Kartoon Channel!’s ‘Shaq’s Garage’ to Premiere on Pluto TV June 5

Genius Brands International has announced that the Kartoon Channel! series “Shaq’s Garage,” starring and executive produced by Shaquille O’Neal, will debut on Pluto TV June 5.

The animated action-adventure comedy series for children will debut with 26 episodes on the Kartoon Channel! on Pluto TV. The Kartoon Channel! on Pluto TV appears within the kids’ category.

“Shaq’s Garage” is a new animated TV series for kids, starring four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal, as both himself and one of the show’s main vehicle characters, Biggie D. Inspired by Shaq’s real-life love of cars, “Shaq’s Garage” is an action series where Shaq brings his “family” of cars, known as the Shaq Paq, to life. The series is a mix of action, adventure and comedy featuring the Shaq Paq as they are sent by Shaq on various missions to help others and do good in their hometown community of Ollanta and beyond. The Shaq Paq is a diverse cast of 10 different characters. In addition to Shaquille O’Neal voicing the giant truck Biggie D, NFL Superbowl champion Rob Gronkowski voices his buddy the Grenoble.

The premiere of “Shaq’s Garage” will be supported by a variety of companion content, influencer collaborations and a social marketing campaign across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, according to Genius Brands. Additionally, Genius Brands is developing a consumer products retail program for “Shaq’s Garage.” 

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“I am thrilled that our hard work over the past couple of years is finally coming to fruition with our new series,” Shaquille O’Neal said in a statement. “I am extremely proud of what we have created, and I am looking forward to inspiring kids all over the world with ‘Shaq’s Garage.’”

“We are thrilled that Kartoon Channel! is partnering with Pluto TV to premiere the first season of ‘Shaq’s Garage,’ which embodies the value-driven content we seek to create at Genius Brands,” Todd Steinman, president of Genius Networks, said in a statement. “I’m delighted that Shaq’s vision for the series has been realized. The show offers action, adventure, and comedy through positive messaging and quality role models. We are excited to offer this unique series to both kids and their families around the country.”


Genius Brands Inks Deal With Buzzfeed for Longform Series

Genius Brands International, through its Frederator Network subsidiary (a division of WOW! Unlimited Media), has announced an exclusive content deal with digital media company BuzzFeed.

The deal provides Genius Brands’ Frederator Network the exclusive opportunity and first right to develop and produce longform series based on original digital properties created by the BuzzFeed Animation Lab. 

“Weird Helga”

The first short-form content  for series development by Frederator will be “The Land of Boggs,” a zany buddy comedy that currently boasts more than 10 million followers. Other content under consideration for long-form development includes “The Good Advice Cupcake,” an aggressively optimistic pastry touting more than 6 million followers; the lowbrow sister comedy “Weird Helga,” with more than 9 million followers; and the gender inclusive series “Chikn Nuggit,” with more than 7 million followers.

Frederator Studios will serve as the global content sales agent, headed by director of development Isabel Schultz, and Genius Brands’ consumer products’ division will develop the retail program for the slate of IP, spearheaded by chief brand officer Kerry Phelan, and in close partnership with BuzzFeed.

“Our partnership with BuzzFeed offers Frederator a tremendous opportunity to expand on the creativity of their animation lab to further develop their original IP into long-form series for global audiences,” Michael Hirsh, CEO of WOW! Unlimited Media, parent company of Frederator Network, said in a statement. “BuzzFeed is considered the most-watched digital publisher with billions of global content views and nearly 30 million dedicated BuzzFeed Animation Lab fans, which gives us a huge audience and ability to promote each series to a highly-engaged fan base.” 

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“The BuzzFeed Animation Lab has seen huge success and explosive growth for our animated properties, and we are thrilled to partner with Frederator Studios for development,” Zee Myers, head of BuzzFeed Animation Lab, said in a statement. “They have an unparalleled track record in the industry and are the perfect shepherds to take our animated properties into a new format and expand our audience.”

Genius Brands Launches Its First AI-Generated Children’s Series ‘Kidaverse Fast Facts’

Genius Brands International has announced the launch of its first AI-generated children’s series “Kidaverse Fast Facts,” utilizing OpenAI’s ChatGPT, among other AI technologies.

The series will include new and exclusive shorts and will first premiere in March across Genius Networks’ YouTube and social channels, and then broaden its footprint under both Kartoon Channel! and Ameba across multiple AVOD, SVOD and FAST platforms including Amazon Prime Video Channels, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Apple iOS, Android TV, Android Mobile, Pluto, Roku, Samsung, LG and Vizio Smart TVs.

“Kidaverse Fast Facts,” for children 4-11, utilizes AI for scripts, images, voices and animation. The series will include new and exclusive shorts hosted by History Henry, Science Sally and Sporty Steve, and each video will educate children, featuring lessons and facts about science, history, music, literature and more.   

“We’re excited to bring this innovative series to market and, by using ChatGPT, the series is able to quickly and effectively adapt and deliver our content and concepts in a kid-friendly, snackable format,” Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, said in a statement. “The future of children’s entertainment is here, and we’re thrilled to be at the forefront of this revolution.”

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“AI is a game changer for us, providing significant cost efficiencies and speed to market, allowing us to expand our content initiatives and fuel our programming pipeline in a way that couldn’t have been possible before,” Todd Steinman, president of Genius Networks, said in a statement. “These AI tools and the content they create will certainly have a huge impact in children’s entertainment and beyond. With its innovative use of AI, we are confident that ‘Kidaverse Fast Facts’ will be a hit with kids and parents around the world.”

Kartoon Channel! to Bow ‘Kidaverse Roblox Rumble’ Hosted by Rashad Jennings

Genius Brands International will premiere the new 10-episode reality series “Kidaverse Roblox Rumble” exclusively on the Kartoon Channel! around the world.

Hosted by TV personality and former NFL star Rashad Jennings, “Kidaverse Roblox Rumble,” which will premiere in Q1 2023, is an elimination-style competition reality series featuring a diverse group of girls and boys across the United States, ages 8 to 12, who compete in 10 different “Kidaverse Roblox Rumble” games to win prizes and find out who is the ultimate gamer for a $1,000 grand prize. Some of the games will include “Yeti, Set, Go,” an arctic obstacle course; “Garden Gauntlet,” an adventure through a complicated outside hedge maze; and “Dune Dash,” a dune buggy race through a Southwestern desert.

Players who are eliminated will still receive their choice of a variety of prizes, including an Amazon gift card, a fifth generation iPad Air, an Oculus Metaquest 2, and custom Nike Air Force Ones.

Following the exclusive launch on Kartoon Channel!, the games used in the series will be made available for all kids to play.   

Roblox is a free-to-play online game platform and game design system with more than 164 million active users. “Kidaverse Roblox Rumble” games were developed by Kartoon Channel! using the Roblox platform.

“Being a gamer for many years, Roblox fan, and committed to positively inspiring kids, ‘Kidaverse Roblox Rumble’ is the ultimate opportunity to use my skills to reinforce positive values, including playing one’s best, good sportsmanship, and a ‘never give up’ attitude, while having fun!” Jennings said in a statement. “I love that the series ends each episode with my signature encouragement that any player who embodies these values has ‘never lost!’ I look forward to being a part of this special series where kids can enjoy watching other kid gamers compete for fun prizes, and for bragging rights to the enviable ‘ultimate gamer’ title.”

“Our Kartoon Channel! audience is crazy about the Roblox platform and games, which are an unprecedented phenomenon among kids:  half of Americans under 16 play (and often make!) Roblox games,” David Neuman, chief creative officer at Genius Brands’ Kartoon Channel! Worldwide, said in a statement. “And, we have observed that any video-game-related content performs especially well with our young audience. So it was a no-brainer for us to lean into this enthusiasm and develop an original competition reality series using the Roblox platform, which will help us engage with our audience while they’re watching Kartoon Channel! and while they’re gaming on Roblox.

“It was also important for Kartoon Channel! to stay true to our mission: to be family friendly, safe for kids, and free of any harmful or inappropriate content that can sometimes be found in video games. Our ‘Kidaverse Roblox Rumble’ games are completely kid-appropriate. And our charismatic host, NFL star, ‘Dancing With the Stars’ champion, and children’s book author Rashad Jennings is a wonderful and positive role model for all children, who encourages positive values and good sportsmanship throughout the competition.”

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Jennings is a national personality, a former NFL star, TV personality, author and philanthropist and appeared on season 24 of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” His Rashad Jennings Foundation is dedicated to inspiring youth by making education fun, providing mentorship for individual success and promoting health and fitness.

Genius Brands to Co-Produce Stan Lee Doc Debuting on Disney+

In celebration today of the legendary Stan Lee’s 100th birthday, Genius Brands International — the controlling partner of “Stan Lee Universe,” owner of all rights to the name, voice, likeness, signature, licensing of Stan Lee and certain post-Marvel IP — signed an agreement to co-executive produce a documentary on the life of Stan Lee that will debut on Disney+. 

The trailer is here.

Additionally, Genius Brands is commemorating the birthday with the launch of a new online store, featuring products from the Stan Lee Centennial Collection. The store exclusively features three Stan Lee collections, Stan Lee Comic, Stan Lee Retro and Stan Lee Centennial, with additional product categories to debut in 2023. Additional Stan Lee-branded products to come to market include apparel from Hot Topic; bags and backpacks from Sprayground; collectible figures from Good Smile; and fine art from Moor Art. Funko in January 2023 will release an exclusive Stan Lee collectible figure and boxed t-shirt to celebrate Lee.

“We are thrilled to celebrate Stan Lee’s 100th birthday today with multiple initiatives that pay tribute to this true cultural icon starting with creating a marketplace for his fans and with telling his fascinating story in the upcoming film premiering on Disney+,” Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Genius Brands kicked off the Stan Lee centennial year with a fan activation at Los Angeles Comic-Con. Fans lined up to sign a giant 100th birthday card for Stan.

Stan Lee was the co-creator of some of the most successful comics characters of all time, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Black Panther, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Thor, Silver Surfer, Ant-Man, Nick Fury and The Avengers. For decades, Lee was the editor and creative force behind Marvel Entertainment, which was sold to The Walt Disney Co. for $4.4 billion. 

Stan Lee Universe Licenses Stan Lee Name and Likeness to Marvel Studios

Stan Lee Universe, Genius Brands International’s Genius Brands controlled venture with POW! Entertainment, has signed a 20-year deal to license the name and likeness of Stan Lee to Marvel Studios for future feature films and television productions, as well as use in Disney theme parks and experiences worldwide.

“We are proud to be the stewards of the incredibly valuable rights to Stan Lee’s name, likeness, merchandise and intellectual property brand,” Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, said in a statement. “And, there is no better place than Marvel and Disney where Stan should be for his movies and theme park experiences. As we enter the centennial year of Stan’s birthday, Dec. 28, 2022, we are thrilled to see his memory and legacy will continue to delight fans through this new long-term agreement with Marvel.”

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Under the deal, Marvel Studios has acquired rights to use Stan Lee’s name, voice, likeness and signature in movies and television projects, as well as use images, existing footage and existing audio recordings featuring Lee. Exclusive rights to use Stan Lee’s name, voice, likeness and signature in theme parks, water parks, cruise lines and in-park merchandise were included for Disney Parks, experiences and products as part of the deal.

“As Stan’s longtime business partner and friend, I’m looking forward to commemorating his work in this new way,” Gill Champion, president of POW! Entertainment, said in a statement. “Building a connection with his fans is important to us and it’s a privilege to get to do that on his behalf.”

As Marvel’s editor-in-chief, Stan Lee helped build a universe of interlocking continuity, with super heroes from Spider-Man to the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, the X-Men and more. Lee went on to become Marvel’s editorial director and publisher in 1972 and was eventually named chairman emeritus.

His well-known cameos in Marvel films began in the 1989 telefilm The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. After the release of X-Men in 2000, he appeared in nearly every Marvel film and television project until his passing in 2018.

Genius Brands Animated Series ‘Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten’ to Stream in China

Genius Brands International has announced the launch of season one of its flagship animated children’s series, “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,”  on Alibaba Group’s video streaming platform Youku starting March 2022.

Youku is one of the top three streaming platforms in the mainland China territory, according to Genius. 

Additionally, the  series will be available via the Tudou and Kumiao apps.

“Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” executive produced by and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, focuses on the adventures of six unique kids who are learning to master their super skills, along with their ABCs, with the help of their teacher Arnold Armstrong (aka the superhero Captain Fantastic).

“I have always loved bringing my latest projects to my Chinese fans, because they’re some of the most passionate fans in the world, so I can’t wait for them to see ‘Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,'” Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

“Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten” premiered on April 23, 2021, on Genius Brands’ Kartoon Channel! in the United States and Canada and has since garnered more than 75 million views, according to Genius. The company will continue to launch the series in key territories around the world in 2022.

“Alibaba’s Youku is one of the most far-reaching media platforms for kids in the world, and we are excited to make ‘Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten’ available to millions of kids across China,” Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, said in a statement. “This unique action-packed series delivers all the elements that resonate with kids today, along with positive messaging and Arnold’s star power.”

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“Genius Brands has done a tremendous job of creating a truly unique series that kids and their families can enjoy together,” Aaron Liao, GM of Youku Kids, said in a statement. “With Arnold Schwarzenegger driving ‘Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten’ and the creative storylines and compelling characters, we have no doubt that we will be able to create an impressive fan base in China, building on the success of the series in the U.S. and Canada.”

The series, voice-directed by John Landis and featuring head writer Steven Banks (“SpongeBob SquarePants”), is produced by Genius Brands and Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment in association with Schwarzenegger’s Oak Productions. Gill Champion, CEO of Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment; Heyward; Schwarzenegger; and Paul Wachter of Main Street Advisors serve as executive producers.

Genius Hires Former Disney Exec Todd Steinman

Genius Brands International has appointed Todd Steinman to the Kartoon Channel! executive team as chief revenue and marketing officer of Kartoon Channel! Kidaverse.

Todd Steinman

Steinman most recently served as VP in the Direct to Consumer and International division at The Walt Disney Company, which included Disney+ during its launch. He helped create solutions to leverage the Walt Disney Company’s  portfolio of linear and digital brands, including Disney, Hulu, ESPN, ABC, Freeform, FX and Nat Geo, while setting strategy for ad sales and revenue teams. Prior to his role at The Walt Disney Company, Steinman co-founded the digital media agency M80, and then led the NBC Universal media team for WPP after they acquired M80. He negotiated multi-million-dollar annual media deals with Google/YouTube, Amazon, Hulu, Disney, Twitter, Snapchat, Spotify and others, while managing an annual budget north of $1 billion. 

Steinman will report to Jon Ollwerther, president of Kartoon Channel! and KC! Kidaverse.

“Todd has a history of driving growth for the most important names in entertainment,” Ollwerther said in a statement. “With the announcement of the KC! Kidaverse, and the acquisition of Ameba TV, Kartoon Channel! has reached a new inflection point, and I could not be more thrilled to welcome an executive of Todd’s caliber to help take our business to the next level.”

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“There is an electric excitement about the Kartoon Channel! and KC! Kidaverse in the kid’s and family market,” Steinman said in a statement. “It’s a breakthrough concept, and I’m looking forward to bringing all my expertise to help drive it forward.”

Genius Brands Launching ‘Kartoon Channel! Kidaverse’ SVOD Service

Genius Brands International Jan. 13 announced it would bow the subscription-based Kartoon Channel! Kidaverse on April 15, priced at $3.99 per month. The platform will be anchored by backend technology from the acquisition of Ameba TV.

The SVOD will include all the programs of the Kartoon Channel!, while adding exclusive content in a phased rollout. The platform will feature a fully integrated design, including custom avatars and emojis for kids, exclusive games, branded VR goggles, immersive content and NFTs for kids.

The new platform will also feature collectable digital cards based on the channel’s characters, including those from the upcoming Stan Lee Universe, debuting in the fourth quarter, and a digital currency for kids called Kidaverse MetaBuck$. Additionally, the Kartoon Channel! Kidaverse is planning to introduce child-safe messaging, podcasts, music and games.

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Andy Heyward, CEO of Genius Brand, said the SVOD is in response to a consumer need for safe over-the-top video destinations for children.

“The single strongest message we receive from parents is the concern about safety for children on screens, whether it is program content or roaming around the internet and various apps,” Heyward said. “The premise of the [platform] is to provide children with fun, positive, engaging digital media, and to provide them with a safe and parent-controlled product.”

In addition to Kartoon Channel! programming, the SVOD will include “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Rainbow Rangers,” “Peppa Pig,” “PJ Masks,” “Minecraft,” “Surviving Roblox,” “My Little Pony” and “Yu Gi Oh.”

Kidaverse will add another 13,000 episodes under license to Ameba, including “Casper the Friendly Ghost,” “Donkey Kong Country,” “Gummy Bears” and “Rescue Heroes.” The platform will also become the home to the several thousand hours of animated content available through Genius Brands’ recent acquisition of Canada’s WOW! Unlimited Media and strategic investment in Germany’s Your Family Entertainment (YFE). The company believes this will make it the largest single children’s portal of animation in the world, with over 20,000 animated titles under license.

“As Kartoon Channel! has grown, many of our viewers have asked for a commercial-free version of the experience,” said Jon Ollwerther, president of the Kartoon Channel! “While our free, ad-supported platform will still be available to consumers, the SVOD will address that market need, while also building the 360-degree kid’s digital media platform of the future. We believe it will be a unique entertainment experience that simply cannot be had anywhere else.”

Ollwerther will oversee the development of the SVOD and its rollout across North America. Former managing director of Disney Channels Worldwide, and now managing director of Kartoon Channel! Worldwide, Paul Robinson, will lead the launch throughout the rest of the world.

Chizicks Exit Genius Brands, ChizComm Companies

ChizComm Ltd. and ChizComm Beacon Media founders Harold and Jennifer Chizick have left Genius Brands, ChizComm and ChizComm Beacon Media.

“We are extremely disappointed to be leaving Genius Brands and ChizComm after less than a year of being with Genius Brands,” they said in a statement. “However, our vision on how to best grow the company does not align well with Genius Brands.

“Last week, Genius Brands imposed organizational changes that reduced our role in the company and was a breach of our agreement with Genius Brands. Efforts to resolve this matter in an amicable fashion have been unsuccessful. We believe that we have been terminated on a without cause basis and now have no choice but to depart the company and explore options for how to recoup the considerable sums remaining due to us.

“ChizComm staff is at the heart of everything we do. We want to thank this phenomenal team — past and present — that have contributed to building a great organization that prioritizes integrity, drive and passion. And to the ChizComm client base, it has been an honor working in partnership to unlock opportunities and drive growth. Stay tuned for what we do next.”

Genius Brands International issued a statement in response: “Harold Chizick and Jennifer Chizick, employees of the company’s ChizComm subsidiary, have been terminated for cause. The company believes this decision to be in the best interest of its shareholders and customers. Business will continue as usual under current management, with Donna MacNeil as President of ChizComm and Kathleen Campisano as Global Chief Marketing Officer and General Manager of ChizComm Beacon Media subsidiaries. The company is fully invested in the success of these subsidiaries and believes it will be more fully realized under Ms. MacNeil’s and Ms. Campisano’s leadership.”

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Harold and Jennifer Chizick in 2013 founded ChizComm Ltd., a marketing communications and media buying agency in the lifestyle, family, entertainment, toy and gaming spaces.

In February 2021, ChizComm Ltd. and ChizComm Beacon Media were acquired by Genius Brands. Harold Chizick served as CEO of both companies and Jennifer Chizick as COO of ChizComm Ltd. Additionally, Harold Chizick was named president of marketing, content sales and consumer products for Genius Brands.

In the past year working with Genius Brands, Harold Chizick secured a master toy partner for “Rainbow Rangers,” led the partnership to have Kartoon Channel! stream on Pluto TV, and led the marketing to deliver over 70 million views on “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” according to a statement from the Chizicks.