Ch. 11 airs first locally-produced kids shows in ages

Evelyn Alumbreros, Tim Kazurinski and Gregory Vasquez in “Moochie Kalala Detectives Club”

Kelli and Estlin Feigley Dreaming Tree Films’ upcoming show has the distinction of being WTTW/11’s only locally-produced children’s series to air among its 12 hours of weekday and 12 hours of weekend shows.

Dreaming Tree’s edutainment “Moochie Kalala Detectives Club,” about two youngsters who set out to uncover scientific truth behind their grandfather’s wild folk stories, will premiere on “WTTW Kids,” Sunday, Jan. 18 at 11 a.m. and encores Saturday at 7 a.m.

In each of the six half-hour episodes the young “science detectives,” 10-year old Mandy (Evelyn Alumbreros) and seven-year old Kyle (Gregory Vasquez) visit one of Chicago’s famous museums and attractions, its scientist, zoologist or architect to investigate the truth of the wild stories their grandpa (Tim Kazurinsky) tells them.

During the last few minutes of the show, six local teachers and their students lead kids through fun, hands-on experiments.

When Kelli Feigley brought the show to Dan Soles, Ch. 11’s SVP/chief content officer, “Detectives Club” was completed, having been funded by private investors. “Dan immediately snapped it up,” says Feigley, who admits she was surprised at the alacrity of the transaction.

“Producers have told me how shocked they were about our sale, because it’s so difficult to sell anything to Ch. 11,” she says.

In a barter exchange for airing the series, Dreaming Tree could receive a national syndication deal for distribution on other PBS stations. The value to their company, “will be the prestige of airing on a PBS station and helping us with in DVDs and download sales.”

The station’s only involvement was “some collaborative tweaking,” she adds.

Lamenting the lack of local programming on public television’s Ch. 11 is TV pioneer Tom Weinberg, whose innovative half hour series “Image Union” aired on Ch. 11 and PBS stations every Saturday night for 30 years.

The “science detectives” at the Field Museum“Ch. 11 in the past 15 years has been reluctant to spend any money on innovative local programming,” says Weinberg who has been strongly advocating for the station to draw fresh which tapes the vast community of Chicago producing talent, and to allocate fixed airtime so viewers can see it.

“What is needed now is for the station to form a partnership with a community producers’ organization, wherein the station would make a dollar commitment to help fund some of the outside shows,” he says.

“Every single one of Ch. 11’s kid shows are initiated from national PBS sources, so airing Dream Tree’s show is a promising direction,” he says.

“WTTW pays a flat annual fee for all PBS programs, so ‘PBS Kids’ provides the station with 12 hours every day for no additional cost.  It is far more economical to show the national programs, almost all them animated productions. 

“But there are hundreds of thousands of Chicago young people who would benefit far more if they were to see themselves on local public television,” Weinberg says.

Estlin Feigley directed and also wrote three of the episodes. Screenwriter Colin Costello wrote two and DP Ricci Pier Reinbold wrote one.  Both are former Chicagoans now working in LA.

Kelli Feigley produced; supervising episode producers were Carla Englos and Ray Rittenberry; casting by Claire Simon; Mike Meyer edited and Robert Aguilar was the sound designer.  Music provided by Greg Curvey and his band, the Luck of Eden Hall.

This spring, Dreaming Tree will host “Moochie Kalala Detectives Club”-themed, in-school science events at Chicagoland schools.

Public schools will receive 1,000 complimentary DVDs of the series, thanks to sponsors complimentary DVDs, is made possible thanks to program sponsors: Whole Foods, NorthShore University HealthSystem, Sylvan Learning and Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas.

See the show trailer here.