When it comes to Mike Young Productions, it’s hard to tell who’s having the most fun: the studio’s millions of young fans around the world or the studio’s allegedly grown-up creators and producers which now number over 100.
Meet Mike and Liz Young, founders of one of the most successful and prolific independent animation studios in the world. In an 18,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art digital facility, they produce a host of beloved programs, known as much for their intelligence and wit as their superb quality. It’s a roster any studio would envy – six current TV hits on multiple networks; ToddWorld on TLC and Discovery Kids; Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks for PBS KIDS and Scholastic’s Clifford the Big Red Dog and Clifford’s Puppy Days also for PBS KIDS and Cartoon Network’s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. The studio’s newest smash series, Pet Alien, debuted on Cartoon Network in January 2005.
Mike says that writing for children today is more challenging and exciting than ever. “Kids today are massively literate. Their sophistication allows us to create humor that works on multiple levels and extends across all age groups.”
The story of how Mike and Liz began is the stuff of animation legend. It was in their native Wales back in 1978 when they were having a bit of a problem with their then four-year old son Richard, who was afraid of the dark. To give his son a sense of security, Mike invented a crime-fighting teddy bear named Super Ted, and told him stories about Ted every night. One day, some weeks later, Richard’s kindergarten teacher asked Mike where she could obtain that marvelous book Richard keeps talking about. The light bulb went on. Cut to Mike writing frantically, pitching dozens of publishers, and finally, having Super Ted published. What resulted was a cultural phenomenon.
SuperTed and his adventures soon became popular, not only in Young’s own household, but in millions of homes throughout the UK and Europe. It worked out pretty well for Richard, too. Today, he’s head of post-production for the studio.
Shortly after Disney bought the rights to SuperTed, the Young’s moved their family and business to Los Angeles where they founded Mike Young Productions. That was about 13 years ago. Today, in addition to their Los Angeles studio, they also have an international production and distribution office in Cardiff, Wales, and a new business unit, Taffy Entertainment, dedicated to the rights management and worldwide distribution of the studio’s as well as acquired properties.
Mike takes special pride in the loving care that goes into every TV program they produce, and extends to all facets of their business. “We personally answer every single letter that children write us,” Mike beams. “With our website (www.mikeyoungproductions.com) getting over a million hits a day, it’s no small feat. But we love it!”
Mike and Liz have been First Entertainment members for about 3 years. Mike tells us, “We opened the account because we wanted a separate account for business. Of course, now our personal accounts are there as well. They understand the industry and how we function, which makes everything, even the simple act of depositing a check, a lot easier. I couldn’t imagine doing our banking anywhere else.” (For someone with Mike’s imagination to say that, it’s quite a compliment.)
What does the future hold for this remarkable studio? “Unfettered forms of distribution, like mobile, wireless and the Internet, will allow us to personalize our programming like never before,” Mike explains, “And the results will be pure magic.”
We’ll be watching. Us, and millions of kids.