TalkAboutIt.orgWhen I was 17, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. The good news is my epilepsy is controlled by medicine (unlike some people who suffer from this disorder). The bad news is I have epilepsy- a random, rare version caused by sleep deprivation and extended periods of reading.

When I was 17, there were no online resources to go to find out more information. In the early-mid-90’s, there was barely an “online” at all. Your lucky friend may have had AOL, but you were not likely to use it to research seizure disorders. Instead, you were probably on it to find out when your favorite band was at the Tweeter Center. Thankfully, today we have websites like TalkAbout It.org.

TalkAboutIt.org is a website and 501(c)3 charity created by actor Greg Grunberg - known for his role on Heroes. The goal of the website and the Talk About It organization is to “end the misperceptions and misunderstanding about epilepsy and seizure disorders.”  Greg was inspired to create this website after his eldest son was diagnosed with epilepsy and he wanted to help end the stigma around epilepsy while working to find a cure.

The website works as virtual subway with a map directing you to train stops for non-epileptics and epileptics alike, with the ultimate goal of getting people to talk about the condition. Each stop features an introduction by Greg’s celebrity friends like Kristen Bell, Jennifer Garner, John Mayer, Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine,  usually followed by a video of Greg interviewing doctors or actual people living with epilepsy. In the videos, Greg broaches topics like dating, bullying, employment, telling your friends & family –  things people may not be comfortable talking about with their Doctor.

And if you are worried you or your children are getting medical advice from celebrities, don’t fear. Their bits were scripted and expert advice was provided by the Epilepsy Foundation, the “national voluntary health organization dedicated to helping the over three million Americans with epilepsy.”

Talk About It.org also collects donations to raise money for epilepsy and has an active social network tied into the site.

Talk About It Behind-The-Scenes

Greg Grunberg directs Chris Pine (“Star Trek”) on the set of TalkAboutIt.org

I find myself often complaining about the lack of kindie music shows in the Boston area. So when a major act sweeps into town, I have to spread the word! Billy Kelly and The Blah Blah Blahs will be making their way to Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline this Saturday, March 26 at 10:30 AM. I have been told there will be “epic songs, including a seven-minute bio of a cardboard box, and zany props such as a giant foam hand, a lobster hat, an English muffin hat, a talking swamp creature, a dancing robot, and Billy’s oversize doodle pad (which he dubs “My Pad on Which I Draw Stuff).”

This show is timed with the release of Billy’s new CD, The Family Garden. Set for release April 5, we are giving away a copy to one lucky winner!

How to enter: Send an email to matthewdsiden(at)gmail.com with your favorite Billy Kelly song in the subject line. One lucky winner will be selected using Randomizer. Hurry! Contest deadline is 4/1/2011

In the meantime, check out Billy’s new video below.

Admittedly, I did not get to spend too much time at Toy Fair. I was in attendance for the sister Engage event, so I only got a few hours to peruse the Toy Fair floor to seek out things that were of personal interest. Below are just a few of the items that caught my attention along the way. If you want a truly deeper dive, I recommend sources like Toy Directory or Out With The Kids. In the meantime, check out a handful of Nugget Island picks below.

Creativity for Kids’ Shrinky Dinks Fairy Garden

Maia recently discovered the joy of Shrinky Dinks. However, she usually discards them after they have done their shrinking thing. So, the idea of being able to use the ‘Dinks’ after baking and shrinking them caught my attention. Each Shrinky Dink turns into a little fairy that can be played with in a 3-D cardboard garden.

Creativity for Kids’ Shrinky Dinks Fairy Garden
Creativity for Kids’ Playful Pets Nesting Dolls Kit

What is it about nesting dolls that appeals to kids of all ages? Add a DIY art twist, and they go beyond being simple novelty items. This Nesting Doll Kit lets kids paint and sticker their own wooden dolls using non-toxic, acrylic paint.

Creativity for Kids’ Playful Pets Nesting Dolls Kit
Curious Chef 6 Piece Fruit & Veggie Prep Kit / 16 Piece Cupcake and Decorating Kit

Sometimes Maia gets tired of playing kitchen, and wants the real thing. I was on the lookout for a company that makes safe, tangible, and cute-looking kitchen tools for kids. These ergonomically-correct kits offer both ends of the culinary spectrum. First off, they guarantee some fun with healthy fruit and veggie preparation. And, being realistic, there is also some sweet tooth-satisfying kitchen fun with a cupcake decorating kit.

Curious Chef 6 Piece Fruit & Veggie Prep Kit / 16 Piece Cupcake and Decorating Kit
Early Rider

Not only does this British company create a unique, safe bike that aims to teach children to ride at a young age, they create it with solid birch wood. This bike aims to be as easy on the eyes as it is to ride. Pictured is the Classic Series in natural color. Love those flames!

Early Rider
eebee’s Adventure Play mat & Activity Play House / Music and Sound DVD

We love eebee in our house. This dreadlocked puppet was a must-watch in Maia’s first few years, and we looked forward to introducing our newborn to this property some day. This brightly-colored, transformable mat/ playhouse will be the perfect place to do just that. Meanwhile, we will be sure to get our hands on the newest DVD in the eebee line, “Music and Sound.”
eebee’s Adventure Play mat & Activity Play House
“Music and Sound” DVD
Pinkalicious Licensing Mania

Like many little girls, my daughter is quite smitten with the Pinkalicious properties. Walking into the Fundex booth, I was surprised by all of the card and board games being released under this property. A great way to get the little one excited about offline analog games, titles included licensed versions of Scrabble Jr. and UNO as well as original titles like “Pinkalicious Pinkarella Lunchbox Game.”

Pinkalicious Licensing Mania

PPW Toys’ Wizard of Oz Mr. Potato Head Set

These classic childhood toys, as well as Toy Story stars, get the ‘Oz’ makeover with this new licensing deal. Part collectible toy, part child plaything, I have yet to make up my mind if the ‘Oz’ Potato Head Set will be a future “daddy collectible” or a gift for the kids.

PPW Toys’ Wizard of Oz Mr. Potato Head Set
Playmates Toys’ Michael Jackson 10″ Collector Figures

For those who have turned their youngsters on to MJ, here’s the chance to collect (and/or play) with the late King of Pop. Set for release in the Spring, the series includes “Beat It Michael,” “First Moonwalk Michael,” “Thriller Michael,” and the “Billie Jean Michael.” (Excuse my terrible photo, better ones here!)
Playmates Toys’ Michael Jackson 10″ Collector Figures
AMAV’s Chocolate Coin Press

We could be getting our gelt on next Hanukkah thanks to this Chocolate Coin Press from AMAV/Diamant. I loved the idea of getting Maia involved in the process of making the gold-wrapped chocolate coins from scratch – all done using a small “mint” machine.

AMAV’s Chocolate Coin Press
AMAV’s Chocolate Coin Press Render
Dunecraft “Pirate’s Cove” / “Mermaid’s Growing Grotto”

I have been a long-time admirer of Dunecraft’s science-themed garden and plant kits. Their down-aged Pirate’s Cove and Mermaid’s Growing Grottos get kids in the growing dome game, with two plant kits targeting both genders.

Dunecraft Pirate's Cove / Mermaid's Growing Grotto
Mezco’s DC Mez-Itz Wonder Woman

My daughter has gone Wonder Woman crazy so I was on the lookout for anything featuring this Amazonian princess. While many toys featured a sexed-up version of the superhero, this pint-sized designer toy was cute and collectible.

Mezco's DC Mez-Itz Wonder Woman
P’Kolino Safari Collection - Tree Table with Animal Chairs

This company makes beautiful products with an eye for modern design, and this wooden table set is no exception. This brightly colored set is made of solid wood and features chairs shaped like animal silhouettes.

P’Kolino Safari Collection - Tree Table with Animal Chairs
P’Kolino Multi-Solution Owl Shape Puzzle

Another small sample of what this company can do with design. Check out their site and get ready to start your P’Kolino-only playroom.

P’Kolino Multi-Solution Owl Shape Puzzle
Putumayo Coloring and Sticker Books

Our favorite world music label expands on their product line with a series of coloring and sticker books based on their trademark artwork. Each uniquely-illustrated set features the animals, instruments and people of that geographical location.

Putumayo Coloring and Sticker Books
NECA Coraline Licensing

Another beloved property in our house, I was excited to see all the licensed toys being offered from NECA. Their “wall of Coraline” included items like a collectible lunchbox, throw pillow, and assorted PVC toys.

Coraline Licensing
Disney Princess Squinkies

Disney Princess Squinkies bring together an evergreen property with the current collectible craze. Guaranteed to breathe extended life into the pencil topper trend, these new sets will come in packs themed around each princess.

Disney Princess Squinkies
Workman’s Wizard of Oz Scanimation: 10 Classic Scenes from Over the Rainbow

The creators of the “Scanimation” style books that were brought to life in best-sellers Gallop! and Swing! are journeying down the yellow brick road with this licensed edition. Iconic Scanimation scenes include Miss Gulch transforming into the witch, The Scarecrow doing his famous dance and the ruby slippers clicking together.

Workman’s “Wizard of Oz Scanimation: 10 Classic Scenes from Over the Rainbow”
Workman’s Papertoy Monsters Book

Despite my lack of Origami talent, I am still obsessed with the papertoy trend – the Internet phenomenon that has some of the coolest designers creating DIY toys. This book brings together 25 papertoy designers from around the world to create Origami-style monster toys for kids to create at home.

Workman’s Papertoy Monsters
Tonner 15” Disney Princess Dolls

At around $200 a piece, these dolls are not made for the hands of your young princess fan. But they are beautiful collectibles and are worth calling out for the adult fan. Maia loved looking at the pictures alone and promised “not to break them if we bought one.”

Tonner 15” Disney Princess Dolls
Tonner 22” Wonder Woman Doll

This showcase piece was wowing all who passed it in the aisle. At $350, this is for serious collectors and hardcore Wonder Woman fans. Regardless of price, Tonner’s attention to detail and quality cannot be denied.

Tonner 22” Wonder Woman Doll
RoomMates Decorative Peel & Stick Products

Peel and stick wall decals continue to replace wallpaper and posters as a popular way to liven up a child’s bedroom. RoomMates have wisely locked in the leading licenses, giving them the advantage in this crowded market. Brands and characters from Disney, DC, Marvel, Star Wars, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network are just some of the decals you can purchase. Plus, there’s this pretty cool Where the Wild Things Are set.

RoomMates Decorative Peel & Stick Products
Batman x MIMOBOT USB Flash Drive Collection

Why buy a boring old Flash drive when you can get one in the shape of your favorite Batman character? Loaded with desktop wallpapers, icons, avatars, and screensavers, these storage drives come in the shape of Batman, Robin, Catwoman, or  The Joker.

Batman x MIMOBOT USB Flash Drive Collection

Dan Zanes and Friends are coming to town!

The first man of kindie rock is making his way to the Boston/New Hampshire area. Fresh off the release of his Broadway-themed 76 Trombones album, Zanes will be bringing the crew in for two shows at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Even if you aren’t a hardcore “Zaniac,” this is a show you will want to enjoy with the whole family. The Music Hall itself is a one-of-a-kind venue, built in 1878, and designated an “American Treasure” by the U.S. Senate. Zanes’ timeless tunes are a perfect fit for the 900-seat theatre, a mix of fresh takes on traditional songs as well as his own brilliant creations. Rumor has it he will also be bringing an African dance and drum troop to the stage as well.

There are two shows on Saturday, November 20, at 11:30 AM & 3:30 PM. And if you aren’t in the New England area, check out the band’s other tour stops, as they may be coming your way.

Buy your tickets online today and see you at the show!

Nugget Island giveaway!

Win a signed copy of 76 Trombones by Dan Zanes .

In honor of this event we are giving away a signed copy of 76 Trombones, the collection of classic Broadway tunes from Dan Zanes and Friends, to one lucky Nugget Island reader.

How to enter: Send an email to matthewdsiden(at)gmail.com with your favorite Dan Zanes’ song in the subject line. One lucky winner will be selected using Randomizer. Hurry! Contest deadline is 11/20/2010 (day of the show).

With Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign putting the spotlight on childhood obesity, it is more relevant than ever to find content for kids that encourages healthy eating, but does so without preaching. That’s where the original interactive web property Fizzy’s Lunch Lab from PBS KIDS GO! fits in.

Visiting Fizzy’s Lunch Lab (PBSKIDSGO.org/lunchlab) allows for a chance to find animated and live-action webisodes, kid-friendly printable recipes, original music, flash games and suggestions for outdoor game concepts. All content is built around the idea of guiding children towards make healthy food selections without forcing or lecturing.

Of course, the heart of Fizzy’s Lunch Lab is the original characters and their unique design. Created by Boston creative group CloudKid, Fizzy’s Lunch Lab stars Professor Fizzy, the absent-minded and humorous host who is always there to educate about nutrition, cooking and good health. Fizzy is joined by a cast of animated personalities that includes his culinary sidekick Mixie-Bot, the official guide to human body, Sully the Cell, the kitchen drill sergeant Corporal Cup and nemesis to all things healthy, Fast Food Freddy. Fizzy’s absent-mindedness, and Freddy’s trouble-making, lead to various misadventures, while human characters like Avril and Henry explore fun facts around healthy food.

Fizzy and the Gang
Fizzy and the Gang

As a parent, you will definitely appreciate the humor and look of this series. It is certainly not preachy and the artwork has a distinctive, edgy sense that takes away any sort of pandering. Humor is the core of this series, which will help the message resonate with the little ones. You can also feel secure knowing CloudKid worked with education advisors Dr. Craig Sussman and Dr. Sharon Shield in building out all content. Make sure you try out some of the delicious recipes, too, developed by veteran cookbook writer Sally Sampson. Finally, there is also a guide for parents and teachers with additional resources and activities to push kids along further in choosing healthy food items.

With season 2 kicking off last week, Fizzy’s Lunch Lab co-creator Dave Schlafman was kind enough to let me throw a few questions at him regarding this original web property. If his name sounds familiar, he is the same creative mastermind behind the Monster Squad illustrations.

Nugget Island: Can you give me a quick idea about the origins of Fizzy? How did this property come to be?

Dave Schlafman: In 2007, Co-creator Evan Sussman and I were working at Soup2Nuts animation studio in Boston. He and I had just co-directed a series of shorts for Between the Lions and we realized that we worked well together. One morning before work, I mentioned to him that I had always been underwhelmed by children’s cook books, and that I wanted to create a cooking show for kids. He told me that his dad (Dr. Craig Sussman) had been trying to work on a live-action nutrition project, but hadn’t made much progress. We saw the need for both ideas, and decided to combine our efforts. Later that week, we met at JP Licks in Boston and created 90% of the characters in one sitting. It’s funny to think about how quickly it all came together. We were offered a development deal from WGBH Boston and ultimately passed to produce a pilot on our own. That pilot ultimately fell into the hands of Linda Simensky at PBS and the rest is history.

FAST FOOD FREDDY
“Bad Guy” Fast Food Freddy

N.I.: What was your creative inspiration for Fizzy and the gang?

D.S.: Evan and I both loved Pee-Wee’s Playhouse as kids, so I would say that format definitely influenced us. Fizzy was first an older man, but we decided to make him a younger, more current host who was both a little geeky and fun at the same time. Overall, we wanted to populate the show with lots of characters (similar to the Muppets) who each had a unique personality and offered something unique to the topic of nutrition and good eats.

N.I.: Did PBS give you any creative direction?

D.S.: PBS has been an amazing organization to work with. We’ve been fortunate to work directly with PBS National, and they have a lot of confidence in their creators and producers. They didn’t have too many changes during development. The main alteration that they suggested was to revamp the personality and design of Mixie-Bot, Fizzy’s sidekick. It was a great suggestion that made her character, design, and purpose more solid. PBS is fairly hands-off, but they review all our content and offer feedback throughout production, which 99% of the time is spot-on.

N.I.: What are the main advantages and disadvantages of working on a web property?

D.S.: The main advantages are that you can take creative risks and you can measure what content is getting the most “clicks.” We’ve been able to experiment with everything from music videos, to printables, to recipe offerings, to interactive games. It enables us to think about the characters and property in a more well-rounded way. It enables the characters to be able to live in a series of different content while staying true to their roles and personalities. If the Lunch Lab is able to grow, it’ll enable us to make the leap to other mediums a lot easier.

Also, being able to measure our audience’s habits has helped us determine what type of content we wanted to focus on for season 2. After season 1, we looked at the site’s stats and determined that the webisodes, music videos, and interactive games were the most popular. We took that information and focused on that particular content. We also decided to sprinkle in some new types of content to “test” for season 2. This is much harder to do on a traditional TV show.

The main disadvantages of working on a web property are twofold: budget and distribution. Budgets are always shrinking, so it’s something every producer is struggling with – especially because websites and games are costly to produce. Working on the web, you’re we’re forced to be really creative with the type of content you release. It’s been interesting (and fun) to see how far we can stretch our budgets and content. No one has really figured out how to monetize web content, so it’s something that web producers will need to deal with for the foreseeable future.

In terms of distribution and marketing, we’re lucky to work with PBS because their web presence is tops in children’s media. But the web is filled with an endless amount of content, video, games, etc. In TV you’re only competing against a handful of other channels (though VOD is changing that), but with a website you have thousands of competitors. That means your content needs to be the very best, so that’s what we try to strive for. If our web content is as good as what you’ll see on TV, kids will be more likely to stick around. So far it’s worked.

N.I.: Obviously childhood obesity is in the spotlight these days because of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. Where do you see Fizzy fitting in there?

D.S.: We’d love to be involved with the “Let’s Move” campaign. Our educational advisor and PhD, Sharon Shields, has been laying the foundation of a possible collaboration with the White House. PBS has also been making some headway, so Evan and I are hopeful that Fizzy will play some role in the coming year. Our fingers are crossed.

N.I.: Any future plans for the ‘Fizzy’ property?

D.S.: The big news for 2011 is that we’re currently producing a series of 30 second spots that will run nationally before and after PBS Kids shows. They’re designed to introduce the ‘Lunch Lab’ cast to the PBS audience and grow the site’s popularity. We also recently released our first iPhone App featuring Corporal Cup and nine original recipes. The app is a cooking-simulation game that’s been getting positive reviews. Finally, we just received the news that Fizzy’s was part of PBS’s “Ready to Learn” grant. We know that we’ll be getting additional funding, but we’re not quite sure what that means. It’s safe to safe Fizzy and company will be around for the foreseeable future, which we’re excited about.