When the multimedia maven Sarah Lefton began developing a video series for Jews, her first focus was on Jewish ritual. Now, she has her sights on more fun-filled entertainment for the family with the animated show Shaboom!
Shaboom! released its first episode on April 6 on the nonprofit website BimBam — formerly G-dcast.com. Episodes will appear weekly through May 4, and will return with five new episodes beginning Sept. 7 in time for the High Holy Days.
“The most wonderful aspect of Shaboom! is working with illustration, and with special effects,” Lefton says. “This show has been in the making for two years. It started with a question: how can we be looking forward, and focus on the families of young children?”
Shaboom! features two fanciful children, Gabi and Rafael — “named after angel-lore — whose mission is to repair the world. The series is built from themes aimed at teaching kids moral life lessons — all from a non-religious Jewish perspective,” Lefton says. The show is written by kids’ TV veteran Richard Pincombe.
“We hired a research firm to help us shape our development work,” Lefton explains. “We did two rounds of focused research — the first on our story and the second on our pilot.”
The research “helped the producers track how the show influenced children and their parents, and how successfully Shaboom! is in delivering its learning objectives,” she says.
“Research shows that our pilot does in fact teach children about the Jewish value of welcoming, and we’re especially pleased to see that it shows parents value both the values [aspect of] education and Hebrew learning very highly —even [for] parents who are not…Jewishly well educated,” she adds.
The short episodes include loopy musical interludes and a sprinkling of fantasy. A two-minute segment follows for parents. It deals with the particular episode’s theme, such as the importance of gratitude (hakarat hatov), courage of the heart (ometz lev) and saying I’m sorry (slicha). “These two-minute shorts give parents clear information about why the value is Jewish, and how to model it at home,” says Lefton, a recipient of the 2012 Pomegranate Prize for exceptional young Jewish educators. She also received the Joshua Venture Group fellowship for Jewish social entrepreneurs.
Young viewers will encounter everyday challenges, such as siblings having trouble sharing a favorite toy, or a family struggling to keep the house tidy. An episode will “playfully show how there’s a Jewish idea that can be helpful. Through the use of silly songs, magical storylines and very old Jewish wisdom, the challenges get resolved and the family celebrates a Shabbat dinner together,” Lefton says.
Last month, G-dcast.com, which Lefton founded a few years ago, announced that it will begin introducing itself as BimBam. “We knew a year ago that we would need to spin off a new web site for kids and family material,” the statement reads on www.bimbam.com.
G-dcast.com created videos and apps for learning Jewish basics, such as Torah readings. The BimBam site will archive the G-dcast material.