The FableVision New Years Toolkit: Everything You Need To Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet

The air is ringing with 2017 New Years resolutions. Every January, a new year presents the opportunity to make small (or big!) changes in our lives to be better versions of ourselves. FableVision wanted to give you a little help. We went around to ask our staff what helped make their 2016 a productive year.

Read on to find gadgets and gizmos, apps and podcasts, ideas and a dash of imagination. We hope this will inspire you to make the most of 2017 – get out there and be awesome!

Bob Flynn, Director of Art and Animation

Brian Grossman, Technical Director

  • Flickr: In 2016, I was able to organize all my photos online on my Flickr account. Gathering up photos from various computers, tablets, phones, etc. was a chore, but I now have everything organized and posted online. I love being able to call up memories on a whim. Next up, scanning all my family photos and making some photo books!
  • New babysitters: 2016 marked a turning point in our household. With the kids getting older, we’re able to let them babysit for one another for short periods of time. This has been a big breakthrough in terms of freedom. Now, if only I can find something to do…

Christina Kelly, Production Artist

  • Reply All podcast by Gimlet Media: hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman: A fun, interesting, and eye-opening show about internet culture and history. The podcast explores how unexplored parts of the vast subcultures and tidbits of the internet has shaped us and also showcases internet figures through interviews and amazing short stories.
  • Golden Thread Tarot app by Tina Gong: A gorgeous, sleek, and simple app that acts as a tarot card deck and a tarot card reader companion to your own tarot card deck. The design of the app's deck is lovely and the UX design is very pleasant and works well for a medium that typically feels unfamiliar in digital form. A fun and meditative addition to my everyday routine.

Andrea Calvin, Vice President of FableVision Learning

  • Edith and Mazer Calvin: The Calvin house became a tad more cat-filled in 2016 when we welcomed Edith the Cat Calvin and Mazer the Cat Calvin to the family. We adopted the double-pawed siblings from Paws of Plainville (#adoptdontshop) the Saturday after Thanksgiving and have been cuddling and playing ever since. A tad on the hefty side, Edith likes to snuggle and sit. Mazer is more adventurous and is known to climb to the top shelf.

Jordan Bach, Senior Developer

  • Meet the Composer podcast from Q2 Music, hosted by Nadia Sirota: Great explorations into the minds and work of composers. I've gotten to know some new music and come away from each episode having learned to listen a little better, and inspired to live more creatively.
  • Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin: I raced through the first volume of these wonderful, cozy, funny essays about cooking and am now slowly savoring the second volume. Originally written for Gourmet Magazine in the ‘80s, the recipes can be a little dated but the spirit is infectious. For Colwin, cooking is all about connection. More dinner parties in 2017!
  • Gather Here: It's a sewing/knitting/craft shop in Inman Square, Cambridge, and although they sell lots of great stuff, it's really about learning, making, and community. I go there to take classes, to rent equipment, and for meetings of the Cambridge Modern Quilt Guild.

Loren Lee-Flynn, UX/UI Designer

  • Song Exploder Podcast from Radiotopia, hosted by Hrishikesh Hirway: This podcast has changed the way I think about music. Each episode is a deep examination of a single song and the creative process behind it. By isolating individual tracks from a recording, Hrishikesh prompts musicians to describe their decision-making—the how and why—in detail, eventually revealing how all of the parts come together to form the whole song. Even music I would never listen to for enjoyment becomes fascinating when viewed at this level.
  • Zumba in Norman B. Leventhal Park: Every summer, I look forward to the weekly Zumba classes offered through the P.O Fitness program at Norman B. Leventhal Park. The classes are fun, challenging, and completely free! The instructor, Emily McLaughlin keeps things interesting by offering a mix of Latin, Hip-hop, and kickboxing moves. The best part is, outdoor classes means no mirrors, so you can pretend you look like a fly-girl, even if your dancing more closely resembles Elaine's from Seinfeld.

Margarita Dekoli, Senior Developer

  • Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett: In Becoming Wise, Tippett distills the insights she has gleaned from luminous conversations with the leading thinkers over time and from mind to mind into a coherent narrative journey examining the great questions of meaning. The book is a master class in living, curated by Tippett and accompanied by a delightfully ecumenical dream team of teaching faculty.

Matt Brelsford, Developer

  • Moving to Western Massachusetts: This was the best decision of the decade for me and my wife, Jamie. It's something we dreamed of doing and living here absolutely changed our lives for the better. I live in a beautiful loft in a converted mill building above an indoor park, with an outdoor park in my backyard that hosts live music in the summer. We have a big kitchen and the awesome local food has inspired me to become a better cook.
  • Working from home: As much as I miss seeing everyone in person at the office, I still feel connected since we have a 'working from home' Google hangout that allows us to see what's happening at the studio. People still pop over to say hello and ask about my weekend, or talk about what games we've been playing. The commute is also pretty excellent.
  • Coworkers: See below.

Mikaela Johnson, Production Assistant

  • Bedtime Reading Ritual: I've been reading for the last 30-45 minutes before bed instead of watching TV on my computer and I feel much more relaxed when I'm falling asleep.

Mitul Daiyan, Marketing Coordinator

  • Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky: A gorgeously illustrated book that now lives on my shelf and the shelf of a few lucky friends that I’ve gifted this to. The book follows inspirational women in science who have made great strides in their field. Loving the girl power in this inspiring book!
  • Headspace: There's no doubt that everyone can stand to benefit from a little meditation and mindfulness. This wonderful, guided meditation app has something for everyone. The free version provides 10 free 10-minute meditation sessions that you can use over and over again. It has greatly improved my commute and helped me catch a breath of fresh air.

Headspace meditation app

Women in Science written and illustrated by Rachel Inotofsky

Sam Zollman, Production Assistant

  • Sewing and clothes-making: A newfound passion that I picked up after a year living abroad. The process of selecting fabrics, thinking spatially about the construction, and cultivating the physical skills has been a much-needed artistic outlet, plus you get to wear the end result!
  • Stretch Music by Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Scott blends Afro-Native American and west African rhythms, New Orleans jazz, and Trap music to create a personal reflection and excavation of his family history. It seems dense, but I think it is some of the most beautiful, creative, and inspiring music out there.    

Sarah Ditkoff , Marketing and Client Services Manager

  • In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge: A coffee table book that's actually worth sitting down and reading cover-to-cover. This inspiring compilation of women entrepreneurs and innovators in the greater creative community is full of great stories of successes, failure, and insights. The perfect gift for professionals in any creative field.
  • Revisionist History podcast by Panoply Media, hosted by Malcolm Gladwell: Once the news cycle has moved on, Revisionist History goes back and reexamines something overlooked or misunderstood from the past, like an event, a person, or an idea. Hosted by Malcolm Gladwell, the three-episode educational miniseries within Season 1 is especially fascinating.


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January FableFriday: Drawing from Memory with John Lechner, Art Director and Co-Founder

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 – and at the helm of that team are our co-founders: Peter H. ReynoldsPaul Reynolds, Gary Goldberger, and John Lechner.

We sat down with John Lechner, Art Director and Co-Founder, to talk about this incredible milestone. His history with FableVision gives him a unique perspective on our approach to crafting educational media – and how we’ve kept pace with an ever-evolving industry over the years. “As our company grew and the animation world evolved, we went on to adopt new technology, enabling us to work on more award-winning interactives and web projects,” shares John. “We were always experimenting, always trying new things, and still are.”

Read up on all our anniversary celebrations on our website and stay tuned for more updates from the Drawing from Memory series! 

What do you think is the secret ingredient for the success that FableVision has cooked up? 
There are probably many answers, but I think the secret ingredient for FableVision is story. Human culture is founded on stories, they are how we understand the world and each other. Peter is a natural storyteller, and a natural story-listener. Even the most ordinary ideas are communicated more effectively through a story, and all our most successful projects have been based on storytelling. 

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?
As a young artist, I thought life was made up of distinct career paths, and once you chose your path, you had to follow it to completion. But life is much more unpredictable, especially in creative fields. You have to be open to new opportunities, new directions, and often you'll end up in a place that’s more interesting and rewarding than the place you thought you were going. 

What have you learned from the various FableVisionaries you've interacted with over the past 20 years?
Working with so many creative people over the years, I have learned more things than I can count – game design, web design, storyboarding, animation, character design, programming basics, project management, and the list goes on. Every project I worked on was a learning experience, especially the most difficult ones. Most importantly, I learned how to work as a team and collaborate in a positive way.  

What’s been one of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on at the Studio?
One of my favorite projects was the animated film The North Star, based on the book by Peter H. Reynolds. It was a beautiful story to animate. With narration by Tim Curry and music composed by my brother, Tony Lechner, it was the people behind the project who really helped pull it together

How has FableVision played a role in inspiring you to pair together your work as an artist and writer? 
When I started working at FableVision, it opened up a whole new world of digital art and storytelling. The internet was still a new platform for reaching audiences, and we experimented with all kinds of creative projects online. Now I have so many more venues for telling stories than I did twenty years ago, it’s amazing.

How do you expect animation and educational media to evolve over the next 20 years?
With the explosion of new media over the last ten years, I think the biggest challenge now is not to create more elaborate experiences, but simpler ones. I like to think we will start focusing less on how the content is delivered, and more on what kind of stories we need to be telling.   

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Top 10 FableVision Moments of 2016

What a wild ride! 2016 was a year of incredible FableVision milestones, including celebrating our 20th anniversary, innovative new partnerships, and amazing continuing collaborations. To celebrate, we've crafted our FableVision Top 10 Moments of 2016—a year filled with rewarding memories and signature FableVision fun!

1. FableVision celebrates 20 years!
Happy Birthday, FableVision! We kicked off our celebrations with Drawing from Memory, a special blog series that captured the voices of some of our crazy-talented artist-friends. Our 20th anniversary bash brought in friends, fans, and FableVisionaries past and present in a party to remember. And it gets better—keep your eyes peeled for more exciting 20th anniversary updates in the New Year. In the meantime, check out our touching staff video.

2. A special visit
Touchdown! Who should stop by our office but our new creative friend, neighbor, and New England Patriots Tight End Martellus Bennett! Marty swung by FableVision with The Players’ Tribune to introduce himself and The Imagination Agency, and share his passion for animation—and we were beyond thrilled to host.

3. Thought leadership
It was a busy 12 months for our team! Amidst special appearances at the NYC Maker Faire, DML Conference, MassCUE, The Big Draw at the Peabody Essex Museum, and more, Paul Reynolds was awarded the Markwart Award as part of the National Technology Leadership Summit. For a special Dot Day celebration, FableVision founder Peter H. Reynolds traveled to Traer, Iowa, to celebrate Dot Day at the place where it all began.

Senior Producer Peter Stidwill explored the growing body of research on the value of well-designed learning games in an exclusive webinar with Digital Promise. Read up "Understanding Data Dashboards," a new white paper co-authored by Peter along with our friends at BrainPOP, Learning Games Network, Classroom, Inc., EdGE at TERC, codeSpark, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Compass Learning, and Curriculum Associates.

4. Another winning year!
FableVision brought home a lot of bling this year! We were honored with some amazing industry recognition for quite a few of the remarkable projects we worked on. Here are some of the highlights:


5. New creative collaborations
We love working with kindred spirits on media that inspires, educates, and moves people to action. We’re excited to share new projects, including work with Georgia Public Broadcasting, Global Tinker, NWEA, Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning, and Northeastern University, Richard Lewis Media Group, AlphaBEST—stay tuned for announcements in 2017!

To give back to the Unity community and make it easier for Unity developers like ourselves, FableVision has begun to release quick bits of code and art assets on the Unity Asset Store. Download Quick Bits for free and check out our super affordable Paper Pack Bundle!

6. Continuing partnerships
We're proud of our ongoing collaborations with innovative clients such as TERC, Florida Virtual School, Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at Boston University, Learning Games Network,, ERB (Educational Records Bureau), Pearson, Concord Consortium, and more, who inspire us every year and encourage us to continue to push the envelope.


7. Ring in the New Year with good cheer
FableVision loves to give back! For the fourth year in a row, Team FableVision took part in Extra Life—a 24-hour gameathon that benefits Children’s Miracle Network hospitals—and raised over $5,000 for Boston Children’s Hospital! We’re nearing the finish line, donate and help us meet our goal!

Then, Team FableVision literally hit the ground running as we raised funds for Cambridge Family and Children’s Service at the Cambridge 5k Yulefest. We’re also taking part in the Adopt-A-Family program with The Home for Little Wanderers. Want to give back? Make a difference by participating in their gift drive and help provide gifts and essentials for thousands of children and families.

8. On the road with friends and fans!
This year, the 2016 ISTE conference was buzzing with action at the FableVision booth. We hit the road to learn from industry partners, creative educators, and friends from a host of gatherings across the state including: Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Conference in New Orleans, Sandbox Summit, Games for Change, Kidscreen Summit, Digital Kids Conference at Toy Fair, SXSWedu, GDC, Content in Context, E3, MCN, EdNET, and IDPF Digicon @ BEA.

9. New team members
Our fab team grew by five this year! Learn more about the new FableVisionaries who dazzle us:

10. Incredible intern projects
This summer, interns Ethan, Courtney, Mimi, and Yuri worked as a mini production studio to bring you Drawing Courage, an anthology of comics that center around themes of identity, love, loss, and self-care. Our fall interns Tessa, Jen, and Adam took recipes and stories from our staff and compiled them together into a beautiful (and delicious) FableVision Cultural Cookbook!

2017 is shaping up to be another extraordinary year with new challenges, new projects, and new friends along the creative journey! We don't know where our imagination will take us next year, or what innovative breakthroughs are in the future, but we're excited to take this wild ride with the best staff, partners, and friends any studio could ask for. Ready to join us for another year of telling "stories that matter, stories that move?" Onward! 



Drawing from Memory with Neshama Ryman: 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 stay tuned for more updates from the Drawing from Memory series! 


At 10 years old, Neshama Ryman wrote and directed an animated short that brings her favorite imaginary character, the Klumz, to life. In the Ryman household, accidents, messes, and unforeseen instances of chaos are always attributed to fictional creatures created by Neshama called the Klumz.

Through the Make-A-Wish Metro New York and Western New York chapter, FableVision connected with Neshama to make her wish of directing her own animated film a reality. Our work with Neshama is a shining milestone in our 20 year history of staying true to our mission of producing "stories that matter, stories that move." 

Neshama Ryman

Tell us about the logo you designed:
My logo represents "The Dot."  I chose to make the "20 Years" black and white because that is how the characters in my movie, The Klumz, are made -- black and white over a colorful watercolor background. I also used red and orange since these are the colors in the FableVision logo. The spill was the Klumz's touch.

What's your favorite FableVision memory? 
My favorite FableVision memory is making The Klumz with the amazing people of FableVision, whom I can't thank enough for their hard work and help in making The Klumz come to life. 



December FableFriday: Sam Zollman, Production Assistant

With a creative beat in his step, FableVision’s Production Assistant Sam Zollman isn’t an unfamiliar face around the studio. A former marketing intern, Sam’s passion for media and education led him to journey from Tufts to FableVision to WGBH to Madrid and all the way back to Boston before joining our staff full-time as a member of the production team

Driven by his desire to make the world a better place, Sam pursued educational media, believing strongly in its capacity to drive change and shift perspectives. “I had never considered how impactful the media we engage with as children could be,” says Sam. “That realization set me off looking for how I could do good in children’s media.”

We sat down recently to chat with Sam about his unique interdisciplinary education, his stint as a teacher in Spain, his passion for environmentalism, and the “secret” recipe for his special Elevated PB&J Sandwich!

Welcome, Sam! We ask everyone this, and you’re no exception. What’s your Journey to FableVision story?
I suppose my journey started when I designed my own major at Tufts that focused on educational children’s media and the environment. I was lucky enough to land a marketing internship at FableVision as a junior, and being around such fun, inspiring, creative people only affirmed that this was the right industry for me. Fast forward through graduation and a year living in Spain, I heard about an open Production Assistant position, and jumped on the opportunity. And here we are! 

What did you learn from the marketing department as an intern that is now a valuable asset to the production team?
What’s so awesome about the marketing internship here is the independent project you’re encouraged to pursue. I created a Twitter campaign designed to work like a Choose-Your-Own Adventure story, where retweets and favorites determined which direction the story moved. In essence, it was my first experience managing a project in the studio. I planned the schedule, coordinated the art needs with the art interns, and publicized the campaign. Having that exposure to how the different sides of the studio come together to produce great projects—plus seeing how those projects are showcased—has made me feel more prepared to assist the producers.

Can you walk us through what a week in your shoes looks like?
Each week is different, but generally Monday sets the tone for the week with some quick update meetings and check-ins. I’ll sit down with one of the producers and we’ll review the week’s schedule and deliverables. Tuesday, I’ll sit in on calls to track various feedback and requests from clients, followed by testing one of our new games to document bugs. Wednesday, I will check in with a developer to see how a project beta is coming along and begin thinking about next week’s schedule. Thursday, I might search for sound effects for a game, collect photos for a series of presentations, and organize and archive completed projects. Friday tends to be the busiest, where I check in with the artists for last minute changes, work with producers to make sure deliverables are ready, help them look ahead to next week’s schedule, anticipate requests and updates, and balance different projects’ needs.

You graduated from Tufts, what was your educational experience like there?
I feel incredibly lucky with my Tufts education. As I mentioned, I created my own major that focused on environmentally educational children’s media. Because I wasn’t tied to any one department, I was able to take a wide variety of classes if I demonstrated how it linked to my specific degree. I felt much more connected to what I was studying and I loved making those cross-discipline connections. Not to mention, I got some invaluable guidance from advisors like Julie Dobrow and Chip Gidney, whose words help me understand the importance of the work we do at FableVision.

You worked on the shows Plum Landing and Design Squad. We’d love to hear more about what it was like interning with the team over at WGBH.
WGBH sets the bar really high for great educational children’s television, so working with them on Plum Landing and Design Squad, two shows that are pushing the boundaries of digital children’s media, was very exciting and insightful. Plum Landing was especially interesting because of its mission to put real environmental education research into practice. We spent a lot of time thinking about how you balance kids watching a show indoors when the goal is nudging them outdoors to discover the natural world around them, and ended with some pretty clever results.

Is there a particular childhood experience or show or movie that made you want to work in children’s media?
I’m a big, big fan of Hey, Arnold! It probably sounds weird, but I loved how Hey, Arnold! embraced the serious parts of life that most children’s shows shied away from. You could watch an episode about poverty or loneliness, and still see it met with compassion. I obviously didn’t understand it quite like that as a kid, but today I still think about how the show revealed the humanity in diverse, complex characters. We could use more of that. 

Before joining FableVision, you were a teacher in Madrid. What was it like being in front of a classroom and what did you take away from that experience?
I’ve heard it often, but I didn’t believe it until I taught: being a teacher has got to be one of the most difficult jobs. I taught English to a total of 430 children ages 9 to 17, with a wide range of abilities and backgrounds. Finding creative ways to engage each class, let alone each student, was a daily challenge. But I think that’s where I learned the most. I learned to take little “failures” in stride, vow to do better next class, and not take the challenges too personally.

I also learned that success can take many different forms. Making the kids laugh, listening to why someone was crying, and making certain students feel included were all little successes. Plus, there were also some hilarious moments, like when I tried to dance Sevillana (a type of flamenco) with the 5th graders, being known, (un-ironically) as the “native American,” and explaining why we Americans name our chicken “Alfredo.”

You grew up in rural Vermont! Has that shaped your passion for environmental education?
Oh, definitely. I often think about how one of the biggest predictors for whether you care about the environment as an adult is having meaningful experiences in nature as a child. And in Vermont, nature isn’t a destination; it’s just beyond your backyard. While I mostly just ran around in the woods, that closeness means that nature takes on a more utilitarian role – some hunt for sustenance, others tap trees to make syrup. It led me to see the environment as something we must respect and preserve, but not because it’s fragile. We must preserve it because we depend on it.  

How do you keep your creative flow alive?
Listening to jazz is a big help. One album in particular, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s Stretch Music, is some of the most beautiful, innovative, and personal music out there. Listening to that helps me get started writing or drawing or sewing or whatever I’m trying to do artistically. 

You play the banjo, dance Hip-Hop, and some would say that you’re pretty sew-fisticated. Tell us about your creative side projects!
I recently picked up sewing and have made a few pillowcases, tailored a few shirts, and even made a button-down shirt from scratch! Also, being around such creative, artistic people has opened my eyes to comics! There’s so much freedom and flexibility with the form. I’d love to start exploring that medium! 

Every morning, you’re found munching on what you like to call an “Elevated PB&J.” What’s the secret recipe?
I feared this day would come…OK, you toast some good seeded bread, shmear some good seeded raspberry jam on one half, shmear some good crunchy peanut butter (maybe with some seeds?) on the other, slap ‘em together, and make a mess at your desk.

More about Sam!

Favorites, like, in general: Baseball, the smell of breakfast, Mercado de San Fernando

Trending read: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Favorite flick: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

The best thing you ever cooked up: Either fish sauce caramels or cranberry walnut French toast

Your go-to tea: Moroccan Mint

Ukulele tune: The Penalty by Beirut

Madrid or Medford? Ha!

Name of your hit TV show? Age Before Beauty

If you weren’t working in media production, what would you consider as an alternative career? Close call between game show announcer and batboy