Family Friendly Fare

Wednesday, August 18 2010
Family Friendly Fare

The BFI’s DVD arm already includes an impressive selection of children’s-related fare, but this summer and autumn sees the label making further inroads into the sector as part of a concerted effort to release more family fare.

With Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Tintin on the slate for the next few months, it can boast some pretty well known titles. And, like the BFI’s best DVDs and Blu-rays, these new titles have been lovingly restored and brought to life for a new generation.

So why the move?

“The BFI has always been involved with children’s film, whether that’s through its DVD releases of films such as The Adventures of Prince Achmed or Kirikou & The Sorceress, or whether it’s connected to the many events and activities which it runs in its Southbank and IMAX venues,” said head of video publishing at the BFI, Sam Dunn. He can also point to The Fairy Tale Films by Lotte Reiniger and the recent release of a “lost” Ken Loach release, Black Jack, recently release.

But the Famous Five, in September, and Tintin, out later in the year, see a further move into this arena, even if they are not being specifically branded as such.

“Our releases of the Famous Five and Tintin adventures are to be promoted as stand-alone editions, using eye-catching original illustrations for sleeve designs,” explained Dunn, “rather than being more explicitly branded as a children’s sub-label.

“For us, though, these titles, along with Black Jack, do form a deliberate ‘strand’ of film adaptations of works by celebrated children’s authors (Herge, Enid Blyton, Leon Garfield) and we’re working on adding more titles of this kind in the future, too.”

Where they will work is in their broad appeal, taking in, as Dunn noted, “a number of key markets”, taking in the traditional family and children’s sector, through to fans of the authors themselves (there is an Enid Blyton Society for the keenest enthusiasts) and older customers who remember them fondly.

That nostalgia is key. “In the case of the Blyton adaptations, there is a huge audience of people for whom the work of the Children’s Film Foundation [producers of Saturday Matinee films and serials] is much sought after, and the fact that these Famous Five serials have never been available on DVD until now is already causing much excitement in these quarters,” confirmed Dunn.

For those older fans, the quality is key and the BFI is not letting its impeccable standards slip here either.

Dunn said: “Our approach to these releases is much the same as it is to any other BFI release when it comes to quality control. We examined all the film materials we hold for the films in the BFI National Archive and transferred the best elements to High Definiton to create the best possible presentations possible. We’ve also produced extensive booklets containing contextualising writings, which is always the case with our releases. Where the booklets for these releases differ somewhat is in our decision to make the booklets child friendly.”

Again, when it comes to marketing the releases, the BFI will be going to its traditional audience – and beyond.

“In terms of marketing, we’ll be focusing on our usual range of film enthusiast and cultural nostalgia publications (from Sight & Sound and Total Film through to Best of Britsh), while also working with children’s societies and websites (for example Seven Stories – the centre for Children’s books),” said the BFI’s James Blackford. “We are also engaged with a number of literary publications, as well as working closely with both Tintin and Enid Blyton fan sites and targeting publications such as Junior.

“We will also aim to reach parents through Sunday supplements (Independent – Arts and Entertainment, Daily Mail Femail Supplement) and are working with exhibitors, both in London and regionally, on some exciting family-orientated theatrical screenings to launch the releases.”

And beyond Tintin? Sam Dunn will only confirm that there will be more, although current plans are remaining under wraps…

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