The makers of The Electric Company tasked Primal Screen with extending the experience and curriculum of the show. The result, Prankster Planet, spans online, broadcast and print, each enriching the others.
The Best of All Worlds
Sesame Workshop, the creators and producers of The Electric Company, wanted to give their audience a deeper experience of the show and its curriculum.
Prankster Planet is a world that spans online, broadcast and print, each enriching the others. Here, the show's live-action characters embark on learning adventures in a series of 12, two-minute, cartoon mini-episodes.
The adventures don't end onscreen — 12 multi-game online "missions" continue episode storylines. Kids can create cartoon avatars of themselves and work with the characters to solve problems just hinted at during the show. Finally, a workbook reinforces the curriculum of the online and broadcast experience, helping to make the learning last.
The Electric Company's curriculum goals and and strong brand legacy are the bedrock of Prankster Planet. We collaborated with Sesame Workshop to discover ways to make the learning integral to the games and mini-episodes — never tacked on.
The release schedule was to be aggressive: four new animated episodes air every every week for three weeks. Twelve multi-game "missions" (each unique to an episode) go live the morning the episode airs.
Face-to-face meetings in our studio and at Sesame Workshop's facility in New York yielded a plan of attack. With some months of lead time, we would design characters and backgrounds, animate them, and meanwhile, design, devise and code the games.
Illustration and Animation
In the past two seasons, The Electric Company's characters had only taken live-action form. Before we could begin work on the games and animated mini-episodes themselves, we had to design the characters.
Our animation staff designed 10 characters (all based on real people) and over a hundred background scenes to bring the episodes and stories to life. Character design and animation took place in Flash to yield 25 minutes of content.
We worked with Sesame Workshop to build games that are fun, multi-layered and educational. Games and cartoon episodes form a continuous narrative that cycles between linear, broadcast storytelling and immersive, interactive gameplay.
For every cartoon episode there is an online "mission" that comprises a sidescroller game along with some mini games. Players create avatars of themselves to help the show's characters. As players successfully complete challenges, they earn handy tools and cool accessories for their avatar.
Every year, The Electric Company creates a companion workbook to support the series' curriculum. Sesame Workshop distributes them for free through teachers to include classrooms in the show's educational mission.
This year we developed a look that integrated the new cartoon aesthetic with the collage style of years past. We had the advantage of having game, animation and print designers all under one roof. Often we had new illustrations almost as soon as they were requested. This gave us a more custom look and the all important ability to "just try stuff."
10 times the traffic,
9 times the engagement
Electric Company's Prankster Planet represents a number of milestones. For the first time, a show's online, on-air and print forms have been developed by the same team at the same time. Moreover, for the first time these three forms rely on one another to complete the narrative and deliver a curriculum.
The analytics since the site's May launch have been staggering:
Average time on the site soared to 28 minutes, that's a 900% increase, and unheard of in this demographic
Total visits rose from 31,000 to 3.2 million, which amounts to a 1000% increase
Visitors who found the site through a banner ad(!) averaged 16 minutes of engagement
Kids' adventures on Prankster Planet are immersive and active. The time they spend in this world has real value: as entertainment, as brand experience, and best of all, as learning. We're proud to have been a part of the best that transmedia can achieve.