We are quite fortunate to have Allison Johnson in our Member Spotlight today. Not only is Allison Senior Producer at CloudKid, but she’s also helping to host CMA’s first event in Boston on April 16th. Read on to learn more about CloudKid and the Beantown children’s media scene.
Can you tell us a little about your professional background and what drew you to children’s media?
I’ve been interested in a career in children’s media for as long as I can remember. I loved television as a kid and would come up with new story lines and recreate some of my favorite episodes with my own puppets and toys at home (mostly from Lamb Chop’s Play-Along… I was obsessed!). I found so much of my creativity through watching children’s programming, and I thought it would be amazing to have that type of impact on kids with things I helped make. So, when I got into NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for my undergrad, I gravitated towards the children’s media classes, and found an amazing mentor in Lynne McVeigh (who happens to be a CMA advisor).
While in school, I was fortunate enough to have worked as an intern and a production assistant at Sesame Street, Nickelodeon, CBeebies, and Disney’s Johnny and the Sprites. After spending some time post-college working in TV development, I decided to go back to school for a Master’s degree in Technology, Education and Innovation at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. While television was my first love as a kid, I was so excited by the potential of reaching kids via new platforms, and I knew I wanted to be working in that evolving space.
You’re now the Senior Producer for CloudKid based in Boston. Please give us an overview of the company and tell us about any past successes and/or future projects you’re excited about.
CloudKid is an interactive media studio that creates games, apps, web series and animations for kids. We do work for a variety of major children’s media organizations, as well as create and distribute some of our own original content. We’re unique in that we’re a one stop (toy filled) shop, with artists, animators, programmers and producers all working under one roof. I feel very lucky to work with such an amazing group of people who are equally as passionate as I am about entertaining and teaching kids in new and exciting ways.
Since starting work at CloudKid, I’ve produced projects for Scholastic Education, Sesame Street and the Fred Rogers Company. I’m excited to be starting work this month on two new games for Sesame Workshop: one for the Electric Company, and another for a new Sesame Street STEM initiative. I’m also very excited to oversee play testing on games for a new PBS preschool series my coworkers have been hard at work on. Working directly with children is usually one of our favorite things–it’s always unbelievably rewarding to see kids interacting with the media we’ve created.
Speaking of Boston, Children’s Media Association is thrilled to be hosting their first event in your fine city on April 16th. Can you tell us more about the purpose and goal of the event as well as how this collaboration came about?
We’re so excited about this kickoff mixer, which will be on Tuesday, April 16th from 5:30pm-8:30pm at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square. Boston has a really diverse group of children’s media professionals, students, and academics and we think that there’s a great base here for another chapter of Children’s Media Association. The goals of this first event are to start to spread the word about CMA in Boston, get people excited about future events, and hopefully encourage people to join CMA both now and when we eventually have an official Boston-based chapter.
After having breakfast back in December with CMA’s president, Sarah Wallendjack, and CloudKid’s founder, Dave Schlafman, we all agreed that Boston would be the perfect next step for expanding CMA membership, and I gladly volunteered to help in any way I could to make this happen. We thought hosting the first event when some CMA NYC folks would be in town for the Sandbox Summit would be a great opportunity to kick off this exciting endeavor. I’ve been working closely with Livia Beasley, the founder of Women in Children’s Media, and a group of fellow Boston-based kids’ media professionals to help spread the word about this initial event and generate interest for future Boston CMA events.
Boston will also be hosting this year’s Sandbox Summit (April 15-16). How do you and your colleagues at CloudKid stay current with the rapidly changing technology and products available today?
We do our best to stay current in a number of ways. We try to use tools like Twitter strategically by following industry leaders and news sources, and read Cynopsis Kids and Kidscreen daily. We also do our best to attend events like the Sandbox Summit and are constantly sharing links and resources with our fellow team members. Most importantly, we try hard to stay in touch with kids themselves. Whether it’s through our own friends and family, via play testing, or from reading research reports that others have done with kids, we think it’s vital to stay in touch with our primary consumers about what’s relevant.
What emerging trend in children’s media are you most excited about now?
I’m really excited about the potential for new online/digital originals for kids. With the likes of Amazon Studios and Netflix officially getting into this game, I think there is a ton of potential for new content to make its way to children via subscription-based services. I think a lot of this will feel like traditional TV on the web to start, but I’m hopeful that with time, we’ll start to see some interesting advancements that push interactivity and capabilities that are unique to the new platforms.
Ok, now for some fun stuff. If you could live in any TV program, game, or book, what would it be?
I’m a Jim Henson fanatic, so it’s a really tough call between Fraggle Rock, the Muppet Show or Sesame Street. I’m gonna have to go with Fraggle Rock I think…
Complete this sentence: My media guilty pleasure is…
Always has and probably always will be television. As much as I like creating interactive experiences, I’ve always been a TV junkie myself. I like to think I have good taste in TV, but I do occasionally find myself hooked on a guilty pleasure program or two.