The scene on Christmas morning is familiar. The gifts have been opened, wrapping paper is still scattered around the living room--and the children have planted themselves in front of the TV set. On holidays past, such behavior was a sure dampener for the Christmas spirit. This year, however, it will more likely be a sign that the presents are a hit where it counts: on the TV screen.
Videocassettes for children are shaping up to be some of this season's hottest stocking stuffers. Among the stars are such old friends as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Pinocchio (the classic Walt Disney movie is currently the top- selling children's cassette). But more recent favorites--from movies, TV and toy stores--include Rainbow Brite, the Care Bears, My Little Pony and the Transformers. Kidvid now accounts for 15% of the total home-video business, according to some industry estimates. Moreover, with their relatively low prices (typically between $10 and $40), children's tapes are usually bought rather than rented. Unlike adults, who generally view a movie only once and return it to the store, children tend to watch their favorites over and over again.
More than 2,200 children's tapes are now on the market, and the inventory is expanding at a breakneck pace. While the vast majority are rereleases of popular movies or TV shows, a small but growing array of original fare is being produced. Much of it is aimed at preschool-age children, who are largely ignored by mass-audience TV. The publishers of Golden Books have begun releasing video versions of their children's stories on 30-minute cassettes. Toys-R-Us, the nationwide toy chain, is now selling the Geoffrey Alphabet Video, which features National Geographic animal footage and original songs by Elizabeth Swados. Preschoolers can exercise and play along with Gymboree, an interactive cassette from Scholastic-Lorimar Home Video. Harried mothers can enliven a youngster's birthday celebration with Rainbow Brite's It's Your Birthday Party, a 45-minute tape that enlists partygoers in various games and activities.
More is on the way. The Children's Television Workshop is producing six educational cassettes featuring Big Bird and other popular Sesame Street characters. Such children's TV personalities as the Messrs. Wizard and Rogers will soon be appearing on cassettes. The networks are also getting into the act. ABC is putting 50 of its critically praised Weekend Specials on cassette and is contemplating the production of original shows for home video as well. Says ABC Vice President Squire Rushnell: "There's a greater consciousness now that in producing programming for children, we have to stop and think: How will this look in a package on the shelf?"