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TV Interview: “Galidor”‘s Tom Lynch

How do you tap into the mind of a 13-year-old?

Just ask Tom Lynch, creator of the “tween” (ages 9-14) genre shows, such as Nickelodeon’s The Secret World of Alex Mack and Disney Channel’s The Jersey. He seems to have found the right combination of humor and reality relating to the struggles of beginning adolescence.

His newest show Galidor on Fox Kids Network is a special-effects bonanza with an emotional core. Fifteen-year-old Nicholas Bluetooth (Matthew Ewald) and his friend Allegra Zane (Marie-Marguerite Sabongui) journey to another dimension to find pieces of a key that will unlock the passageway to Galidor and get them back home.

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We talked to Lynch about creating this special brand of children’s programming and what it means to bring a strong story and characters to the screen that the whole family can enjoy.

You’ve been working in children’s programming for awhile….

Tom Lynch: A lot of people have said that I’ve created the tween genre. Making kids’ shows for the 9-14 demographic [instead of the classic 6-11]. It started with my series [Nickelodeon’s] The Secret World of Alex Mack and Caitlin’s Way, which kind of invented this new demographic, where lots of these kinds of shows have now been created. Now, I want to reinvent what that genre is. It’s been duplicated–sometimes really good, sometimes really bad–and I just didn’t want to keep seeing the same things out there. Because I do think kids evolve. Their sensibilities become different, more sophisticated, as well as the information they get.

Hence the creation of the new Fox Kids series Galidor.

Lynch: Right. I wanted to do a show that had the fun of The Mummy movies combined with what I think I do pretty well, which is the intimacy of the coming-of-age story. That was the genesis of Galidor. So I started coming up with this story about a 15-year-old kid who never knew his parents and is trying to figure out who he was in life. It’s not a great dilemma , but he always has a sense that life should be more than just going to school and hanging out. On his 15th birthday, he finds this map that leads him to another dimension. The myth of the story is he has to find his way to Galidor, which is a place that is lost in the Outer Dimension, unlock it and, by doing that, he’ll find his way home and eventually find himself.

Sounds intriguing…and ambitious.

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Lynch: It’s pretty awesome and the most complex story I’ve ever done for a series, the most complex technologically. I had used some CG [computer-generated images] on Alex Mack, and it always fascinated me. So when doing Galidor, we could afford to do a show that combined this technology and story really well, like a movie does.

Do you think kids today need to have all these bells and whistles for them to watch a show?

Lynch: Not at all. I’m also doing a series right now that is simply about a kid who lives in nature. [A more CG-oriented show] is just another platform to tell a story. I think one of the great “tween” movies ever made is The Sandlot, a gentle story about a group of boys playing baseball. It had just as much excitement, adventure and emotional resonance than any special-effects movie. Ultimately, I think it boils down to what I learned at Nickelodeon: strong characters, strong story.

How did you start your career in children’s programming?

Lynch: Actually, I started in rock and roll.


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[laughing] Don’t we all.

Lynch: We all do. I first worked for Don Kirshner in the early ’80s on Rock Concert, finally producing some music specials of my own. Then I got kind of tired of it. It wasn’t holding enough resonance for me. My first son was born, and I thought, “I don’t want my kid hanging around rock and roll.” So, I started writing the first episode of a show called Kids Incorporated, which combined music and kids coming of age. The show ran for 10 years and was the only live-action show at that time besides PBS for kids. Everything else was cartoon shows. This got on the air absolutely by mistake. And this started me off on that live-action kid “tween” world.

How do you feel about the resurgence of fantasy movies like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings?

Lynch: I think it’s great, particularly those two examples, because they are both literary properties. They both come from a strong sense of story and character. They have really touched people in a deep way. It once again allows people to get caught up in more complex stories. The comedy of teen movies is that part of it is that they are so stupid. That’s what people want to deliver, and that’s cool. There’s also this great lie that kids will watch anything, and that’s absolutely dispelled by these pieces. Harry Potter was going to make millions of dollars whether the movie was good or not because people were so rabid about the books. Lord of the Rings has withstood technology, development, government–the whole world changing. That book is more relevant today than when [Tolkien] wrote it, especially in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

True, a clear-cut version of heroes and villains….

Lynch: They are becoming very clear. And about a young man going on an adventure for truth and justice because that’s the good thing to do. You know, a few years ago, there were huge complaints about kids’ movies. Don’t make them. They don’t make enough money. Blah, blah, blah. Now, everyone at the studios are geniuses because they want to develop a new kid franchise.

It’s funny how those things come around. But I do think that finally there is a true market for kids now. What would like to give to a parent?

Lynch: What to give a parent…that’s a good question. People always ask what I’d like to give to kids, never the parents. What I’d like to give to kids is that their life is valuable. What I’d like to give to parents, and I’ve thought about this, is that if they just shut up and watch, their kids are going to be magical and wonderful. I mean, not watching my shows, but watching their kids grow. I have five kids. The one thing I’ve learned in all those years of parenting is that, if I just kept my mouth shut and didn’t tell them the first thing that came to mind, I could make a pretty good decision on what to tell them 10 seconds later. Your initial reaction is going to be wrong 95 percent of the time.

What are your feelings about the current campaign against marketing violence to kids?

Lynch: I believe studios should be held accountable. The choice of going to see a violent movie is between the parent and the kid. They alone should decide together what the kid should see or not see. No parent in today’s world can monitor everything their child is going to see. But centering a marketing campaign to attract young people to a film not appropriate for them is deplorable. Parents don’t need the information coming to them to be a lie. But the governmental campaign against these marketing strategies could be just as destructive. I’m really not interested in the government telling anyone what to watch or see. Towards children, I think the government has shown a real inadequacy in educating them, giving them health care and giving them protection. How the hell could they tell them what to watch or not watch? [laughing] Am I a little too much on my soapbox today or what?

No, not at all. Just speaking the truth.

Galidor airs on Fox Kids Network Saturdays at 8:00 a.m.

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