It's important to include kids in any discussion of sustainability. They're the best messengers we have to reach the mainstream. They're highly aware of climate change. And they're interested in doing something to help.
The research shows that kids are spending more time than ever absorbing entertainment and games online. That may not be every parent's ideal, but it's the reality. But when we looked at what’s reaching them, the news is not always good. So called edutainment, unfortunately, has not been as effective as entertainment at capturing the eyes of kids. Educational websites from NASA and the EPA make a noble effort, but kids gravitate toward TV shows such as Sponge Bob and Power Rangers--TV shows that entertain first, and educate second, if at all.
In other words, effective content has to focus on story and characters first, with the eco-friendly message simply part of the show.
The cast of Vision Tales characters, designed by Jay Piscopo, creator of the family-friendly Captain Eli series of graphic novels, has been developed in a purposely Old School TV sitcom style.
"Kids and parents both are craving the chance to be optimistic about solving the big problems ahead of us,” says Piscopo. “What I think is cool about this story, like the house at Epcot®, is that the family is slightly futuristic, but not dystopian. And they could be living next door to you right now. That's because we're now living in the future. We ARE the Jetsons!"
The Vision Tales gang includes idealized, cartoon versions of the Monteverde family that lives in a VISION House®, a pair of love-struck fish flung together by a near-death experience with plastic ocean debris, a frog with chemical sensitivity who wears a wetsuit, and a retired Cold War toy eagle who has devoted his life to reusing old things--"beating guns into garden shovels," he says.
All of the characters have all been affected in some way by the human presence on the planet, and in the process they’ve become passionate environmental advocates.
The world of Vision Tales carries the real-world VISION House® series to a higher level. In the Vision Tales back yard (in the town of Greenville, naturally), there’s no limit to the budget. The family has installed a vertical wind turbine, a tree with solar panels for leaves, a natural swimming pool that requires no chlorine, permaculture and raised bed gardens, and more. There's little lawn to be seen, with the exception of some clover ground cover.
Of course, this is an animated world. It’s easy to do things right. Why offer anything less than an idealized view of green living? if a better idea comes along, we can get out the digital eraser and make a few changes, without a demolition team. That's freedom we’ve never had with our VISION House® series of homes.
"When you look at other animated families, like the Simpsons, they're yellow," Piscopo notes. "They're drawn from a palette with a lot of yellow colors, and that's fitting. They're not doing anything for environment--if anything they're being harmful--that's part of the satire. The Vision Tales gang is a little more real, and a lot more green. They make you feel like something good is happening.”
Green Builder Media has already outlined the first six animated episodes of Vision Tales, and plans to start producing them this summer, releasing about one per month. They will feature short episodes at first, under 10 minutes, with plans to eventually expand to fill a standard half-hour TV slot.
To visit the online kids website where Vision Tales will be based, go to visionhousegreen.com/kids
To view this article as it appears in our May 2012 issue, with additional screen shots of the VISION Tales Website, please visit our Magazine Archive.