• A new health-concious TV trend takes kids from plump to pumped

    Written by Simon Ashdown
    KidScreen June 2003

    While children's fitness may just now be shaping up as the issue du jour in North America, Reykjavic, Iceland's LazyTown keyed into its importance 11 years ago. Founded by fitness guru and lecturer Magnus Scheving, the LazyTown concept launched in 1992 with a mandate to improve health of children. Since then, the multi-million dollar icelandic francise has grown to encompass books, board games, videos, CDs, a radio station, theatrical productions, and even its own line of fruits and vegetables.

    Scheving, a three time gold medalist in the European Fitness Championship, is now focused on using TV to export the LazyTown philosofy worldwide. With the help of industry vets Norman Stiles (ex-Sesame Workshop) and Evan Baily (ex-Nick), he has developed a LazyTown series pilot and is in negotiations with U.S. and European networks. The live-action/puppet series (26 to 40 half hours) will center on a group of kids who would spend all their time eating sweets and watching TV if given the chance. Superhero Sportacus and the new kid Stephanie (who doesn't buy into their sloth and gluttony) try to get the lazybones to be more active and eat right, but their efforts are undermined by villain Robbie Rotten.

    Though LazyTown is not designed to be an "exercise" show per se, Scheving says testing has proven that the quick pace of the series, which he describes as Moulin Rouge meets James Bond, inspires kids to get up and role-play once it's over.

    Despite LazyTown's succes in Iceland, some pundits might wonder whether good-for-you TV can work in a nation where super-sizing one's fast-food order has almost become a constitutional right. But Scheving, who studied verious TV markets before developing the pilot, says the only reason health-oriented series haven't worked to date has been a lack of caring on the part of producers.

    "Why isn't it possible", asks Scheving, "to have a business and really care at the same time? I want to look back and say that I did something good."

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