The marketing genius behind Thomas the Tank Engine and those scandalous Teletubbies knows how to capture the hearts and minds of toddlers. Now he’s after their feet.
For his next project, The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, Kenn Viselman is taking a new approach to the preschool audience. The movie opens Wednesday and will have auditory and visual cues that prompt the children to sing and dance in the aisles.
“We looked at the experience from a child’s point of view, and instead of saying to the child, come to the movie and be an adult, we want them to come to the movies and be a child,” he tells the Associated Press. “Let children be children.”
An unforgettable moment in his career came in 1999, when his company, Itsy Bitsy Entertainment Co., which owned the rights to Teletubbies in the Western Hemisphere, was looking to gain an edge ahead of the New York Toy Fair. Viselman made a joke to a Wall Street Journal reporter over the sexual orientation of Teletubbies character Tinky Winky, the purple one with the triangular antenna.
He’s still confused by the media storm. “The Teletubbies have no genitalia. How could they have any sexuality?”
Viselman returns as the producer of the Oogieloves movie. And rather than create Computer Graphic Imagery to tell the story, he opted for live action, using a host of stars including Chazz Palminteri, Cary Elwes, Toni Braxton, Jaime Pressly and others. It’s something he describes as a blend of Pee Wee’s Playhouse for the kids and strong, well-known character actors for the adults.
Viselman is confident that The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure will change the movie experience for the whole audience.
“Why do we try to make children do what they’re naturally not able to do at [their] age?”