"Great minds start little"
|Headquarters||Burbank, California, United States|
'Julie Clark', Founder 'Susan McLain', Manager 'Nadeem Zaidi', Graphics
|Parent||The Walt Disney Company|
Baby Einstein is a line of multimedia products and toys that specialize in interactive activities for preschool viewers aged 4 years old and younger. Subjects music, art, language, science, and mathematics are prominently explored. These products are currently made by a division of the Walt Disney Company, marketed under the slogan, "Great minds start little". The Baby Einstein Company pays a significant amount of money to Corbis, on behalf of the estate of renowned physicist Albert Einstein, for the use of the Einstein name, though the products have virtually nothing to do with Einstein or his work (however, Disney uses a disclaimer that Einstein is a trademark of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem).
The Baby Einstein Company was founded in 1997 by stay-at-home mom and former teacher Julie Aigner-Clark at her home in suburban Alpharetta, Georgia, as I Think I Can Productions. Aigner-Clark and her husband, Bill Clark, invested $18,000 of their savings to produce the initial product, a Video Board Book, a VHS entitled Baby Einstein, later sold as Language Nursery.
The original video shows a variety of toys and visuals interspersed with music, stories, numbers, and words of many languages. Eventually, the video was marketed across the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. Other videos followed, some featuring the Clarks' two daughters, Aspen & Sierra, among other children. All videos feature toys by Ambi, Brio, Folkmanis, Dakin, Chimes, Battat, Tomy, Legends and Lore, among others.
Baby Einstein became a multi-million dollar franchise; its revenue grew from $1 million in 1998 to around $10 million in 2000. Aigner-Clark renamed the company to The Baby Einstein Company in January 1998, and sold a 20% stake in the company to Artisan Entertainment and Family Home Entertainment in February 2000 and sold the rest to The Walt Disney Company for an undisclosed amount in November 2001. The franchise is named after and pays significant royalties to the estate of deceased physicist Albert Einstein, putting him in the top 5 of most earning dead celebrities, according to Forbes.
At one point in 2009, the brand was estimated to be worth nearly 400 million dollars based on revenues. Julie was named Entrepreneur of the Year and won various awards for her products, which are the number one selling brand (1 in three households with babies in the US own at least one Baby Einstein product) of videos for very young children. Julie has appeared in many media outlets, including Oprah, GMA, The Today Show and USA Today. On January 23, 2007 The Baby Einstein Company was mentioned in the State of the Union address by President George W. Bush. Aigner-Clark, along with other notable U.S. citizens, was invited to sit in the gallery during the speech, and was recognized by Bush during his presentation to the nation.
As a subsidiary of Disney, the production budgets were increased and the concept was expanded to include a wide range of themes. A line of educational toys were also developed. In 2005, the franchise inspired a Disney Junior animated television series called Little Einsteins.
The official Baby Einstein website is available in English and in Spanish, with specific content for more than 30 different countries.
The final Baby Einstein video was released on September 29, 2009 and was titled as World Animal Adventure, with Little Einsteins ending that same year on December 22, 2009. As a not-so-popular series anymore, Baby Einstein videos are no longer on sale at a few community stores, but they are still popular and on sale on few shopping websites. Other Baby Einstein products on currently on sale at few stores.
Julie Aigner-Clark no longer owns or operates the company she founded. She has since been involved in several start ups, including The Safe Side and Baby Bytes. She is a notable speaker and has a web site that can be found at http://www.mommymade.com.
Complaint to FTC
In May 2006, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against the Baby Einstein Company and the Brainy Baby Company, a producer of similar videos; the following month the CCFC amended the complaint to include another producer, BabyFirstTV. The CCFC alleged false advertising by these companies, citing the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that children under two should be discouraged from watching television at all, and a study showing that only six percent of parents are aware of that recommendation, while 49 percent of parents think educational videos like these are very important in the intellectual development of children.
In December 2007, the FTC closed the complaint, determining not to recommend any enforcement action against the company. In so doing, the FTC noted that certain of the claims that were the subject of the CCFC’s complaint did not raise issues under the FTC’s substantiation rules. Other factors considered by the FTC in making its determination included the redesign of the Baby Einstein website, which removed certain product testimonials and product descriptions, as well as the company's representations that it would take steps to ensure that any advertising claims with respect to educational and developmental value would be properly substantiated. However, the websites of Baby Einstein in languages other than English are not all modified in the same way. For example, its official Chinese website still contains the product effect statement as "For example, the Baby Van Gogh released by us can initiate your baby's interest and recognition of colors."
Controversy over effects on language development
In 1993, a study was published which showed listening to Mozart produced an increase in spatial reasoning skills for approximately ten minutes in college students, a phenomenon dubbed The Mozart Effect. The authors of the paper later complained that their research had been misunderstood in popular culture to imply a permanent increase in general intelligence.
In August 2007, the Journal of Pediatrics published a preprint version of the results of a study by researchers at the University of Washington on the effects of television and DVD/video viewing on language development in children under two years of age. The study, the second conducted by the same researchers as part of a larger project, was a correlational study based on telephone interviews with parents of children aged 2 to 24 months. The parents were asked about time spent interacting with adults, how much time was spent watching television and DVDs/videos, and what kind of media the children watched.
The study's authors, Drs. Frederick Zimmerman, Dimitri Christakis, and Andrew Meltzoff, concluded that, among infants aged 8 to 16 months, exposure to "baby DVDs/videos" — such as Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby — was strongly associated with lower scores on a Communicative Development Inventory - a standard language development test. This result was specific to baby-oriented educational videos and did not hold for other types of media, and was not related to shared parental viewing. Among toddlers aged 17 to 24 months, the study found no significant effects, either negative or positive, for any of the forms of media that were viewed. Daily reading and storytelling, however, were found to be associated with somewhat higher language scores, especially for toddlers. Listening to music, on the other hand, had no significant effect.
The University of Washington press release announcing the study explained that for each hour-per-day spent watching baby DVDs/videos, infants understood on average six to eight fewer words than infants who did not watch them, and recommended that parents limit their use. "There is no clear evidence of a benefit coming from baby DVDs and videos and there is some suggestion of harm," said lead author Frederick Zimmerman. "We don't know for sure that baby DVDs and videos are harmful, but the best policy is safety first. Parents should limit their exposure as much as possible." In his study, Zimmerman states that the association between television-watching was only observed in the younger children, and that this could disappear by the time the children become toddlers.
Christakis, a pediatrician, said that he is "frequently asked by parents what the value of these products is," and stated, "The evidence is mounting that they are of no value and may in fact be harmful. Given what we now know, I believe the onus is on the manufacturers to prove their claims that watching these programs can positively impact children's cognitive development."
In response to the negative media reports generated by the study and the press release, the Baby Einstein Company issued the following statement:
Baby Einstein is committed to maintaining the highest standards in the development of all of our products. After thoroughly analyzing the University of Washington study, we have serious concerns about the many contradictions between the study's conclusions and the content of its press release that created publicity which incorrectly suggests that this study focused on Baby Einstein products. In fact, the report concludes by stating “The analysis presented here is not a direct test of the developmental impact of viewing baby DVDs/videos. We did not test through experimental manipulation whether viewing baby DVDs/videos has a positive or negative impact on vocabulary acquisition.”
On August 13, 2007, Robert Iger, president and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, the owner of Baby Einstein, demanded that the University of Washington retract the press release, asserting that the study itself doesn’t support the claims made by the University’s public relations department. On August 16, University of Washington President Mark Emmert rejected Disney's complaints, saying that the university stands behind the research and that the press release accurately reflected the paper's conclusions and the scientists' commentary.
In March 2008, The Journal of Pediatrics released a study by the researchers at the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital in Boston, and Harvard University, showing that television viewing is, “neither beneficial nor deleterious to child cognitive and language abilities” for children under 2, although the study looked at all types of television, not specifically baby DVDs.
On September 4, 2009, the Walt Disney Company announced that it would offer a refund for all Baby Einstein DVDs/videos purchased between June 5, 2004 and September 4, 2009, extending a refund policy already in place. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which had been pushing for a recall of the videos, sees the refund offer as "an acknowledgement by the leading baby video company that baby videos are not educational".
In January 2010, William and Julie Clark asked a judge to order the University of Washington to release records from the 2007 effects of television viewing study, citing, “Given that other research studies have not shown the same outcomes, we would like the raw data and analytical methods from the Washington studies so we can audit their methodology, and perhaps duplicate the studies, to see if the outcomes are the same."
Soon after, The University of Washington settled with the Clarks, paying out nearly $200,000 in back legal fees.
In 2013 the original University of Washington dataset was reanalyzed by independent scholars. The scholars concluded that, depending upon how the statistics were manipulated, the dataset could have been used to suggest that baby videos increased, decreased or had no effect on language development. The reanalysis concluded that it was safest to suggest that baby videos had minimal impact on language development and that linking baby videos to decreased language development was not well supported by the data. However, the reanalysis itself was questioned and refuted in a concurrently published article.
Baby Einstein Videos
- Baby Einstein - Language Nursery (1997-1998)
- Baby Mozart - Music Festival (1998)
- Baby Bach - Musical Adventure (1998-1999)
- Baby Shakespeare - World of Poetry (2000)
- Baby Van Gogh - World of Colors (2000)
- Baby Santa's Music Box (2000)
- Baby Dolittle - Neighborhood Animals (2001)
- Baby Dolittle - Neighborhood Animals (2001)
- Baby Dolittle - World Animals (2001)
- Baby Newton - All About Shapes (2002)
- Baby Beethoven- Symphony of Fun (2002)
- Baby Neptune - Discovering Water (2002)
- Baby Galileo - Discovering the Sky (2003)
- Numbers Nursery (2003)
- Baby MacDonald - A Day On The Farm (2004) 
- Baby Da Vinci - From Head to Toe (2004)
- Baby Noah - Animal Expedition (2004)
- Baby Monet - Discovering the Seasons (2005)
- Baby Wordsworth - First Words - Around the House (2005)
- On the Go - Riding, Sailing and Soaring (2005)
- Meet the Orchestra - First Instruments (2005)
- Baby's Favorite Places - First Words - Around Town (2006)
- Baby's First Moves (2006)
- Discovering Shapes (2007)
- Lullaby Time (2007)
- My First Signs (2007)
- Baby's First Sounds: Discoveries for Little Ears (2008)
- Baby Mozart - Music Festival (2008)
- Baby Beethoven (2008)
- World Animal Adventure (2009)
- My First Signs (2009)
- Baby Neptune - Discovering Water (2009)
- Baby Noah - Animal Expedition (2009)
- World Music (2009)
- Baby Beethoven (2010)
- Baby Mozart (2010)
- Animals Around Me (2010)
- Wild Animal Safari (2010)
- World Of Colors (2010)
- World Of Words (2010)
- World Of Rhythm (2011)
- Neptune's Oceans (2011)
- Baby Lullaby (2011)
- Eric Hubler (1999-03-12). "Baby videos spell big money Mom turns 'Einstein' into million- dollar enterprise". Denver Post.
- Daisy Whitney (2001-05-30). "Nurturing a 'Baby' boom Littleton woman's line of videos, CDs a hit with children". Denver Post.
- "Artisan Entertainment Acquires Rights to Distribute Branded Developmental Series From The Baby Einstein Company". Business Wire. 2000-02-10.
- (Reuters) (2006-10-25). "Cobain is the new Elvis (Most earning dead celebrities)". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 5 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-13.
- Baby Einstein & Brainy Baby FTC Complaint, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood website, retrieved Dec. 15, 2008
- American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Public Education (February 2001). "Children, Adolescents, and Television (policy statement)". Pediatrics 107 (2): 423–426. doi:10.1542/peds.107.2.423. PMID 11158483.
- Josh Golin (January 2007). "Putting the Book Back in Book Fair". Mothering (magazine). Archived from the original on 2007-08-12. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
- Michelle M. Garrison and Dimitri A. Christakis. "New Report on Educational Media for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers". Kaiser Family Foundation. Archived from the original on 2 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
- Federal Trade Commission Closing Letter to counsel for the Baby Einstein Company, December 5, 2007, retrieved July 9, 2008
- "产品介绍 ("Product Introduction")". Retrieved 2008-08-22. ("例如我们已经发行的《小小梵高－色彩的世界》影片DVD，就能启发宝宝们对颜色的兴趣和认识。" ("For example, the Baby Van Gogh released by us can initiate your baby's interest and recognition of colors."))
- "CCFC Victory: Disney Offers Refunds on Baby Einstein Videos". Retrieved 2009-10-23.
- "The Baby Einstein DVD Upgrade / Moneyback Guarantee". Retrieved 2009-10-23.
- Rauscher, Frances H.; Shaw, Gordon L.; Ky, Catherine N. (1993). "Music and spatial task performance". Nature 365 (6447): 611. doi:10.1038/365611a0. PMID 8413624.
- F. J. Zimmerman, D.A. Christakis, and A.N. Meltzoff (2007-08-07). "Associations between Media Viewing and Language Development in Children under Age 2 Years" (PDF). Journal of Pediatrics 151 (4): 364–8. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2007.04.071. PMID 17889070.
- Joel Schwartz (2007-08-07). "Baby DVDs, videos may hinder, not help, infants' language development". University of Washington (press release).
- Theresa Marchetta (2007-08-08). "Study Targets Infant Videos Finds Too Much TV, Too Few Words". TheDenverChannel.com. Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
- Robert A. Iger (2007-08-13). "The Walt Disney Company demands retraction from the University of Washington for misleading press release" (PDF). Baby Einstein press release.
- Meg Marco (2007-08-13). "Walt Disney Demands Retraction From University of Washington Over Baby Einstein Video Press Release". Consumerist.com. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
- "UW President rejects Disney complaints". University of Washington press release. 2007-08-16.
- "TV's Not the Big Bad Wolf". The Washington Post.
- Lewin, Tamar (27 October 2009). "No Einstein in Your Crib? Get a Refund". The New York Times.
- C. J. Ferguson, and M. B Donnellan (2013). "Is the association between children’s baby video viewing and poor language development robust? A reanalysis of Zimmerman, Christakis, and Meltzoff (2007)" (PDF). DeveopmentalPsychology.
- "Baby Einstein, Baby Einstein's List of Movies and Films by Release Date" (web). Swap A DVD. Archived from the original on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- Baby Einstein website
- Official Baby Einstein blog
- Baby Einstein DVDs Disney's Official Baby Einstein DVD listing
- Julie Aigner-Clark website
- Roxanne Khamsi (2007-08-07). "Educational DVDs 'slow infant learning'". NewScientist.com.
- Pamela Paul (2006-01-08). "Want a Brainier Baby? Loading up on tapes, games and videos may not be a smart move" (PDF). Time. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
- No Einstein in Your Crib? Get a Refund by Tamar Lewin, The New York Times, October 23, 2009