13 NOV 2023

Helen Howells: "Storytelling is a priority when developing and producing programmes for kids"

The joint Managing Director at the company details the main IP's they have launched to the global market and that can resonate in Latin American audiences.

13 NOV 2023

Helen Howells

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Hoho Entertainment is a children’s production and rights management company co-founded in January 2011 by Oliver Ellis and Helen Howells. She spoke exclusively with Señal News about their original IP's that can appeal Latin kids and families.

Hoho Entertainment has more than 10 years of trajectory. How would you analyse the evolution of the animation sector since you started the business to today?
"Oliver and I originally set up Hoho Entertainment in order to produce our first pre-animated series 'Cloudbabies' ('Cielitos') which was commissioned by the BBC in the UK. Over a decade later and our first production is still our top performing IP globally and continues to be an evergreen for us. There’s no doubt that the children’s content industry has become more and more challenging, and in some ways we are fortunate that we mainly concentrate on animation series which is much easier to export internationally. Our second animated series, ‘Shane the Chef’ ('Shane el Chef') took several years to fund, but we got there and again this IP is currently growing significantly for us internationally, and we recently finished production on our third production, ‘Toad & Friends’ ('Sapo y Sus Amigos') a beautiful adaptation of the classic novel 'The Wind in the Willow' by Kenneth Grahame. The three IP's are available in Latin American Spanish. It’s certainly not been without its challenges, but our mantra is 'Passion, Perseverance and Persistence'. Perseverance can fuel persistence as we stay committed to our goals and keep trying even when times are difficult. COVID played a huge part in the evolution of Hoho’s digital content business and pushed us into developing a digital content strategy that we have been growing since 2020. We currently run four official YouTube Channels, three for 'Cloudbabies' in English, Spanish and German and one for 'Shane the Chef in English'. We’ve also developed our own E-Commerce business for 'Cloudbabies' in the UK with plans to expand into the USA next year and we’re soon to launch our own proprietary VOD service 'Bubblebox' which is intended to be a safe and ad free space for pre-schoolers to watch a carefully curated selection of the programmes we produce and distribute."

What are the main challenges you face when you tell stories to nowadays children?
"There’s no doubt that storytelling is still a priority when developing and producing programmes for children, it certainly is for us. But there’s much more to it than that. Kids need to engage with characters and feel like they really are their friends in order for them to remain faithful. YouTube has taught us a lot about how our audience interacts with our brands and by implementing what we’ve learnt we’ve been able to keep growing our channel and our viewership. 'Cloudbabies' being the main case in point. We now know that bedtime and bedtime routine is the key USP of Cloudbabies so we focus our content and editing around bedtime and bedtime stories. This also informs our decisions when it comes to developing and producing products for our fans. We’re currently in the process of publishing four brand-new bedtime story books this year with more planned for 2024."

Your IP "Cielitos" is very popular in Latin America. How could you explain this success?
"We can never truly know what’s behind the success of a series like ‘Cloudbabies’ but given the fact that the English Channel was performing so well for us, especially in the USA, dubbing into Latin American Spanish and launching a Spanish language channel felt like a natural next step for Hoho. ‘Cielitos Oficial’ is experiencing significant month on month growth with Mexico, Argentina and Spain currently our top territories for the Spanish language channel, quickly followed by Colombia, Chile and Peru."

What other projects can resonate in the region?
"I think 'Shane the Chef' will definitely resonate with children and parents in the region. What parent today doesn’t want their kids to understand where food comes from and the importance of healthy eating? We’ve already sold the series to Vix and we’re hoping to place with other regional broadcasters soon. Likewise, I think that 'Toad & Friends' will strike a chord, kids will fall in love with the characters and they’ll laugh out loud with their new found friends. The series is very much about friendship and of course, the great outdoors. So, while we want kids to watch the series we hope they’ll also be inspired to get outside and enjoy the beautiful world around them. In addition to this we are also co-developing a pre-school series based on the heritage brand 'Juana La Iguana' with creator Tania Gilinski. Juana is guide and mentor to two children, Amazonas and Miguel as she shows them around Estrella, her secret home island and a microcosm of the wonders of Latin America. The series aims to engage and entertain pre-school audiences globally whilst drawing on the richness of Latin American culture, wildlife and natural beauty. It is a landscape and culture which has been long-overlooked in pre-school television and offers an inspiring and unique perspective for young children to celebrate and enjoy while learning the value of kindness. We really hope that this project will resonate with potential broadcasters and other partners in the region."

‘Cielitos Oficial’ is experiencing significant month on month growth with Mexico, Argentina and Spain currently our top territories for the Spanish language channel, quickly followed by Colombia, Chile and Peru.” Helen Howells Managing Director