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AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — It’s a good time to be a preschooler with TV privileges.
You can watch classics including “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” always worth your attention. And you’re the target audience for shows that take a new approach to helping you grow up while being entertained.
Case in point: Cartoonito, a programming block of ani- mated shows that debuts Monday on Cartoon Network and HBO Max. It was developed with what its producers call “humancentric learning” at is core.
“It really is about leaning into our humanity and helping children be the best humans they can be,” said Laura Brown, an educational psychologist who worked with Warner Bros. on the framework designed for Cartoonito.
Paying attention to the pint-sized crowd is also good business, said Tom Ascheim, Warner Bros. Global presi- dent for kids, young adults and classics.
“Our mission is to become a full-service kids and family brand. To do that, we can’t leave out the youngest viewers who make up half of the kids’ audience,” he said. Families with children also tend to be loyal and steady customers.
For an enterprise whose name conjures up images of lit- tle cartoons, its goals are big indeed. They include cele- brating individuality and originality and fostering creativi- ty, compassion and inclusion.
Among the new fare is “Little Ellen,” which follows the adventures of a 7-year-old, risk-taking Ellen DeGeneres in her native New Orleans. The stated goal, aka the vegetable part of the meal: Help children learn to manage their emo- tions and be resilient and optimistic.
“Little Ellen” will be on Cartoonito on HBO Max, along with the season-two debut of “The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo,” projects with bestselling children’s book author Mo Willems, and new and library seasons of “Sesame Street.”
Sesame Workshop, the maker of “Sesame Street,” signed a five-year deal with HBO Max in late 2019. The series that launched on public TV is still available on PBS and PBS.org, with new episodes airing on a delayed basis after debuting on HBO Max.
On Cartoon Network, the Cartoonito block will air week- days from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT and in a two-hour seg- ment on weekends starting at 6 a.m. EDT. The lineup includes “Mush-Mush & The Mushables,” about tiny guardians of the forest, and “Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go.”
The approach underlying Cartoonito is based on modern tenets of psychology and education, Brown said, with the latter emphasizing “higher order skills” including collabo- ration and critical thinking, as opposed to rote learning of information.
Parents and caregivers, please note there’s homework for you. With “Little Ellen,” for example, a psychologist devised games to be played with children to develop the skills, such as emotion management, depicted in the show.