A note from the FableVision editor: This blog series over the next few weeks is written by FableVision’s Tone Thyne, Vice President of Creative. This series will give you a front-row seat to what it’s like to create a show, an over-the-shoulder look at the creative work that Tone and Gary Goldberger, FableVision President and Co-Founder do here at the Studio. Curious about how we got here? Read more about Tone here, Zoombinis here, and download the game to play!
In 1981, I had my 12th birthday at the totally tubular arcade at our local mall called Aladdin’s Castle: “The Ultimate Party Place” as their tokens boasted. That year, I also got PITFALL and KABOOM for my Atari 2600. I had achieved 8-bit adolescent nirvana.
Soon after though, my attention turned toward animation, MTV, and Lizzie Rossman. Video games sort of drifted out of my orbit, to use a Space Invaders reference, and never really drifted back. Until last month, when The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis popped up deliberately onto my radar screen. Or more specifically, when Gary Goldberger, FableVision’s Co-Founder and President, put it there.
This is Gary. Get to know that face (and those thumbs) well because Gary is going to be a main character in this blog series. He’s a dear friend, a wonderful colleague, and knows more about digital media than anyone I know. He is to digital what I am to children’s programming and so we make for fantastic partners at FableVision. Gary has spent the last 20+ years establishing FableVision’s respectable presence in the world of digital media and has been pivotal in connecting the dots between FableVision and The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis.
Zoombinis (for short) was a 1996 CD-ROM equivalent of what we today would refer to as a viral sensation. If you were a kid or a parent of a kid in the mid-‘90s, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
When I arrived at FableVision a couple of years ago, Gary and the team at FableVision had been working closely with our good friends at TERC to resurrect the phenom for a whole new generation of super fans on modern mobile devices.
Together, TERC and FableVision caused a certain portion of the internet (the one populated by nostalgic 20-something Zoombinis enthusiasts who credit the game with their reason for living) to completely blow up when they released an updated version of Zoombinis.
I get out of my jammies and come to FableVision every morning to create innovative, charming children’s properties, and given the tremendous reception of the Zoombinis release, it seemed only natural for Gary to suggest that together we create an original television series based on the beloved game.
(NOTE: Given the tremendous amount of digital platforms offering original programming these days, the term television series is about to go the way of answering machines, payphones, and VCRs. Broadcast series is a far more relevant term.)
Now, before we start creating anything, I need you to meet someone. This is my dear friend, Kate. She’s the one on the left.
Kate is one of those friends we all need in our life. If I didn’t want to keep her all to myself, I’d introduce you so she could be your friend too. She’s the world’s greatest cheerleader and thinks everything I do is brilliant. See why I like Kate so much? Kate loves when I share my show ideas with her and she is unapologetically gobsmacked by the process. Kate is an accomplished novelist, yet awe-struck by the world of show creation. Here’s one of her classics: “I don’t even understand how someone’s brain even comes up with something like this!”
So for all the other Kate’s in the world that wonder how brains come up with shows, Gary and I decided it might be fun to take you along with us on our journey to develop Zoombinis into a broadcast property. Hence, this blog.
Until I read about FableVision and TERC’s recent Zoombinis release, I had no idea what Zoombinis even was. You see, when 1996 rolled around, my joystick and AV cables were packed deeply in Styrofoam peanuts and I was busy picking out china patterns, reception venues, and cake toppers. But there was enough excited buzz in the ether to become instantly intrigued.
As of today, Gary and I have no idea what in the world we’re going to dream up, but you’ll be by our side as the bulbs over our collective heads begins to illuminate.
Before we embark on our logical journey, my first order of business, as I see it, is to download the app and get intimately familiar with the game and the world and the characters. I have to catch up to Gary and the Zoombinis’ giant network of fans!
I mean, seriously, what in the world is this game?? Is that a talking tree stump? Why do the little blue guys have no arms? Is that a pizza sitting on a rock? I’ve got my work cut out for me as I catch up.
If you’re not already there either, click here to download the game (scroll down for links to download Zoombinis on tablets, desktops, and Steam) to get Zoombinis on tablets, desktops, and Steam) and come along with me as I familiarize myself with the cult classic.
Early next week, Gary and I are meeting with both the team at TERC and Zoombinis creator Scot Osterweil to begin to volley ideas. I’ll be sure to document everything we discuss and write all about it here. That will really put my friend Kate (and hopefully you) on the edge of your seats.
For now, I’ve got to go play Zoombinis. See you next time.