PRIX JEUNESSE Preselection 2024

The PRIX JEUNESSE 2024 Preselection Report

In mid-January, nine leading experts on children’s media came together in Munich to discuss and judge what entries will make it to the final round of competition. 406 programmes from 51 countries were submitted for the main TV categories. At the end of the preselection week, 84 shows from 31 countries were selected to compete for the prestigious awards.

Below please find reports of jury members on each category. These reports will give you an insight what challenges our jurors were facing during the 6 days of watching, discussing, and reflecting on the wonderful submissions we have received from all over the world.

by Kez Margrie, Commissioning Editor for BBC Children’s unscripted content 7+, United Kingdom

It was a privilege to be on this jury to spend time watching content from around the world that is serving this increasingly hard to reach demographic.

It’s a global truth that more traditional broadcast media are finding it harder than ever to reach children and young people who are spending more and more time on social media. Much of the content submitted, reflected that behaviour in some way or other.

It’s worth checking out the Media Bar as you’ll see several titles that do this but didn’t make it through to the finals.

We saw sad content, loud content, provocative content, and some beautiful content in this category, although it was noticeable that there weren’t as many entries that really surprised us with their innovation and excellence. This provoked a lot of discussion between us about why. Is it the lack of funds to develop and research? Is it that broadcasters are less up for taking risks when their audience has so much choice at their fingertips?

There was a lot of very serious content submitted too. At a time when the world is a very scary place, with much chatter on social media about impending disaster, it’s very easy for children and young people to slide into despair about their future. Surely one of the roles of children’s media is therefore to provide some relief. We were surprised by how few entries we received that were funny. Not only is comedy a great way to engage young people in issues, but it can also be a great relief from stress. We hope those entries with humour we did put through to the finals, make you chuckle – we all need a laugh every now and again!

Perhaps the reason producers aren’t submitting comedy to the Prix Jeunesse is because they are aware that humour doesn’t always travel well?

It was noticeable how many submissions had gender identity at their centre. Without exception, it was all very celebratory, which in many ways was a joy – but did leave us wondering if there was room for a little more nuance in some of the story telling. We put 2 pieces through to the final which we hope will be discussion starters. While very different from each other, both feel very relevant to what young people are talking about.

There were some beautifully simple productions that confidently used the medium of long form TV to tell stories in moving and engaging ways. These stood out as they didn’t use any kind of social media graphics or behaviours – just great stories told by young people to young people.

Sometimes that is enough, and we were impressed by the confidence they portrayed.

We also saw some wonderful programmes that made great use of the fact that kids are experts in self-shooting and this gave the stories some lovely authenticity.

We’re sure you will question some of the jury’s choices, perhaps you will be curious as to why something did or didn’t make it through to the finals. Either way, we can assure you that every piece was discussed in great detail and we had deep respect for the producers who had put so much into making the content they submitted – thank you!

We do hope you enjoy the selection – vote wisely and with compassion!

Kez, Jan & Matthias

by David Kleeman, Senior VP of Global Trends for Dubit, USA

The tween-into-teen audience can be difficult to reach. Especially post-pandemic, they’re eager for the new adventures of adolescence, but many also keep a “toe” planted in the comfort and simplicity of childhood. Given their varied pace of development, as well, some 11-15 year-olds are ready for challenging themes while others are still choosing more innocent fare. We certainly saw the full spectrum in this category.

The genre in which a group of teens work together to solve a mystery/crime/problem is alive and well, with examples submitted from Germany, the UK, Colombia, Slovenia and others. This is a strong option for this age group, as it offers viewers a choice of characters with whom to identify. It can be intense or not, depending on the culture and intended audience. The challenges, clues and solutions need to be believable, though, and there has to be some element that makes it unique from the general-audience “procedurals,” or the audience will simply prefer to watch those.

Music is critical to emerging teens – it’s at this age that music becomes an important element in their self-representation. From K-pop to girl groups to punk to musicals, we saw shows that revolved around bands and songs. This is another effective means of featuring multiple and diverse characters. Even when music wasn’t the theme, the background or ambient music was often well-selected, supporting the program’s realism for viewers.

On a similar note, we watched a number of programs that attempted to integrate current social media platforms – TikTok, YouTube, Snap and other messaging, for example. Some went too far, making it so prominent in the story that it overwhelmed the actors. Each of these platforms has a unique purpose for teens, and authenticity is key. Young people recognize quickly what doesn’t belong, or what’s – to use a popular bit of slang – “tryhard,” so caution or Gen Z or Gen Alpha advice is important.

With full respect to those who help introduce this age group to the challenges ahead – bullying, sex, substance use, racism, career choices and more – tweens and teens want and need to laugh. We wished that we had seen more comedies, or at least use of humor to lighten tough stories.

Despite dire predictions, the 11-15 audience still watches television. Yes, they love TikTok, YouTube, games and social media, but they still have time, space and love for great stories, if we allow the time, care and funding to produce them.

by Marney Malabar, Creator of educational content for children, Canada

There were 84 entries from 30 countries in the 7-10 Non-Fiction category providing the jury a diverse selection of programs to watch and discuss during the pre-selection week. Program formats encompass live action, documentary, magazine format, as well as 2D and 3D animations all created from a small, medium or large budgets. The festival theme, “For us, No planet B!” was reflected in the numerous entries where creators looked to tackle issues about the environment, global warming, and climate change. Programs from around the world profiled children who were actively engaged in initiatives to protect and save their world. Children and youth were encouraged to speak out, take action, seek ways to minimize their eco footprint, eat less meat and create costumes and fashion from pre-loved clothes. The jury felt that many of these programs convincingly gave inspiration and hope to the world regardless of their age.

There were numerous shows that explored and explained “Nature” and “Animals” using comedy which the jury found very amusing and refreshing. Comedy as well as music videos were used to help explain the difficult topic of “Child Sexual Abuse”. The jury found it unusual yet also a fresh approach to addressing this important yet sensitive topic. “Divorce” was addressed through a child’s POV, this time the protagonist was the first in their circle of friends to experience divorce leaving the child to navigate all the emotions surrounding the loss of living without her father fulltime and wanting her mom to be happy again. “Families” also remained a strong theme with programs that highlighted intergenerational relationships between a grandmother and granddaughter in Argentina; a father and son from Croatia out on a day hike; two Taiwanese brothers who compete against each other in wrestling competitions; and two best friends who lean in on their emotional intelligence and past hiking skills to independently hike up a mountain in Taiwan.

Shows that celebrate diversity and inclusion are shining bright this year. Most programs seemed to be fully inclusive of cultural diversity on screen. There seems to be new acceptance to include presenters/hosts who might be presenting from a wheelchair or blind or who might be deaf needing a sign language interpreter so the viewer can understand what’s being said. It was refreshing for the jury to watch numerous programs with diverse casting and where the on-camera host never mentions their disabilities, they present just like any other host. Hosts who are deaf freely use sign language; blind host deliver scenes from an imaginary boat on greenscreen while a blind protagonist tells their story from home in a rural community. The inclusion of blind and deaf performers reinforces the ideology that these programs were truly made for everyone and that makes them truly amazing. The jury also noticed a trend where many programs have a sign language interpreter as part of the program, the interpreter isn’t in a small corner box but rather is almost the same size as the content being signed and even interacts with the program.

The technological programs were also on trend. There were numerous programs that had robots and AI characters tackling issues around technology. The program that the jury found the most unique was a program that blended use of the hands-on AI by students while integrating the creative benefits of the choices they made after working with AI. Through unique narrated storytelling techniques, the audience watches children interacting and brainstorming with AI technology, the students learn how AI generated work can augment and enhance their own artwork all while hoping Santa’s newly designed sled is fixed in time to deliver presents around the world. Super fun, innovative storytelling that teaches the positive side of AI technology!

Although the jury spent many hours screening and discussing the 7-10 Non-Fiction entries our time was well spent happily reflecting on the fun, joy, bravery, and innovation so many content creators used to create such interesting programs from around the world. Unfortunately, only 18 out of 84 entries made it to the finals. It tore our hearts out to make these final decisions, but you can watch many of the shows mentioned above at the media bar. There will be plenty of wonderful, inspiring, unique with high quality programs for you to discover at any time during the festival.

by Nils Stokke, Founder & CEO of Spark, Norway

This year, the 7-10 fiction category saw 80+ entries. While this is down from 2022, it is higher than in 2020. As always, the category saw a mix of animation and live action, episodes and one-offs, ranging from five to sixty minutes.

The overall impression of the category this year was that it had fewer truly great shows compared to previous years. Yes, the finalists are all well deserved, but we felt there was further between the worthy Prix Jeunesse finalists this year than in previous years.

One reason might be a shift of content towards the 11-15 category. Often, the tweens series can fit in either category. It might also have to do with the pandemic. Or maybe it is just a coincidence. This year also saw fewer entries than normal from Australia, the Nordics, and The Netherlands, all countries and regions that normally submit great content for this age group.

When watching the entries, there were several reoccurring discussion topics among the preselectors.

We were always pleased to see programs where the creators have gone the extra mile to create something extraordinary. Yes, it helps to have a big budget, but sometimes it is enough being really dedicated and knowledgeable. We strongly urge producers to keep this in mind. If you bring together a team that loves the target group, that has experience and insight, and you let them explore the idea together, the result will always shine.

We saw quite a few shows where we were left with a feeling that the writers or directors were more focused telling their own personal story instead of researching what the audience is interested in. We sometimes commented ‘First go to therapy, then produce the show. Don’t use the show as your own therapy’.

There were many shows dealing with climate issues. Some were entered because of this year’s festival theme, but the trend also mirror the world the audience live in. Some of the programs dealt with the topic on a micro level, while others explored the big picture. It is challenging to cover this topic while still be empowering and encouraging to the kids. We have picked some great examples to be in the finals, and we really encourage to check out other programs in the media bar.

We were overall pleasantly surprised with the amount of strong girls and women in leading roles. And importantly, this did not happen at the expense of the boys.

We were pleased to see that in most stories, the protagonist’s challenges did not spin out from their parents. In many programs, kids had a good relationship with their parents, and the struggles they faced came from other aspects of their lives. Another trend this year was a large amount of single parents in the programs. Almost without exception, the kid and the parent had a healthy relationship.

We often ended up discussing various degrees of story complexity in the programs. The complexity of the theme does not necessarily imply a complex story line. On the contrary, sometimes simplicity and clarity brings more understanding and depth in connection with difficult topics. 

There were many examples of shows where the producers have used the entire tool box to attract the audience. We saw several shows with fast cutting, a lot of graphics, various use of text messaging on screen, split screens, etc. This is fine if it strengthens and clarifies the story. But sometimes we wondered if it was used just because ‘this is what the kids like’. We noted several shows with a rather slow pace and limited graphics that worked really well.

We often hear ‘kids are used to short clips on social media, so the TV series must be short as well’. We found many examples of the opposite to be true. If your story and storytelling is engaging, the audience will keep watching, no matter how long your episode is.

If you have time in May, please take some time and explore more great shows in the Media bar!

by Marney Malabar, Creator of educational content for children, Canada

The category “Up to 6 Non-Fiction” showcased a rich array of submissions with 2024 Prix Jeunesse Pre-Selection evaluating 38 programs from 29 different countries. The diversity of genre and storytelling techniques in this category are broad as creators from around the world attempted to push boundaries to engage the youngest audience. Submissions covered a spectrum of formats, from traditional hosted studio programs to documentaries highlighting real life stories, CGI animated episodes and/or 2D animated factoids, plus magazine format programs with puppets and/or animated hosts. Notably, the inclusion of children of all ages in almost every program delighted the jury, with adults having a limited onscreen presence. A unique addition this year was a submission in the game show format, a game show hosted by a puppet with 3-year-old contestants!

The differences in child development between a 2–4-year-old and a 4–6-year-old always presents a challenge for judging the category of Non-Fiction Up to 6, fortunately most submissions appealed to all children. Content creators employed various strategies, including simple real-life references, narrators guiding the story, direct host-to-camera interactions, playful puppets and mascots, bright colours and engaging music ensuring a captivating experience for all ages.

Animals continue to be of universal appeal for preschoolers, with creators from Czech Republic, Cuba, Taiwan, Norway, China, and the UK finding unique ways to feature rescue dogs, service dogs, zoo animals and farm animals to engage and edutain children. Another consistent trend seemed to be the inclusion of a Quiz question at the top of the program to be answered at the end of the show. This emerged as a consistent trend across multiple submissions. We saw quizzes used in various stylized ways in multiple programs from numerous countries.

As noted in the Non-Fiction 7-11 category report there seems to be a trend towards preschool programs moving beyond representing “diversity and inclusion” through cultural and/or physical differences to now including both hearing and vision impairments. Several programs incorporated sign language either through the protagonist or with on screen adults officially signing the program. Vision impairment was addressed with the use of both real life and animated characters, shedding light on the challenges of navigating the world without sight. The jury expressed surprised that, while the inclusion of deaf and blind storytellers enriched a preschooler’s understanding of acceptance and inclusion, there appeared to be a shortage of programs that incorporated individuals using wheelchairs or walkers. This imbalance felt like taking two steps forward and one step backwards. 

Canada was the only country to submit preschool programs with Trans or Gender-Neutral hosts. The jury expressed hoped for this inclusivity to become more mainstream internationally. However, they also emphasized the importance of not overwhelming preschoolers with too many complex issues in a single program. Canada also stood out as the only country addressing the complexity of Indigenous storytelling. The jury felt while the animated storytelling achieved its objectives, the hosted sections with elders and children were deemed to fall short. Australia attempted to present content for neurodiverse children in a unique way that boldly tried new ways to connect with children.  The overall health of preschoolers remains central and important. Chile focused on the importance of teeth brushing by creating a studio-based program hosted by two young hosts and an AI animated Dog while Italy created content that attempted to ensure preschoolers understood home safety tips in the bathroom to help them stay safe at home.

While only a few pre-school programs directly address the Prix Jeunesse theme “No Planet B for Us!”, the jury recognized that pre-school content often tackles environmental and climate change topics in smaller, age-appropriate ways. Even though words like ‘climate crisis’ were never used themes like trees, plastic waste, making compost and going on nature walks were highlighted as effective ways to engage preschoolers on these critical issues.

In closing, the 2024 Non-Fiction Pre-selection jury felt fortunate to have had so many outstanding programs to review, discuss and reflect on. Our biggest challenge was limiting how many programs could become finalists. We feel the 2024 Non-Fiction 6 and Under chosen Finalists reflects of the diversity of content being created around the world while balancing the various formats used to create non-fiction content for preschoolers. The jury members would like to strongly encourage festival attendees to find time to view programs in the Under 6 Non-Fiction category at the Media Bar, recognizing the numerous treasures that, unfortunately, could not be selected as a finalist.

by Nils Stokke, Founder & CEO of Spark, Norway

The 2-6 fiction category had 80 entries, about the same as previous years. It had an overweight of animated shows, but there were also several great live action shows, clay animation, stop motion, and various puppet shows.

This years’ entries were the strongest in a very long time, probably ever. They were in general very well told and had high production value. The preselectors had many extremely hard discussions and struggled to pick the shows which eventually made it to the finals.

We were very satisfied to see a lot of excellent entries from international streaming platforms. It shows high quality preschool shows aren’t just important to make, they make sense commercially for a VOD platform as well.

Unfortunately, some shows we watched had a lack of consistency. We really encourage producers to spend time on scripts and concept development. Of course, with limited time and budgets, this isn’t always easy. Still, script and early development is the cheapest way to take a show from good to great. With so many good tools easily accessible, there is really no excuse any more not knowing the basics on how to construct a good story.

Far too often, we saw examples of shows where the content just wasn’t correct, or age appropriate. If you want to teach the target group something, you must be accurate. And be careful with content that patronizes the children.

It sometimes might make sense to have adults running a show. However, we often considered shows where the grown-ups were just that, and did not pretend to be a kid to be more engaging for the audience.

In the preschool category, discussions very quickly revolved around the target group. There were several shows where it wasn’t very clear what the specific target group was. We strongly encourage producers to spend time on figuring out what specific age group they aim at, and be consistent on telling the story just to them.

We saw some outstanding shows with an equally high budget. Obviously, it helps having a lot of money. Still, several of the truly great finalists this year didn’t have a high budget, which is encouraging for all of us. You will get a long way just by having a good story, a clear idea of your target group, and well-developed storytelling skills.

As said above, so many of the programs this year were outstanding, and we had to make several truly painful decisions. The Prix Jeunesse festival wants to show high quality programs that are also innovative, spark discussions, and reflect the world. With this in mind, there are several shows in the 2-6 fiction category that definitely deserved to be a finalist but just didn’t make it. We strongly urge everyone to dive into the Media bar to discover these and many others.

PRIX JEUNESSE Preselection 2024
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