Monday, January 10, 2011

PBS Kids Talks Augmented Reality ... and, oh yes, Harry Connick, Jr.

Lisa Henson, CEO of The Jim Henson Company, left; "Super Why!" creator Angela C. Santomero; Shelley Pasnik of the Center for Children and Technology; and "Fizzy's Lunch Lab" creator Dave Schlafman at the TCA Winter Press Tour in Pasadena.

Let's just get something out of the way right now: Yes, I saw Harry Connick, Jr. perform. In person. Mere feet from me. And yes, I kind of turned into a teenage girl when that happened.

But more on that later.

Over the weekend, I had the chance to catch a glimpse of PBS' upcoming programming during the broadcaster's portion of the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena.

And while I was there primarily to take a look at their child-friendly offerings, I didn't complain when I also caught actors Jeff Bridges, Eileen Atkins, Rufus Sewell and Lily Tomlin, among others, in various (and often hilarious) on-stage interviews. And, of course, there was Harry.

But first, the kids.

Speaking to a crowd of critics, reporters and bloggers, PBS senior vice president of children's media Lesli Rotenberg (pictured right) explained how PBS is seeking "to harness the power of media for learning."

Citing various studies and statistics that spoke to the reality of the Internet's influence on today's children, Rotenberg made the case for going with the Web flow rather than resisting it.

"Two-thirds of 4-to-7-year-olds," she said, "have used an Apple iPad or iPod Touch." That number jumps to 85%, she also mentioned, when a child's parent owns one herself.

Recognizing the importance of Web-based literacy, PBS Kids is developing even more content for their already content-rich site, PBSKids.org (the first website, by the way, that CC ever mentioned).

In addition to creating iPad apps, Rotenberg said that PBS Kids' "Dinosaur Train," which was developed by The Jim Henson Company, is creating an "augmented reality" element on the website, which will include a 3D experience, as well as a game to make a dinosaur hatch -- addressing size, shapes and the warmth of the sun. Web visitors will be able to interact more fully within that world, bumping "reality" up a notch.

"The Web has become the preferred medium for kids," said Lisa Henson, CEO of The Jim Henson Company. "We can't just be TV producers."

Further acknowledging the Web's growing influence, Henson added, "Maybe TV is the ancillary."

Considering how tech-savvy my 4-year-old already is, I'd say Henson is probably right.

***

As I said, I had the opportunity to sit in on some great sessions. I captured a lot of fun quotes via Twitter, some of which I'll include here:


Actor Jeff Bridges, who will appear in American Masters presentation "Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides," airing on Jan. 12, was laid-back, gracious and quick with a laugh at Saturday's panel.

Fun tweets during this panel:

"Jeff Bridges & family referred to his mother Dorothy as 'The General.' "

" 'You want to be liked for who you are ... not for who your parents are,' says Jeff Bridges." He was referring to how he succeeded in acting so quickly ... via "nepotism."

Bridges mentioned how he played for "a sea of Dudes" at a Lebowski festival.

And, of course, there was the marriage question. How has his stuck after so many years? "Practice," he said. "What do you practice? Coming home."

Check my Twitter stream for more doozies from other actors.

***

And then there was Harry.

This is totally shameless, but it was an amazing way for PBS to cap off a long day of panels -- dinner at the gorgeous Langham and rousing entertainment from a consummate talent and his equally talented peers.

Harry Connick, Jr., who will appear in the Great Performances presentation "Harry Connick, Jr. in Concert on Broadway" on March 2, took the stage and settled down into an easy rhythm on the Steinway & Sons piano, just before breaking into a smooth version of "The Way You Look Tonight." And, wow, I was hooked. So were my fellow blogger friends and Ian, who were all sitting at my table.

Connick was later accompanied by trombonist Lucien Barbarin, bassist Neil Cain, saxophone player Jerry Weldon, trumpet player Mark Braud and drummer Arthur Latin, who brought the audience to their feet during one of their New Orleans-loving numbers.

After about four songs, Connick sat in the hot seat to answer questions from the audience.

Everything from who his role models are: his father, his late mother, his sister (who's in Iraq right now) and his wife, Jill Goodacre -- "That's four right there without even having to leave the house," Connick quipped -- to his admiration for Frank Sinatra and Freddie Mercury, to revealing that his daughter's friend considers him a singer of "vintage pop."

He chatted about his upcoming movie, "Dolphin Tale," in which he plays a veterinarian, but perhaps the funniest quote of the night was the last one, an answer to a question from fellow mom blogger Alexandra of Beverly Hills Mom.

Also from New Orleans, like Connick, she asked how early she should bring her son down to Crescent City -- and more specifically to Bourbon Street -- to get a feel for the music in that steamy city.

"Two, three, four," Connick said, mentioning that he had taken his three daughters there as young children.

"What are you afraid of?" he volleyed back to Alexandra.

"Shootings," she said.

Without missing a beat, Connick retorted, "Then why are you living in L.A.?"

Score another one for Harry.

(All photos courtesy of PBS.)

3 comments:

YvonneinLA said...

It was so amazing to hear Harry Connick sing live, but even better to hear him talk about music and movies in the q and a. He's so charming and funny. Great to see you there!!

L.A. Story said...

He was totally amazing! Was great seeing you, too!

April said...

Oh, man, I love Harry! Thanks for the heads up. Going to set my DVR now...

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