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HOW IMAGE MAKERS SHAPE KIDS' TV : Q5 Firm Advises ABC on the Look and Style of Cartoon Shows; Some Writers Call It Intrusion

September 03, 1987|DIANE HAITHMAN | Times Staff Writer

And not everyone on the creative side believes that product and target are dirty words.

Along with Menville and Janson, Sheryl Scarborough, a story editor for "Little Clowns of Happytown," found Q5 helpful and willing to incorporate suggestions from the writers into their own recommendations.

Tom Ruger, a story editor on Hanna Barbera's "Pound Puppies" for ABC, called the Q5 report on his show "enlightening," since last year's efforts to attract kids with "wall-to-wall comedy" had failed.

"We were very good at being hip and flip and funny last year," he said. "But that can undercut the sincerity--that's what Q5 hooked me into. When a kid watches our show, he's going to get a laugh, but he's also going to get a sincere emotional mission which I think was lacking in the past."

Karl Guers, a producer/director for Walt Disney TV animation, currently developing a "Winnie the Pooh" series for ABC's 1988-89 season, also reported a profitable relationship with Q5.

Margaret Loesch, president and chief executive officer of Marvel Productions, said that Q5, which the company hired independently of ABC, helped clarify concepts and solve character problems for their syndicated "Defenders of the Earth" series, based on comic-book characters from King Features.

In the original version, Flash Gordon had a daughter and the Phantom had a son; Q5 suggested they give Flash Gordon the son and the Phantom the daughter, on the theory that children would be more accepting of Flash, the hero, having an offspring of the same sex, and of Phantom, the "more feline" character, having a daughter.

"I was impressed," Loesch said. "We really needed someone from the outside with a fresh perspective, and they were very, very good."

Q5 executives explain that their role is not to dictate or formularize, but to provide information about the target audience that writers can use to become more, rather than less, creative. Their recommendations, they say, are complex and wide-ranging rather than specific or narrow, and encourage writers to include sophisticated material or humor that might appeal to older target audiences, provided that younger ones can still understand and relate to the story.

"What we're here to provide our clients is an increased probability of success, if they're willing to do their homework and utilize this wonderful resource," Q5's Heinz said. "If you want to do it on gut, fine. If you want to do it on gut plus knowledge, there's another option."

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