BELLA Family had the pleasure of learning more about Project First America and its founder Tatiana Zakharchenko. Project First America is a multimedia production company specializing in creating original content for preschoolers for digital platforms. Their wildly popular YouTube channel TV Para Niños boasts an impressive 3.41M subscribers, with over 1.6 billion views.
Having lived in three different countries taught founder Tatiana Zakharchenko about the power and importance of diversity in storytelling. A product of Uzbekistan, Russia and now the United States, Tatiana believes that the animation medium presents a unique opportunity to create awe-inspiring worlds without limitations and teach children and families about different cultures.
BELLA Family: Tell us about how TV Para Niños was developed.
I am one of three producers, and our goal was to make parenting easier. We wanted to make that journey more enjoyable for parents and encourage learning at a young age. The first few years for a child’s development are crucial. We wanted to introduce children to new vocabulary and social skills. This project has allowed me to marry all my degrees – linguistics, education, and film and television production.
Prior to launchingTV Para Niños in 2015, I gained seasoned experience in the international TV industry, having produced international adaptations of U.S. and Latin American scripted and non-scripted TV shows, such as Jeopardy!, Law and Order, Criminal Minds, Psych, Tiempo Final.
BELLA Family: You’re fluent in Russian and English, what inspired you to go in the direction of a Spanish language program?
I took Spanish in college. Throughout the United States, Spanish is the most common second language and it’s the second most-spoken language in the world. When TV Para Niños launched I was living in the United States, so it was a no brainer to go this direction.
Growing up in Uzbekistan, my school had a sister school in the United States where the American students would come to our school every year and we interacted with them. Being able to speak a foreign language allowed me to immerse myself in another culture and helped me learn faster and improved my problem-solving skills. Which is why I welcomed the opportunity to produce a Spanish language program. Teachingyour child a second language helps foster conversations about differences, diversity, and will help teach kids acceptance of others and their cultures.
TV Para Niños is a localized version of a Russian YouTube channel. All our shows originated in Russian. I’m in charge of content localizationto the US Market in Spanish, content strategy, content distribution, music production, audience development, brand awareness and brand partnerships.
BELLA Family: How did homeschooling during last year’s quarantine affect your viewership?
Our channel always had a lot of engagement, but we did see a shift in numbers. In February 2020 our viewership was 22 million views per month, and we had 65K subscribers. In March 2020, we gained 34 million views and had 105K subscribers. It was a 54% increase in views and over 60% increase in subscribers. In April it grew to 44 million views and gained another 114K subscribers.
Teachers were always using our channel and we’ve received messages from educators on how they’ve found it very helpful with remote learning.
BELLA Family: I absolutely love the Leo the Truck character. What inspired the show’s characters?
Leo the truck was created as the embodiment of an ideal child. He gets along well with others, makes friends easily, and is the voice of reason in the group. He’s also very kind, solutions-based, likes to build things, and is inquisitive.
By showing how Leo interacts with his friends, little trucks Lea, Lifty and Scoop, we teach important social skills, the skills your child will need to survive and thrive in society, like getting along with other children, taking turns and sticking with difficult tasks.
When we create content for children we need to create characters they want to emulate.
BELLA: And that they connect with and revisit more.
Yes, we also have a character that is inspired by the creator’s daughter based on her personality. She’s very strong willed, wants to get her way, which is a typical 2-year-old. Which is our viewership.
BELLA: Tell us a little more about your viewership.
The majority of our audience is two-year-olds. Kids in preschool under 5. It’s the perfect fit as they are learning and curious about how things are built and made, and they are learning so much about the world. The essence of the show is that every episode the characters build something and solve problems.
Both our young viewers and their parents became enchanted with Leo the Truck series. Parents watch our shows with their children. The episodes are short and perfectly suited for language learning. Our episodes are under 7 minutes.
Thanks to YouTube we have a lot of data. Our top 5 viewership countries are Mexico, Argentina, U.S., Spain, and Columbia. We are watched in 160 countries!
BELLA: What’s next for your production company, Project First America?
Ideally in the long term, we would love to do live shows like musicals for children, we have songs on our channel which are popular. There are books with these characters in Russia but we have not localized them yet to America but that is a goal.
We have an amazing new season coming up with 15 new episodes!
And four of them are about the concept of Harvest.
BELLA: That is perfect for Fall!
Yes, it’s called Harvest A-Z. The episodes are about how to harvest vegetables, why you need to pick vegetables at a certain time, how to store them, what kind of trucks are used to transport them, working as a team, it’s a lot of fun. These will be released on September 29th.
We also have a fantastic Halloween episode! The characters go to a haunted house, the animation is amazing.
BELLA: We can’t wait!
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