A harmonious future for digital video?

I just started using iTunes in the last year, since (finally) getting my first iPod. On a couple of occasions I’ve acquired music or video from other sources, and boy was I confused when I realized that I couldn’t actually play that media on my iPod without converting it to another format (or in some cases, at all).

Why yes, I did used to ride a dinosaur to school, too. Thanks for asking.

Of course, short of your grandparents, I’m just about the last person in this country to realize that the iTunes format is different than everyone else’s format, and even those so-called “open format” devices can occasionally be bamboozled by a different format (or even a rogue file extension). And—like most people—I mostly just want these things to work the way I want them to with minimal fuss.

All of which I bring up to explain why last week’s news is kind of a big deal:

A group of media industry companies said it is planning to build a digital world where video devices and content websites play together in perfect harmony, and consumers can safely store their digital content and access it anywhere in the world.

The consortium of Hollywood studios, retailers, service providers, and consumer electronics and information technology companies, called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, or DECE, is working on a “uniform digital media experience” but won’t announce details until the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

As for iTunes…?

“This is very different from the Apple ecosystem,” he said. “We encourage Apple to join the consortium. We don’t ever anticipate Apple going away or this consortium replacing it.”

I dunno. I mean, they say “consortium,” but I mostly just picture the guys from the “I’m a Mac / I’m a PC” commercial singing kumbaya together. And then I can watch it on my iPod with a single click, right? While telling the kids how back in my day you had to run it through three different converters, first, and it would crash your computer and still not work…?

Cookie Jar’s growing berry big

I remember thinking that “Cookie Jar” was a great name for a company dealing in kids’ entertainment. Cute, but not cloying. Evoking pleasant visions of a small treat. Perfect!

And, of course, I encountered them right here at Ty’s Toy Box, because Cookie Jar was becoming a household name on account of a little property know as The Doodlebops. Remember them? (Oh, I’m so funny.) And then, of course, they also own Caillou.

So it’s not that Cookie Jar wasn’t a real player, before now. Merely that they were… smallish. Maybe medium. But that’s all about to change. Not only is Cookie Jar merging with DIC Entertainment, now they’re acquiring some American Greetings properties as well:

[T]he children’s entertainment company will acquire AG’s evergreen properties Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears and Sushi Pack for $195 million.

As someone close to this decision might say, that’s a berry exciting piece of news.

(Okay, I’ll stop with the Strawberry Shortcake jokes. They’re just so easy!)

The transaction establishes Cookie Jar as one of the world’s largest independent children’s entertainment and education companies with ownership and licensing rights to some of the world’s most recognizable character brands, an animation library totaling nearly 6,000 half-hours of family programming, and strong capabilities in global merchandising and licensing.

Congratulations to Cookie Jar on the merger, the acquisitions, and on generally making expanding and thriving in licensing children’s entertainment properties look good!

Penguin “goes there” with Sir Fartsalot

Honestly, when Captain Underpants arrived on the scene, I assumed that now I’d seen it all. I’m a voracious bookworm and have been lucky enough to have kids who likewise love to read, but I understand that reluctant young readers sometimes need to be lured in, sure. I understand that young boys, in particular, can often be hooked with a bit of low-brow humor, yes.

But Sir Fartsalot??

Yes. Sir Fartsalot.

Notable not just for the name—or the fact that it’s aimed to mix medieval times with every modern boy’s favorite giggle-provoker (flatulence! so funny!)—Penguin decided to back an official webisode to drive kids towards their website.

Warning: Do not view the following if you are of weak constitution or no sense of humor.

Can I tell you a secret? I think the cartoon is hilarious. (Please don’t tell my son. It’s a struggle to keep him… ummmm… contained… as it is.)

Author Kevin Bolger clearly knows what will grab middle-school boys, and Penguin was likewise savvy in launching both the website and cartoon.

I guess you could say it’s a coup for both marketing and armpit-farting children everywhere.

Movies with smoking will discourage smoking…?

Hey, remember back when we were kids and movies were divided into two categories: Those we were allowed to see (G and PG) and those we weren’t (R)? Nowadays we also have PG-13, which I think was supposed to help matters, somehow, but really just made them more complicated for most of us.

Well, some of us. Me, I have children under 13, and I have no problem telling them that they have to be this high to go on that ride. Er, 13 to see that movie. End of story. But it turns out that their friends all get to see those movies because their friends’ parents are much cooler than I am. Or something. I don’t know. I, however, maintain my position because I’m a big meanie.

I also believe in old-fashioned values like parenting my children myself, and not blaming the media for its influence on them. But I am just crazy that way.

Okay, now that you know my particular bent on these matters, perhaps you’ll understand how amusing I find the news that kid-targeted movies containing scenes of characters smoking will now also contain anti-smoking PSAs:

The six major studios will begin including antismoking public service announcements in youth-rated DVDs of films that include tobacco use.

Paramount, Sony, Universal, Warner Bros., Fox and Disney will place public service announcements on DVDs of new releases that are rated G, PG and PG-13 under an agreement reached by California health officials, studio reps and the Entertainment Industry Foundation. For the past year, Walt Disney Studios has had its own program of antismoking PSAs, but joined the agreement late Thursday to feature the state-produced spots.

I mean, this is good, I guess. It would be better if they just stopped putting gratuitous smoking into movies designed for underage audiences, I suppose, and better still if parents talked to their children about the dangers of smoking… but this is good, too.

July heat brings August… ice?

Disney on Ice, that is. Obviously.

As if the Disney on Ice phenomenon wasn’t already an empire unto itself, the latest incarnation is hitting the country next month with all-new bells and whistles:

Disney On Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy takes flight this fall as Feld Entertainment’s newest ice spectacular, featuring four fun-filled classic and current Disney stories. Set to launch on a 70 city, two-year tour in August 2008, Worlds of Fantasy showcases beloved characters from Disney/Pixar’s Cars, Disney’s The Lion King and The Little Mermaid, as well as a live debut of the magical cast of new Fairies from the highly anticipated October 28th DVD and Blu-ray(TM) release of Walt Disney Pictures Tinker Bell.

In a captivating “fairy tale” segment, audiences will enter into the wondrous world of Pixie Hollow and meet the Disney Fairies from Tinker Bell. The entire ice floor will transform into springtime, as the fairies’ magical role in the mysteries of nature is finally revealed. For the tour’s first nine cities, Worlds of Fantasy performs before the movie releases in the U.S., serving as a sneak preview of the enchantment to come.

The piece details the other new features of this upcoming tour, including:

A bonus experience, complimentary with ticket purchase, the Disney Princess Pre-Show will tour nationally for the first time in Feld Entertainment history. Prior to each Worlds of Fantasy performance, families will be treated to an exclusive collection of enchanting ball gowns and mementos from the Disney Princess stories. The exhibit features beautiful settings for photo opportunities.

Do you have a little girl who’s a Disney Princess fan? I think this Pre-Show may well blow her little mind. Just sayin’.

You can learn more, check the schedule, and purchase tickets through the official Disney site. Hey, consider it a simple way to cool off in the summer heat, thinking about your favorite characters on ice. Heh.