|Headquarters||Atlanta, Georgia, United States|
Family Home Entertainment (2000–2001)
The Walt Disney Company (2001–2013)
Kids II, Inc. (2013-present)
|Parent||Kids II, Inc.|
Baby Einstein is a line of multimedia products, including direct-to-video programs, CDs, books, flashcards, toys, and baby gear that specialize in interactive activities for infants and toddlers, created by Julie Aigner-Clark. The videos are known for showing babies and toddlers under four years simple patterns, puppet shows, and familiar objects, such as everyday items, animals, and toys that are often accompanied by reorchestrated classical music written by composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and many others as well as some traditional rhymes constructed for an easy, relaxing way meant for a baby's ear.
Baby Einstein was introduced to the public in 1996 and remained a small company until Clark sold it to Disney. Between November 2001 and September 2013, Disney owned and operated the Baby Einstein brand. Starting on October 14, 2013, Kids II, Inc. owns and operates the Baby Einstein brand.
The Baby Einstein Company was founded in 1996 by former teacher and stay-at-home mom Julie Aigner-Clark at her home in suburban Alpharetta, Georgia, as I Think I Can Productions. According to an interview with Julie Dunn, she wanted her babies to be exposed to classical music, poetry, colors, shapes, and more. Aigner-Clark and her husband invested $18,000 of their savings to produce the initial product, a VHS they named Baby Einstein and later sold as Language Nursery in 2002.
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. It even won the 1997 Parenting Magazine award for Best Video of the Year. Other videos followed, some featuring the Clarks' two daughters, Aspen and Sierra, as well as other children.
It quickly became a multimillion-dollar franchise; its revenue grew from $1 million in 1998 to $25 million in 2001. In October 1998, Julie Aigner-Clark renamed the company the Baby Einstein Company, and in February 2000 gave distribution rights of the company's home videos to Artisan Entertainment and Family Home Entertainment, both now acquired by and folded into Lionsgate Home Entertainment. In November 2001, Julie Aigner-Clark sold Baby Einstein to The Walt Disney Company.
In 2003 through 2004, the original Baby Einstein videos were re-produced and edited as well as the DVD artwork, discontinuing the selling of the original versions of the videos.
The concept and popularity of Baby Einstein expanded as a Disney property. Educational toys and additional videos were developed. Baby Einstein was also the source of inspiration for a Preschool-aimed television series called Little Einsteins, created jointly by Disney and Curious Pictures. The series aired episodes on Playhouse Disney from 2005-2009 and has since been airing reruns on Disney Junior.
The success of Baby Einstein was estimated to be nearly $400 million based on revenues. Julie was named "Entrepreneur of the Year" and won various awards, and one in three U.S. households with babies were found to own at least one Baby Einstein product. It received positive media and Aigner-Clark appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and USA Today, among others. President George W. Bush mentioned the Baby Einstein Company in his 2007 State of the Union address, which Aigner-Clark was invited to attend.
In 2008, Clark, along with actress Jennifer Garner, hosted a tenth anniversary party for Baby Einstein. Clark had also announced plans to launch a toddler brand called Einstein Pals, including videos, but it has since been abandoned.
As a result of Baby Einstein being named after Albert Einstein, royalties had to be paid to Corbis which compensates the Einstein estate. This made Einstein one of the top five earning dead celebrities.
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 similar companies for false advertising. The CCFC alleged false advertising based on an American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children under two should be discouraged from watching television. It also cited studies showing that only 6% of parents were aware of that recommendation, whereas 49% thought educational videos were very important in children's intellectual development.
In December 2007, the FTC closed the complaint, noting that some of the CCFC's claims did not raise issues under the FTC's substantiation rules. The FTC also considered the redesign of the Baby Einstein website, which removed certain product testimonials and product descriptions, as well as the company's promise to make sure that advertising claims about products' 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."
A 2010 study published in Psychological Science demonstrated that children who viewed the videos regularly for one month, with or without their parents, "showed no greater understanding of words from the program than kids who never saw it". On the other hand, children who were taught by their parents improved the most; researchers speculated that this was probably because children learn best "through meaningful gestures and interactive communication with parents". In response to these new findings, Disney offered refunds to parents whose children did not see improvement, even though Robert Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, demanded a retraction (of the press release) when a similarly unsupportive study was announced in 2007.
The 2007 study, based on telephone interviews with parents, had been published in the Journal of Pediatrics and resulted in a lawsuit by the company's founders due to widespread negative media coverage stemming from the article. The press release announcing the study explained that for each hour spent watching baby DVDs/videos, infants understood on average six to eight fewer words than infants who did not watch them. The University of Washington researchers Frederick Zimmerman, Dimitri Christakis, and Andrew Meltzoff had claimed 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. The Baby Einstein Company expressed "serious concerns about the many contradictions" in the study. Although University of Washington President Mark Emmert rejected Disney's claims, in 2010 the university settled with the founders, paying out $175,000 in back legal fees and turned over the study's data to the Baby Einstein founders.
In March 2008, the Journal of Pediatrics released a study by Harvard University and the Boston Children's Hospital's Center on Media and Child Health showing that television viewing is, “neither beneficial nor deleterious to child cognitive and language abilities” for children under 2, in a study that examined all television rather than just education DVDs for babies. In January 2010, the founders requested that a judge order the University of Washington to release records for the 2007 study, saying, “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". In 2013 the original dataset was reanalyzed by independent scholars who 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.
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