How to direct a cartoon that will get kids attention? There are many tricks and techniques that can be used to keep kids’ attention and to make them watch a cartoon. The latest and most popular way of keeping their attention is a fast edit, with rapid shot changes so the kids do not get bored. Kids’ brains are continuously fed with bright toxic colors, funky sounds and cartoony voices. A kid’s mind unconsciously tries to catch the meaning of what’s going on, but at some point the brain just collapses and gives up processing the information – it just lets it come in. Terrible, isn’t it? Well, there are other ways to successfully engage kids without overwhelming their mind.
I’ve been at a number of screenings and focus groups where some of the projects I worked on have been shown to kids and their parents. I’ve noticed that when the screening finishes, kids start to loudly claim that they would have gone through certain situations differently than the protagonist. They would enthusiastically tell each other that they felt brave when the protagonist was scared, or they would find a smarter way to trick the villain. They put themselves in the shoes of the protagonist and start to create their alternative version of events, fantasizing and reflecting. I’ve learned that the kids appreciate characters they can relate to, such as the characters that they can put on as a Halloween costume and be a part of the story.If there’s no goal to collapse a kid’s brain, a cartoon should have a nice and clear storyline with sinusoidal event flow, where fast pacing is followed by a slower tempo.Children should have the chance to rest and process the information received. From a psychological point of view, a kid should feel that he/she is a little bit ahead of the protagonists in terms of knowing what is happening at the current moment of a story. This makes them feel better about themselves and feel compassionate toward the protagonist, as kids know something that the protagonist has yet to figure out later.On the other hand, the cartoon shouldn’t reveal what happens next, since suspense is another key factor even for children.
Recently numerous concerns have been voiced about the negative influence of some genres of cartoons on kids.Slapstick cartoons and cartoons that feature stupid protagonists make kids laugh, but have little moral and ethical value. On the other hand, serious cartoon full of morality and education may be boring to watch. In order to keep both parents and children happy it is important to find the balance between entertainment and education.During preproduction conversations with children, we’ve found out that the key to a good balance is multiple characters. Each character should be unique and most importantly, be in contrast to others. This will create more energy in their relationship and will facilitate a many-sided entertaining story. In order to make it work, there must be a main protagonist who will glue together all of the opposite characters. Despite being someone who holds everyone together, the main hero must have a shortcoming or a weakness that he or she will constantly overcome on the way to the goal. While the main protagonist carries certain functionality in the drama, other protagonists may add educational or entertaining elements to the story.Following all of these steps, we managed to engage both the kids and their parents.