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Netflix Just Released New Kids' Features That Are Game-Changing for Parents

Jenn is perhaps best known as the author of the popular parenting blog Breed ‘Em and Weep (2005-2012). She’s written for many magazines, newspapers and websites, including Brain, Child Magazine, Literary Mama, and The Boston Globe. Jenn’...

Choose-your-own-adventure TV? Netflix, we're all ears!

What if your kids could choose where their favorite TV storylines go?

Netflix's latest product innovation is choose-your-adventure-style, branching narratives for children's programming.

Intrigued? We sure are. Here's how it works...

Your family snuggles up to watch Puss in Boots... and laughs as Puss in Boots suddenly finds himself in the another story: Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Will the bears be buddies with Puss... or enemies?

You (or rather, your kids) get to choose. Yes, really! The story's arc is guided by the viewer, who nudges the story in the direction he or she wants it to go.

More: 10 kids' TV shows that parents love too

Carla Engelbrecht Fisher, director of product innovation at Netflix, explained in a press release: "Content creators have a desire to tell non-linear stories like these, and Netflix provides the freedom to roam, try new things and do their best work. Being an internet-based company enables us to innovate new formats, deliver at scale to millions of members all over the world on multiple device types and, most importantly, learn from it."

Right now, the interactive offerings are Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale and Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile. Puss and Buddy are helped along by impressive creators: DreamWorks Animation Television, American Greetings Entertainment and Stoopid Buddy Stoodios. This is pretty cool stuff!

The objective of the branching narratives is "to bring something completely new to Netflix that pushes the boundaries of storytelling and the way you engage with it," says Engelbrecht Fisher.

"We’ve done extensive research and talked to lots of kids and parents, collecting qualitative data to better understand if this is something viewers will like. While we’ve gotten positive feedback (for example, parents like the fact their child has the ability to make decisions and take a seat in the director’s chair, if you will), we’re eager to learn how our members will engage with the experience," she said.
So which storylines and choices would be the most popular in your house? Mean bears vs. friendly bears? Will your kids want to try to uncover all the various possibilities and storylines? (We're betting ours would.)
What prompted Netflix to take this risk and choose a new adventure for kids' programming?
"The children’s programming space was a natural place for us to start since kids are eager to 'play' with their favorite characters and already inclined to tap, touch and swipe at screens," Engelbrecht Fisher said. "They also talk to their screens, as though the characters can hear them. Now, that conversation can be two-way. It’s really about finding the right stories — and storytellers — that can tell these complex narratives and bring them to life in a compelling way."
We know your next question is "when?" Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale goes live worldwide today, June 20. Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile will be close on its heels on July 14.
A third narrative, Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout, is planned for a 2018 release. If you're wondering how it works, these new titles will be available on TV and iOS devices.
It will be interesting to see if kids welcome the chance to choose the direction of their favorite stories... or if this will be more a case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
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