By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘All Kids Can Find Themselves in the Pages’Among Scholastic‘s businesses, Scholastic Entertainment is essentially the company’s books-to-film development wing, with a track record that includes Clifford the Big Red Dog (Amazon Prime and PBS Kids), as well as The Magic School Bus and The Magic School Bus Rides Again (PBS Kids and Netflix), as well as the film and series animation franchise Goosebumps based on the books of RL Stine.
The company on Tuesday (December 13) announced a new partnership with France’s film studio company Gaumont, based in Neuilly-sur-Seine to co-develop the animated pre-school series Rocket Park for television.
Rocket Park is inspired by the 13-year-old Ukrainian-American actress and Down-syndrome advocate Sofia Sanchez, who is also the inspiration for Margaret O’Hair’s books You Are Enough and You Are Loved (to be released in March), both published by Scholastic with illustrator Sofia Cardoso.
The partnership for this project follows the Gaumont-Scholastic production for Apple TV+ Stillwater, based on the picture book series by Jon J Muth, a production that has won the Peabody and two Daytime Emmy Awards. Gaumont also is behind Lupin, to date Netflix’ most-watched non-English series.
‘Accepting Others and Themselves’
The new Rocket Park project format is to comprise 11-minute episodes and original music, a series featuring four youngsters “who work together to help their community, and in doing so, teach young viewers about the power of embracing and celebrating differences, accepting others and themselves, and loving friends and family for exactly who they are.”
In a prepared statement, Scholastic Entertainment’s president Iole Lucchese is quoted, describing the chance “to work with Sofia Sanchez to amplify her voice and create a space for the many kids and families who identify with her story, and proud to partner again with Gaumont to bring Rocket Park to the screen.
“We hope to spread the messages of love and acceptance, and introduce more children to Sofia’s books.”
Lucchese will executive-produce the project with senior vice-president and general manager Caitlin Friedman and Scholastic’s vice-president for television development Jef Kaminsky.
Friedman, in another comment, says, “Rocket Park builds upon Scholastic Entertainment’s mission to develop an inclusive slate of programming for all children, just as Scholastic publishes stories where all kids can find themselves in the pages.”
For Gaumont, executive production will be shared by:
- Vice-CEOs Sidonie Dumas and Christophe Riandee, the latter of whom is president of Gaumont US
- Nicolas Atlan, who is president of Gaumont US (and you may recall previously was Atlan co-CEO with Mike Young at Splash)
- Terry Kalagian, who is executive vice-president for creative content in the States
- Michelle Sullivan, who is vice-president for creative development, animation, and family
Speaking for the Gaumont team about this continuation of content development with Scholastic, Atlan says the group “looks forward to building on the success of our award-winning series, Stillwater.
“We’re excited to be working with the talented Sofia Sanchez. As an inspiring young ambassador of inclusion and empowerment, utilizing her authentic voice and unique perspective, she will be key in helping to bring the joyful characters of Rocket Park to life.”
And Sanchez says, “I can’t wait to teach children how to be good helpers. This is going to be so much fun.”
‘I Am Just Like Any Other Kid’
In the first of the two O’Hair-Cardoso books prompted by Sanchez, You Are Enough, the emphasis is placed on a child’s community of friends and fellow school students.
The book is described by Scholastic as introducing “a vast set of kid characters with all kinds of backgrounds, experiences, and abilities” intended to remind readers of “how important it is to embrace your differences, be confident, and proud of who you are.”
In the opening of the book, a message from Sanchez reads:
“My name is Sofia Sanchez, and I have Down syndrome. That means that I look and learn differently than most people. I was born in a small town in Ukraine, where I spent the first 16 months of my life in an orphanage. But in June 2010, my forever mom and dad took me home to the United States, where I live with them and my three brothers. One of my brothers has Down syndrome, too.
“I am just like any other kid. I like to read and draw in my journal. I love people and making new friends. I dance and cheer, and my favorite subjects are Spanish, music, and theater. My mom and dad are always taking pictures and videos of me. I love the camera. That’s how I began my acting and modeling career.
“I am only a kid, but I know I’m someone who is happy, loving, and kind. I have Down syndrome, and it makes some things harder for me, but it’s just one part of who I am. I believe in myself. And I want to inspire others to love themselves, too. Because we are all beautiful, just as we are.”
In the second picture book, You Are Loved—coming in March—Scholastic’s media messaging says the focus is on “all different types of families—from Sanchez’ adopted family to blended families, those with two moms and two dads or single parents, mixed race families, and kids raised by grandparents, guardians, or older siblings.”
The book, according to promotional material, “shares the important message that families are more than the people you live with, but the people you choose, and who love you just the way you are.”