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.”

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.

Genius Brands Appoints Zrinka Dekic CFO

Genius Brands International has appointed Zrinka Dekic CFO and head of strategy and mergers and acquisitions. 

Previous CFO Bob Denton will assume the new role of EVP of finance and accounting at Genius Brands.

“Bob Denton has made tremendous contributions to the company as CFO over the past years, as we transformed Genius Brands from an emerging children’s entertainment company to a diversified global organization with a solid balance sheet, positioned for long term growth,” Heyward said in a statement. “We look forward to his continued contributions as executive vice president of finance and accounting, as we accelerate our focus on expansion.”

Dekic brings nearly 20 years of entertainment industry and financial markets experience, including corporate strategy, investment banking, investment management and corporate finance at The Walt Disney Company, and before that, Goldman Sachs. At The Walt Disney Company, she held posts in corporate strategy, strategic planning and business development. Prior to joining Disney, Dekic served as a VP in the investment management division at Goldman Sachs in New York. Most recently, she served as VP of Houlihan Lokey’s Investment Banking Technology, Media & Telecom (TMT) Group, where she was responsible for business development and execution across the sector, including media and entertainment, digital media, streaming technologies, animation and video games. Dekic holds a B.A. from Amherst College and an MBA in Finance from The Wharton School.

“We are excited to welcome Zrinka as chief financial officer of Genius Brands at this major inflection point in the Company’s development, given the rapid revenue growth, expanded distribution, and a powerful slate of new content,” Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, said in a statement. “With the recently announced acquisition of WOW! Unlimited Media in Canada and our strategic investment in Your Family Entertainment traded on the Frankfurt Exchange (RFE.F), providing us control over one of Europe’s largest animation catalogs and now a global channel footprint, the addition of Zrinka, with her impressive professional pedigree, including The Walt Disney Company and Goldman Sachs, will empower us to maximize value for shareholders. In particular, Zrinka brings a proven track record in M&A, which will continue to be an important component of our strategy as we execute on our vision of becoming one of the world’s leading global children’s entertainment companies. In support of this goal, she brings extensive relationships across Wall Street and the entertainment industry, spanning animation, media and entertainment, sports, and consumer product companies across North America and globally.”

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“I am delighted and honored to join Genius Brands International at this critical juncture of the disruptive technological changes in the industry as well as the explosive global demand for children’s content,” Dekic said in a statement. “With Genius’s recently announced acquisition of a prolific animation producer WOW! Unlimited Media in Canada and its investment in Your Family Entertainment in Europe, as well as the fact that Genius Brands, through Kartoon Channel! Worldwide, controls both content and distribution, it is poised for global expansion and growth. I am thrilled to be joining the company at such an exciting time and to be part of the leadership team that will take Genius Brands to the next level.”

Kartoon Channel! Gets New Spanish-Language Content

Genius Brands International has announced a new Spanish-language content service for children — ¡KC! En Español — on its streaming platform Kartoon Channel!

Kartoon Channel! also announced Oct. 5 that it is now available on Pluto TV.

With ¡KC! En Español, Kartoon Channel! expands its current  platform to serve the Latino children’s community in North America. The new Spanish-language children’s program service will reside on the main Kartoon Channel! platform and function as a sub-brand of Kartoon Channel!, similar to Kartoon Classroom!, which premiered in September 2020. The offering will launch with Genius Brands’ “Rainbow Rangers,” in addition to “Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab,” “Mi Perro Chocolo,” YouTube’s “Spanish Tree TV” and “Stan Lee’s Mighty Seven.”

“Not only is this the right entertainment and cultural move for Kartoon Channel!, but it also makes good business sense too,” Jon Ollwerther, president of Kartoon Channel!, said in statement. “Today, 26% of kids in the U.S. under the age of five are of Latinx heritage, a number that is only expected to grow. Further, 83% of Latinx audiences are streamers, versus 73% of non-Latinx audiences. Finally, digital ad-spend focused on the Latinx audience in the United States has more than doubled from 2015 to 2020 and the market today is estimated at over $1.5 billion. We look forward to this becoming an important and growing contributor to the business of Kartoon Channel!”

“Following the success of our educational sub-brand Kartoon Classroom!, ¡KC! En Español was the obvious next step for us,” Michael Riley, Genius Brands International’s chief diversity officer, said in a statement. “We’re proud to announce this new offering during Hispanic Heritage Month and to better serve the Latinx community, now in English and en Español.”

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Genius Brands International’s digital network Kartoon Channel! is a family entertainment destination. Kartoon Channel! delivers  content across multiple platforms, including Comcast, Cox, Dish, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Android TV, Android Mobile, Google Play, Xumo, Roku, Tubi, Samsung Smart TVs and LGTVs. Kartoon Channel! can also be streamed on TVs and mobiles device by downloading the app, or on desktops by visiting www.kartoonchannel.com.

Former Dreamworks and Pixar Exec Kerry Phelan Joins Genius Brands as EVP and GM

Genius Brands International, a global brand management company that creates and licenses multimedia entertainment content for children, has appointed Kerry Phelan to the newly created position of EVP and GM of global franchise management.

Phelan will report to both Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO, and Harold Chizick, president of global content sales, marketing and consumer products.

In her new role at Genius Brands, Phelan will be responsible for global management of the company’s existing IP across licensing, merchandising, retail and promotions, including Stan Lee’s “Superhero Kindergarten,” “Shaq’s Garage,” “Stan Lee Universe” and “Rainbow Rangers,” as well as properties currently in development.

A 30-year consumer branding executive, Phelan successfully launched the “Star Wars” brand at Lego Systems and was recruited directly to Lucasfilm, where she led the global consumer products and promotional licensing business for the multi-billion-dollar “Star Wars” franchise in more than 60 countries worldwide. She then joined Pixar Animation Studios, reporting directly to Steve Jobs, where she launched, in concert with Disney Consumer Products,  the original “Cars” consumer product program, which became franchise totaling more than $8 billion in retail sales. Following her stint at Pixar, Phelan spent seven years at DreamWorks Animation as head of consumer products and licensing, driving the development of franchise management plans for the studio’s film and television properties, including “Shrek,” “Madagascar,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “How to Train Your Dragon.” At DreamWorks, she managed the retail consumer products business and doubled the consumer products revenue in just three years.  Most recently, she served as president of global franchise management at Lionsgate Entertainment, where under her leadership, the studio created brand extensions spanning location-based and live entertainment venues, consumer products, licensed merchandise, brand partnerships and an array of promotional ventures for such blockbuster franchises as “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight.”

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“Kerry’s pedigree and reputation in entertainment branding is unparalleled as she has driven the global revenue streams of some of the most lucrative franchises in history,” Chizick said in a statement. “In the coming year, we have multiple properties launching into the global retail marketplace, including Stan Lee’s ‘Superhero Kindergarten,’ which just premiered on Kartoon Channel!, as well as ‘Shaq’s Garage’ and ‘Stan Lee Universe’ plus more categories coming to market around ‘Rainbow Rangers.’ Kerry’s leadership and strategic guidance will be instrumental in driving the growth of our brands around the world. She is a dream executive to have on board to help us achieve our long-term goals.”

“The majority of my career has been spent building properties into global franchises, specifically in the children’s space.  Having had a peek at the coming pipeline, I am excited about the future at Genius Brands and the opportunity to build bigger brand ecosystems around their properties,” Phelan said in a statement.

Genius Brands Promotes Jon Ollwerther to President of Kartoon Channel!

Genius Brands, a global brand management company that creates and licenses multimedia entertainment content for children, has promoted Jon Ollwerther to president of family entertainment digital network Kartoon Channel!

Ollwerther previously served as GM of Kartoon Channel! and will continue in his role as EVP of business development for Genius Brands.

“I am pleased to announce the well-deserved promotion of Jon, in recognition of his significant contributions to the rapid growth and success of our hit kid’s streaming platform, Kartoon Channel,” Andy Heyward, chairman and CEO of Genius Brands, said in a statement.

Kartoon Channel! delivers content across multiple platforms, including Comcast, Cox, Dish, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Android TV, Android Mobile, Google Play, Xumo, Roku, Tubi, Samsung Smart TVs and LGTVs.

“Viewer rankings have put Kartoon Channel! above all other services, including Netflix, Disney+, and You Tube Kids, in both the Apple and the Google app stores,” Ollwerther said in a statement. “In addition, I am extremely proud to announce that ‘Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten’ has just surpassed 21 million views on Kartoon Channel!, over 3.6 million per episode, since the initial launch just over one month ago with six episodes now released.  We believe ‘Superhero Kindergarten’ has risen to the ranks of one of the most highly viewed new cartoon launches in history, as we are building an evergreen production that will entertain generations of children, while attracting both advertisers and consumer product licensees.

“In addition to the recently launched hit, ‘Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,’ starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, we will be rolling out ‘KC Pop Quiz!’next quarter. It is a lightning fast-paced daily game show based on pop culture where kids win cool prizes. Think Jeopardy meets HQ Trivia! Shortly thereafter, we will introduce our third original product, Shaquille O’Neal’s first animated series, ‘Shaq’s Garage,’ created by Joel Cohen, the co-writer and creator of Toy Story. Additionally, we will now be launching season three of our hit series ‘Rainbow Rangers’ with an exciting new twist.

“I am honored to take on this new role with Genius Brands, as I truly believe we are curating the very best combination of original, exclusive, and commercially acquired product within the kids’ entertainment industry.”

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Prior to joining Genius Brands, Ollwerther served as VP of media, arts and entertainment for Measure, the nation’s leading Drone as a Service company. Working with clients across the country and around the world, Ollwerther has an extensive credit list of collaborations with brands and advertising agencies to create unforgettable experiences.

Genius Brands Appoints Harold Chizick President

Genius Brands International, a creator and licensor of multimedia entertainment content for children, has appointed Harold Chizick president, overseeing the global content sales, consumer products and marketing business.

Chizick is co-founder of ChizComm Ltd. and ChizComm Beacon Media, subsidiaries of Genius Brands.

He reports to Genius Brands’ chairman and CEO Andy Heyward.

Chizick, who will continue to run ChizComm Ltd. and ChizComm Beacon Media, will be responsible for driving global strategies across licensing, distribution and marketing for Genius Brands’ growing portfolio of brands, including “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; “Shaq’s Garage,” starring Shaquille O’Neal; “Stan Lee’s Universe”; “Rainbow Rangers”; “Llama Llama”; and more, as well as the company’s streaming platform Kartoon Channel!

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“Since acquiring ChizComm and ChizComm Beacon Media earlier this year, I have experienced firsthand the level of expertise, creativity and passion that Harold brings to the business,” Heyward said in a statement. “As we continue to build our team and focus on the brands we are bringing to market, I know that Harold and our executives are in a position to dramatically drive the growth of Genius Brands in the coming years.  His expertise and relationships in the toy and game world in particular are unmatched.”

“It is an incredible time to play an integral role in building Genius Brands presence on a global scale, and I look forward to working with Andy and the executive team to take the company to the next level as we rollout new brands to the content and retail marketplace this year,” Chizick said in a statement.

Chizick has more than 20 years of experience in public relations, social media, promotions, events and product launches. At the helm of ChizComm, founded in 2013 by Harold and Jennifer Chizick, “he brings a collaborative, inventive approach to marketing for partners and clients,” according to a Genius press release.