A FableVision Intern’s Extra Life Story

When I introduce myself to new people, I usually open with a standard handful of facts: Hi, I’m Tessa. I go to Northeastern University. I’m studying journalism. I design games in my free time.

Drawn by Tessa on July 13, 2000.

What I don’t usually tell them is that at six years old, I had my first surgery. Or that I didn’t start seeing a regular pediatrician until sometime in high school, that up until then I’d sit in a hospital room as teams of doctors — optometrists, dermatologists, surgeons, you name it — would parade through, assessing my health and marking my face with a pen. Or that the first time my father stood up for me was when I was an infant, lying on a CT Scan bed, as a doctor struggled to find a vein in my arm and was forced to prick the skin blindly with a sanitized needle.

These aren’t the things that so cleanly roll off the tongue in a first introduction. They’re not the sort of things I regularly write about either, though if my parents had the choice I would talk about them at any given moment.

I don’t talk about this because I am one of the lucky ones. While my condition was treatable and at the very worst would lead to blindness, many other children are given far graver diagnoses. I consider myself lucky because my parents were never told they could lose me.

A close friend growing up was one of those not so lucky children, though she turned out to be one of the lucky ones as well and has continued to be so for the past few years. In middle school she was diagnosed with leukemia, and she began seeking treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC). Eight years later, she’s now in remission, and continues to be lucky every single day.

CHOC is a hospital under Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH), a non-profit organization that raises funds for children's hospitals, medical research, and community awareness of children's health issues. Each year, the hospitals within CNMH are benefitted through Extra Life, a fundraiser in the form of 24-hour gaming marathon. Thousands of gamers come together each year for Extra Life, including the FableVision staff.

This year, just as in years past, Team FableVision will be working and playing together to benefit the Boston Children’s Hospital, another CMNH hospital with which many FableVisionaries already share a personal connection. All funds raised for our Extra Life team will be going directly to the hospital, to help the children and to give them a chance to be lucky as well.

Extra Life isn’t until November 5, so it’s not too late to join our team. If you’re unable to join, you can always sponsor a team member or make a donation to the FableVision Extra Life team page. Every little bit counts.

We’re all lucky to have each other here at FableVision Studios. And maybe, with our help, we can help others to be just as lucky.

About Tessa Berliner 

Tessa is a senior at Northeastern University, where she is currently pursuing a degree in journalism with minors in computer science and game design. When not in the studio she can be found trying to speak Italian, planning decadent brunches with friends, and singing while playing guitar, piano, and ukulele (not necessarily at the same time).



Drawing from Memory: FableVision Co-Founder and CEO Paul Reynolds

This is a special year for FableVision. We’re celebrating 20 years of designing and developing engaging media that have inspired, taught, and moved people to action. Behind this mission-driven company is a team committed to creating positive media to help move the world to a better place – and at the helm of that team are our co-founders: Peter H. Reynolds, Paul Reynolds, and Gary Goldberger.

Storyteller, creative educator, and award-winning author Paul Reynolds is a passionate advocator of life-long learning. He’s a true proponent of harnessing the power of story and media to create authentic, engaging educational experiences for learners of all ages. As CEO, Paul’s strategic insights have helped build key partnerships for the Studio, FableVision Learning (FableVision’s K-12 educational technology publishing company), and the non-profit Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning, and Creativity (TLC).

We sat down with Paul to talk about this incredible anniversary milestone. Read up on all our anniversary celebrations on our website here and save the date for our anniversary party on November 18!

In your own words, tell us the tale of how it all began.
I remember when Peter showed up at Cosmic Blender in Watertown, MA, the corporate educational media firm I helped build for over a decade. He was renting one little office as a satellite space for his creative work at Tom Snyder Productions (TSP). He named his mini-studio “FableVision” and sported a cap adorned with the logo that remains virtually unchanged today. After TSP was sold, he took this nest egg and decided to spin out FableVision as a separate entity. He was committed to being independent and focusing on using media/interactives to have a positive impact on the world.

Of course, being Peter’s identical twin brother, I think I felt a calling to join the FableVision mission. I had loved what I had been doing at Cosmic Blender, yet Peter’s inspiring vision pulled me toward a greater cause. So, after over a decade at Cosmic Blender (blessed to work with one of the most amazing creative teams ever) I left a very secure, well-paying position to join Peter, Gary Goldberger, and John Lechner in 2005. I put everything I had into growing FableVision from fledgling start-up into an enduring, sustainable force that could carry out its 200-year mission.

I was ready to help build a company whose core objective was to move the world to a better place by using media to inspire our best, most powerful, purposeful, creative selves. The rest, as they say, is history.

You’re a natural-born storyteller. How does FableVision inspire you to keep writing?
By the nature of FableVision’s mission, we draw organizations that are mission based and we’re constantly working together to find innovative ways to move the world to a better place through storytelling. It’s a joy to be able to use my creativity to help bring those “stories that matter” to life in a way that amplifies critical messages – and inspires action.

Here at FableVision, we like to say that we have a 200-year mission to move the world to a better place through story, media, and technology. What do you think that will look like when we meet (and exceed!) our goal?  
Storytelling is an ancient, powerful tool to convey big ideas. Media can bring those stories to life in ways that engage and move people to action. And technology helps scale, connect, share, amplify, and mobilize action in a way that is unprecedented in the history of the planet.

It’s good to know we’ve still got another 180 years to complete our mission, but I’d love to have significant impact in my own lifetime. To do that, we need to use these tools and partner with kindred spirits who are as crazy as we are to think we can use our creative superhuman powers to tackle the world’s biggest problems. That’s why FableVision loves collaborating with like-minded people and organizations.

I truly believe that the world’s creatives can and will help bring the world into balance – using creativity to achieve what today seems impossible. I can envision a time (hopefully within the next 180 years) where the ripples FableVision has contributed will help transform ALL schools into places where creative human potential is fostered and realized for EVERY child, powerful stories have moved people to action to eradicate extreme poverty and inequality, every child can sleep in peace and wake to a new day of positive potential, where people’s courage and unconditional compassion have been kindled to take care of the planet and each other.

If you don’t believe me, just check in with me in 2196.

What do you think is the secret ingredient for the success that FableVision has cooked up? 
Being a relentless believer in a positive vision – and finding kindred spirits who share that vision both in staff and clients.

Paul’s three sons Nathaniel , Benjamin, and Joshua at Ben’s graduation from MIT

You’ve learned a lot over the years. Any valuable lessons you’d like to share?
Seek out kindred spirits who believe in the same crazy vision as you do and create a supportive climate where they can connect, collaborate, and flourish. The rest will take care of itself.

Looking back 20 years ago when FableVision was first developing, what is the biggest piece of advice you’d give to your younger professional self?
Don’t worry. Be fearless. Keep being crazy enough to believe in the impossible – keep walking through the walls. It will be okay. I promise.

Where does FableVision’s mission to create story-driven educational media intersect with your own history and career as an educator?
I’ve been teaching media production at Boston College for nearly thirty years. It’s a joy for me to teach storytelling and digital media skills to young people with encouragement to use that talent and power to have a positive impact on the world. Just about anyone can shoot, edit and broadcast a video now right on their smart phone. But it takes a special sensibility to use that toolset to be a positive change maker in the world. I hope that my students are inspired to use these incredibly influential digital media/storytelling skills to move the world to a better place.



Drawing From Memory with Dan Brennan: Celebrating 20 Years of Stories that Matter and Move

This is a special year for FableVision. We’re celebrating 20 years of designing and developing a wide array of engaging media that have inspired, taught, and moved people to action. Behind this mission-driven company is a team committed to creating positive media to help move the world to a better place. This special series highlights some of our crazy-talented artist-friends we've worked with over the past 20 years. To help us celebrate our 20th anniversary, we asked each of them to put their own spin on a FableVision logo.

Read up on all our anniversary celebrations on our website here and save the date for our anniversary party on November 18!


Daniel Brennan is a freelance illustrator from Massachusetts.  He received a BFA in Illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design. While also interested in animation and 3D art,  films, novels, and wide open spaces have also had a big impact on him. You can find him drawing or exploring the outdoors. We asked Dan what FableVision means to him. Check out what he has to say.

Dan Brennan

Tell us about the logo you designed:
I wanted to make something in the spirit of FableVision's fun and positive approach to it's goal of crafting a better future, and how the folks here have educated and entertained young people with creative media for 20 YEARS! Play, creation, and technology are all important parts of life in the studio, so I tried to wrap them up together.

What's your favorite FableVision memory? 
The first open house I went to at FableVision will always stick in my memory. Being able to meet the crew and see their art hanging everywhere was a big inspiration!




October FableFriday: Peter Stidwill, Senior Producer

“When there’s a lot going on, it’s a bit like conducting an orchestra,” shares Peter Stidwill, FableVision’s new Senior Producer. Originally from across the pond, the celebrated learning games producer honed his skills working for the UK Parliament and the BBC, before he came state-side and worked with the team at Learning Games Network and then joined FableVision Studios.

Peter oversees and manages the production of multiple projects at FableVision. As with all production roles, the saying is true – the devil is in the details. Peter has to balance keeping the big picture (or vision) in mind while looking at every minute detail. “When you work at a place like FableVision, you’re working with so many people who are amazing at what they do,” Peter says. “So part of my job is allowing and empowering them to do that.”

As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we also celebrate the addition of Peter to our team. His industry expertise and knack for creative problem solving are sure to play an important role in helping us advance FableVision’s 200-year mission. We sat down with Peter to talk shop, Wallace and Gromit, hiking, and his passion for quality educational media.

What’s your journey to FableVision story?
As a kid, I loved making things. Whether that was writing adventure stories, re-creating miniature versions of theme park rides in papier mache, filming and editing an X-Files spoof with friends, or programming simple games. I knew I wanted to spend my life combining art and technology in a way that helped people. This led to me studying Engineering at Cambridge University (UK). I specialized in e-learning, and this, along with experience as part of the production team for the university TV channel, helped me land a job at the BBC in London on a huge and exciting digital learning initiative. I’ve been lucky enough ever since to be doing exactly what I’d always hoped to do: create entertaining and informative interactive experiences.

Give us an overview of your role here. What does a typical day in your shoes look like?
I start my mornings reviewing schedules and deliverables for my projects, prepping for ‘stand-ups’ – quick meetings with project teams to check on current progress that ensure everyone is clear on what they’re working on and resolve any potential blockers. The rest of the day varies, but it will usually include reviewing new character, background or interface art, prioritizing development tasks, liaising with clients to ask for and address their feedback, and testing new builds… all punctuated by excessive amounts of tea! There might also be a kick-off meeting with clients to start a new project, record audio, or brainstorm new development ideas. And at 4:30 p.m. every Friday, it’s time for cheese (and maybe a cheeky drink) courtesy of my favorite FableVision club: Curd Herd!

What's the most important step in your design process?
For educational media, a key design step is deciding how much detail to include in the experience we’re creating. Where do we set the boundaries for the depth and breadth of the experience? A good game, for instance, will work on various levels which players can move through to face more complex challenges. But when does it make most sense to introduce new content? What should we leave out for a separate module? How much support should we provide to the learner? Figuring out all of this is key to a great experience – and it’s a fascinating mix of art and science.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to producing? How does this motivate you?
Even with all the experience and planning in the world, user testing always reveals opportunities to modify and enhance. Maybe the interface would benefit from a quick art tweak, or the developer could introduce tools in a different sequence. Sometimes the challenge is larger, and I love it when different team members with unique skills bounce ideas off each other to together form a solution that one person couldn’t have thought of alone. And that’s what makes this job, and FableVision, special: we love tackling and solving these challenges!

What's the key to capturing a sense of fun and excitement in educational media?
I learnt so much from working alongside legendary designer Scot Osterweil at MIT, so I’ll share one of his key principles for creating learning games. Start by asking where is the game in the content area we’re tackling? This is not, “How do we take something boring and make it fun?” but rather, “What is it about this topic that is already fun, playful and interesting?” One of the best ways to do that is to talk to subject matter experts to find out what really gets them excited about their work. Then build on that by talking to students and educators to understand their pain points for the topic. It’s vital that the game mechanics match the learning objectives.


You grew up across the big pond! What was it like growing up in Kings Bromley in Staffordshire, England?
Kings Bromley is a small village in the middle of England. While there is a lot of space, scenery, and cricket that comes with its rural setting, it’s also close to everything offered by the UK’s second city, Birmingham, and only a couple of hours away from London. During long summers, my brother and I used to spend our time in various game tournaments we set up, playing everything from Mahjong to table tennis. And of course computer games too. After we were done playing Paddington’s Garden Game and Tapper, we taught ourselves the ‘BASIC’ programming language – a great example of a tool that allowed us to move from being consumers to producers of media.

What skills gained from your time with the BBC and Parliament do you still use when designing and producing games and educational media?
As with all great media organizations, the BBC was very focused on immersion in the world of the target audience. What do they watch, read, and listen to? Where do they hang out? What are their aspirations? I learnt about creating mood boards and personas for all our products, and a whole range of ways of testing with audiences as well as involving them in the production process. At the UK Parliament, I extended my experience in being the vision holder for projects that bring together multiple diverse stakeholders who often have competing demands. I loved that in both of these jobs, my colleagues approached their work with both the professionalism and playfulness that together foster quality and creativity.

You hold a Masters in Engineering from Cambridge University! Do you feel that your education informs the work that you’re currently doing?
Absolutely! My Masters project was on ‘virtual learning applications’ at Cambridge University Engineering Department’s Multimedia Group. I created a technical architecture for flexibly delivering learning modules in a game setting. But I also needed to create the content, test it with kids and teachers, create support materials, train educators, create marketing materials, and conduct outreach. As part of the project, I did an extensive review of the market, which introduced me to many of the players in this space – BrainPOP, the BBC, various museums – who I would later work with in my career!

We’re proud partners of Learning Games Network. Can you tell us about your time there?
I’m so lucky to have worked at the Learning Games Network (LGN) with some of the top names in educational game design, all of whom are super bright and passionate about their work. LGN, a spin-off from the MIT Education Arcade, was established as a non-profit organization with the aim of bridging the gap between research and practice in the field of game-based learning. My first project was Quandary, a game designed to develop ethical thinking skills such as perspective taking, critical thinking and decision making. Produced in partnership with FableVision, Quandary won 2013 Game of the Year at the Games for Change Awards. Other LGN highlights included meeting hundreds of teachers at ‘Playful Learning’ professional development workshops that we ran at edtech conferences nationwide. I also spent two semesters working with amazing kids building their own digital games at Boston Public School’s Jeremiah E. Burke school in Dorchester.

Zoombinis is back! What was it like playing a role in recreating this classic, award winning game?
The idea of relaunching this classic game had been floating around ever since I started at LGN, so it was a dream come true when the project got the green light with a partnership between TERC, FableVision, and LGN. One of my roles was to write the game design document, which was a fantastic logic puzzle in its own right! It involved reverse engineering the game logic through a combination of playing the original game, scouring the original source code, looking at the original design documents (where they existed), and talking to the original game designers: Scot Osterweil and Chris Hancock. Another crucial and daunting task (given the amazing and passionate fans of the original, many of whom were Kickstarter backers for the new game) was to make slight alterations in the logic either where feedback over the years on the original game warranted it, or where Scot and Chris felt their original vision wasn’t quite implemented originally. Getting it right was crucial, and I’m so pleased (and relieved) with the great reviews of the game. In fact, I still check almost every day to see what Zoombinis experiences people are posting on Twitter!

When you’re not managing a team of FableVisionaries to create awesome educational media, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

What advice would you offer to an aspiring educational game developer/producer?
Start making stuff! It doesn’t matter whether it’s drawing a level map for a game, creating a storyline, or testing a game mechanic (on paper or using one of the many free tools out there), just start getting your ideas down. Then share your ideas and see what others think. Change them, iterate them, share them again, repeat!

More about Peter:

Favorite game ever made: Zoombinis (of course)
Best concert attended: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Dance Off!)
Favorite cheese: Wensleydale ("I'm just crackers about cheese, Gromit!")
Incredible travel destination: Hong Kong from London via train (it took four weeks)
Your current musical jam: Justice
Winning tennis player: Andy Murray
Finest city to live in: I only live in cities called Cambridge
Who inspires you: John Hunter (amazing educator, top TED talker, inventor of the World Peace Game)
Coolest new thing you learned: This isn’t new, but I recently rediscovered the most amazing resource that exists in all our communities: libraries!
List five of your favorite spots in Boston, go! I’m not sure I’d call myself a foodie, but I have my favorites!

  1. Café Sushi for sushi (what else?!)
  2. Mass Ave Diner for breakfast and brunch
  3. Pret à Manger for sandwiches
  4. Clover food truck for their rosemary fries
  5. Oleana for a special occasion


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Drawing From Memory with Dawn Haley: Celebrating 20 Years of Stories that Matter and Move

This is a special year for FableVision. We’re celebrating 20 years of designing and developing a wide array of engaging media that have inspired, taught, and moved people to action. Behind this mission-driven company is a team committed to creating positive media to help move the world to a better place. This special series highlights some of our crazy-talented artist-friends we've worked with over the past 20 years. To help us celebrate our 20th anniversary, we asked each of them to put their own spin on a FableVision logo.

Read up on all our anniversary celebrations on our website here and save the date for our anniversary party on November 18!

Dawn Haley Morton has been in the media business for 20+ years primarily serving as 'air traffic control' for creative teams. Through her previous experience as producer, marketer, photographer, and trade show maven, she holds fast to the belief that storytelling is a powerful tool. She's a big fan of writing, photography, vanilla cupcakes, and working with super-talented people. We asked Dawn what FableVision means to her. Check out what she has to say.

Dawn Haley Morton

Tell us about the logo you designed:
I joined FableVision in its second year as Studio Manager and employee #6. Over the course of the decade I spent at FableVision, there were many changes: growing from six employees to 26; moving from 44 Pleasant Street in Watertown to Boston in our 10th year; legally shifting from FableVision Animation Studios to FableVision, Inc; acquiring Paul Reynolds; launching the educational division; leagues of new friends, marriages, babies, ambassadors, books, interns, clients, freelancers, waffles, toys, projects, and so much more. 

Aside from being a creative wrangler by day, I'm also a photographer with a documentary-style blend for capturing people, space, and time.  When asked to participate in the 20th anniversary celebrations, I wanted to do a collage of some of those moments from the first decade to honor all the former FableVisionaries who helped build the brand and zen that is FableVision.

FableVision is on a 200 year mission, and it's up to all of the past, present, and future friends to keep true to the good things that happen under the FableVision roof while creating amazing stories and media. I am extremely proud of the team and how their work is inspiring and helping all learners achieve their true potential.

Keep making memories to share, and please craft Stories That Matter for decades to come.

What's your favorite FableVision memory? 
I love that I was part of the team during the creation of favorites like The North Star book (I remember the day that the first-edition cases arrived at the office!), the first animated film The Blue Shoe, first software BrainCogs, flying to Colorado to see the first North Star Musical performed on stage, plus meeting and working with the first FableVision Ambassador Terry Shay.  I'm a huge fan of the Open Houses, company Kaizen retreats, all the staff, freelancers, clients, educators, interns, and students I met along the way that I've kept in touch with. 

Ultimately though, working alongside Peter H. Reynolds to see his creative mind first hand, and how he inspires people both on his team and the world is a part of my career that I will be forever grateful for. 


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