April 8, 2016
Ready Jet Go! show launches star gazing app and is planning video games and toys after attracting 37 million digital streams online.
If you’ve not seen the cartoon already it airs on PBS and takes young viewers into outer space. It’s the brain child of Craig Bartlett, who also created PBS Kids’ hit series Dinosaur Train and is produced by Wind Dancer Films.
The payload is two fold — science fiction entertainment and engaging education about science, technology and astronomy. Viewers follow Jet whose family members happen to be aliens from the planet Bortron 7. As the show description puts it, “Together, they explore the solar system and the effects it has on the science of our planet, while learning about friendship and teamwork along the way.”
While this may sound like crow-baring learning in through the back door, the reality is actually much more integrated. By creating likeable characters and engaging story lines that children can relate to the informative aspect of the show is simply a side effect of what’s happening.
To ensure the information is accurate and up to date, the show includes live-action interstitials with Jet Propulsion Laboratory astronomer Dr. Amy Mainzer, who also is the science curriculum consultant for the show.
I asked Mainzer how they combine the scientific information with the show, and why this is important. “When I was a kid, it was incredibly difficult to get current information, since all the old books in the libraries I went to were filled with outdated material. This is particularly a problem for space and Earth science, where the pace of what we’re learning is changing lightning-fast.”
And in terms of presenting the science in a way that will engage children, I asked whether that was a challenge? “At its heart, science is about experimentation, not memorizing facts. By having the kids in the show try to make experiments work as they play games and hang out together, we can model the real process of science and deductive reasoning.”
“Consequently, a lot of the Ready Jet Go! episodes focus on the kids working together to figure out how to do something, like making paper airplanes fly farther. Also, a big part of science these days is teamwork, so we show the kids learning to work collaboratively to solve problems, like learning to share space in their treehouse by pretending to be astronauts in the Space Station. In my experience, these are some of the best aspects of being a practicing scientist, and we try to infuse the fun of science into the show.” Show producers Wind Dancer Films also come with quite a pedigree — Home
Improvement, Roseanne and movie successes like What Women Want andBernie. I spoke to Dete Meserve from Wind Dancer Films, executive producer ofReady Jet Go! about its inception and initial success. “Before the show aired, the month before it drew 37 million streams on digital apps. Then on air we’ve had 8.5 million views in the first few weeks.”
Meserve underlined the show’s unique position in an otherwise saturated market. “There’s no show like it on TV so we feel that this is fertile territory for an adventure for kids and seeing the earth through the eyes of an alien seeing the planet for the first time.”
I asked whether there would be a video games, toys and consumer products for the show. “We have three HTML5 web games and an app that’s just launched worldwide. The free Ready Jet Go! Space
Explorer app allows kids put their phone or tablet and put it up to the night sky to see what constellations are out there. We’re just beginning to roll out the whole licensing and merchandising so kids can keep playing Ready Jet Go for many years to come.”
With the show’s success families will likely be keen to hear more about plans for toys, games and products. As I’ve said for PJ Masks, it will be crucial to find the right partners here and back up the on screen experience with interactive and physical play that extend learning and entertainment.
Andy Robertson is a freelance technology and gaming expert for a range of national media. He produces the daily Family Gamer TV show on YouTube.