Storytelling made easy via DVDs

by Shinichi Tokuda

Kyodo News

Young mothers who were raised on TV and movies are being targeted in a marketing push for animated DVD versions of children’s picture books.

Unlike usual cartoons, the picture book DVDs move slowly so viewers feel like the story is being read to them.

“We wanted young parents to get to know picture books while using digital equipment they are familiar with, and for children to be exposed to the world of picture books,” said Emi Ishihara, a producer at Morning Inc., an image producing company based in Sapporo that developed the DVD picture book series Chilbie.

Jointly with Itochu Corp., a major trading house, the company released 10 DVDs between last fall and spring, each containing three stories, and 10 more will be added by early next year.

Targeting kids age 2 to 6, the Morning DVDs are priced at 1,000 yen and are available at supermarkets and toy stores.

Ishihara said she focused on “faithfully realizing the picture book writers’ creative ideas.” She sat down with each writer to discuss the details of the animation, including the movement of the characters and background, the narration and the timing of sound effects.

The animation’s pace is kept slow so children are able to exercise their imagination. The DVDs have prompted many parents to buy picture books to read to their children, Ishihara said.

Trinet Entertainment Inc. in Tokyo has expanded its Trikids series of animated versions of Japanese and foreign picture book stories to nearly 30 since last fall.

The films feature both Japanese and English narration and subtitles. “Children can learn English in a natural way,” said Trinet’s manager, Kyoko Yoshihara.

The “reading mode” option of the DVDs removes the narration, leaving just the music and sound effects. Parents can use the subtitles to read the stories to their children. The Trikids DVDs are sold for 2,500 yen to 3,000 yen at CD shops and bookstores.

The World’s Picture Books series by Tokyo-based Marvelous Entertainment Inc. is a collection of stories by popular writers and narrated by well-known entertainers, including Kyoko Koizumi and Naoto Takenaka.

“They can create the same environment as reading books to children, and parents can also learn from them,” said Chikara Oyano, a former teacher and author of books on child education.