair. Or a pregnant mommy leaning back into a couch to sit. Or a kid in a wheelchair who giddily zips through his apartment. There’s even the kind of clutter and merry mayhem that kids see at home, but seldom on TV.
Show the Show
The pieces we made for PBS KIDS have no dialogue. Plus they are intended to be as entertaining as the Family Night main event. As much as we wanted the packaging to reflect kids’ lives, we wanted the audience to feel like they were participants in these happy households. While we developed the characters and backgrounds, we enhanced the storytelling with new sight gags and scene compositions that make the viewer a part of the action.
The pieces all rely on 2D animation with flat colors and snappy motion. But the camera implies a 3D world, with multiplaning and depth. The result is a look that’s modern even as it recalls the impression of a picture book.
We loved collaborating with PBS KIDS to broaden the scope of their well-established brand. We delivered a total of 18 elements, each with a unique story and silly/sweet humor. Audiences have resonated with the package too, as kids see a little of their own lives play out on screen.