|Known for||Co-creator of Blue's Clues|
Todd Kessler is an American film and television writer, producer and director. Among his credits are showrunner and co-creator of Nickelodeon's preschool series Blue's Clues and director and producer of the feature film Keith.
According to author Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote about Blue's Clues in his book The Tipping Point, Kessler worked for Sesame Workshop's "Sesame Street", but found traditional children's television too static and not visual enough. In 1993–94, Kessler, who was then a freelance producer for Nickelodeon, was assigned to work with Peter Schreck on his seminal interactive television experiments in the network's Orlando studio, developing concepts which were later incorporated into Blue's Clues. Kessler was the first creator involved with the show. Angela Santomero and Traci Paige Johnson were brought later on to complete the Blue's Clues team. Blue's Clues, according to Variety, was "at the forefront of a revolution in kids TV" and was crucial to the growth of Nickelodeon. The innovative and interactive format it created changed children's programming, including its most important influence Sesame Street, which changed its format in 2002 to be more interactive.
Kessler left Nickelodeon and Blue's Clues in June 2000 after three seasons, but would continue to be credited as an executive producer for the rest of the show's run, as well as for all the show's spin-offs.
In 2008, Kessler acquired the teen romantic drama Keith, a film adapted from a short story written by Ron Carlson. The film, which starred Jesse McCartney and Elisabeth Harnois, was Kessler's directorial debut. Kessler also produced and co-wrote (with David Zabel) the film, which "concerns a 17-year-old who thinks she's got it all figured out until she falls for a guy who has nothing to lose".
Kessler is an outspoken critic of the popular belief that young children have short attention spans. In a column he penned for USA Today in its Oct. 26, 2015 edition, he referred to his own experience launching Blues Clues and the television industry resistance to the series due to the prevailing belief that its unique long-form narrative structure would not succeed with children. He also argued that children would also be engaged with picture books that featured more prose than current publishing industry standards. He wrote similar sentiments in an op-ed he wrote for Forward Reviews, a literary review magazine.
Kessler authored the children's picture book The Good Dog in 2015 and The Good Dog and the Bad Cat in 2016. The books feature long-form narrative storytelling with complex characters and villains, following the adventures of Tako, a dog, and his owner, Ricky Lee; the second volume introduces Allie, a stray cat. Both books are published by Coralstone Press and illustrated by Jennifer Gray Olson. Howard Lavoy, executive editor at Forward Reviews, wrote The Good Dog series is "long form and engaging for kids and their grownups."
In addition, Kessler directed the romantic/musical film Bazodee, released on August 5, 2016 and starring Machel Montano, Natalie Perera, Staz Nair and Kabir Bedi. The story revolves around the complications created when Anita Panchouri (Perera) tries to sacrifice her own needs for the needs of her family. The movie, filmed on location in Trinidad and Tobago, features soca music and is praised for its authentic cast of Indians and Trinidadians and cultural accuracy, with Film Journal International's David Noh comparing it to Black Orpheus. Billboard has also compared the movie to The Harder They Come and Prince's Purple Rain because of Montano's musical performances, bringing soca to a wider audience.
Awards and nominations
As producer for Blue's Clues, Kessler received a Peabody Award, two Television Critics Association Awards in 1997–1998 and 1998–1999, several Parents' Choice Awards, and a New York Film Festival CINE Golden Eagle in 1996. He has also been nominated for six Emmys.
"Keith" won first place in the teenage sections of five international film festivals: Italy's Giffoni Film Festival (in the 15–19-year-old division); the Toronto International Film Festival for Children and Youth (their Students Choice Award, decided on by high school students); Sweden's BUFF International Film Festival for Youth and Children; Germany's SCHLINGEL International Film Festival; and Quebec's Carrousel international du film de Rimouski.
- Gladwell, Malcolm (2000). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Boston, Massachusetts: Little, Brown and Company. p. 110. ISBN 0-316-34662-4.
- Hayes, Dade (2008). Anytime Playdate: Inside the Preschool Entertainment Boom, or, How Television Became My Baby's Best Friend. New York: Kaplan Publishing. p. 67. ISBN 9781416546832.
- Carter, Bill (June 21, 2000). "TV NOTES; 'Blue's' Creator Wouldn't Stay". The New York Times. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
- Jim Forbes (narrator) (July 27, 2006). Behind the Clues: 10 Years of Blue (Part 1) (Short documentary). Nickelodeon.
- Schmelzer, Randi (August 2, 2006). "Tales of the pup". Variety. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
- Gardner, Chris (February 24, 2004). "Kessler to escort Miramax's 'Keith'". Hollywood Reporter. 382 (36).
- Carroll, Larry (2007). "'Keith' set visit". MTV.com. Retrieved June 30, 2012.
- Fleming, Michael (November 30, 2004). "Miramax hands off romance to Kessler". Daily Variety. 285 (42). p. 7.
- "Parents, don't buy myth of short attention span: Column". USA Today. October 28, 2015. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- "What Short Attention Spans? Children are Inspired by Immersive Reading". Foreword Reviews. August 8, 2016. Retrieved October 25, 2016. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- "Blue's Clues Creator Just Figured Out the Secret to Long-Form Picture Books". Foreword Reviews. March 10, 2016. Retrieved October 25, 2016. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- Verongos, Helen (August 4, 2016). "Review: Soul of Calypso Elevates the Bollywood-Flavored 'Bazodee'". New York Times. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- Noh, David (August 3, 2016). "Film Review: Bazodee". Film Journal International. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- Meschino, Patricia (September 21, 2016). "Ten Years in the Making: Could Machel Montano's 'Bazodee' Be Soca's 'Purple Rain'?". Billboard. Archived from the original on October 31, 2016. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
- Heffley, Lynne (February 6, 2004). "Blue gets a new leash on life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 30, 2012.
- "TCA Award Winners: Complete List". Television Critics Association. Archived from the original on November 5, 2010. Retrieved July 10, 2011.
- "Nickelodeon". Parents Choice. Retrieved July 10, 2011.
- "CINE Golden Eagle Film & Video Competition: 1996 Winner Directory" (PDF). cine.org. Retrieved July 10, 2011.
- "Daytime Emmy Nominees List 1". Variety. March 11, 1999.
- Littleton, Cynthia (March 11, 1998). "ABC tops Emmy noms". Variety.
- Schneider, Michael (March 14, 2000). "A Daytime drama". Variety.
- Bernstein, Paula (March 13, 2001). "Regis tracks two Emmys". Variety.
- Offman, Craig (March 13, 2002). "Daytime Emmy noms announced". Variety.
- Learmonth, Michael (March 2, 2005). "All my Emmy noms". Variety.
- Jennings, Sheri (July 23, 2007). "Giffoni winners include Mid Road Gang and Keith". Screen Daily. Retrieved June 30, 2012.
- "Sprockets Concludes Successful 11th Year With Awards". Tiff. Retrieved July 10, 2011.
- Pham, Annika (March 18, 2008). "Titanic the Cat top dog at BUFF". Cineuropa. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
- "Keith". Schlingel. Retrieved July 10, 2011.
- "The winners of the Carrousel". Le Devoir. October 7, 2008. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
- "Winners of the Youth International Film Festival of Rimouski". Le Bas-Saint-Laurent. Retrieved July 10, 2011.