On October 6, Cartoon Network will be debuting a new movie called Contest aimed at raising awareness about bullying. It's National Bullying Prevention Month, and Cartoon Network just might have the highest amount of eyeballs in the right age demographic to help put a dent in the problem.
Contest is a film directed by newcomer Anthony Giuta, and tells the story of a bully who learns how to understand and appreciate others not like himself.
We spoke to the President and COO of Cartoon Network, Stuart Snyder, about the film and why Cartoon Network thought it was important to get into the anti-bullying game.
Bryan Young: What made Cartoon Network decide to get behind programming for anti-bullying month?
Stuart Snyder: Four years ago, our ongoing research with kids told us 85 percent of our kids wanted to help when they saw their friends get bullied, but they didn't know how. We brought together a board of expert advisors; partnered with educators, community-based and government organizations; and launched Stop Bullying: Speak Up. Our goal is to help kids and families create schools and communities where speaking up for each other is the norm -- it's "what you do."
BY: What brought you to the decision of kicking things off with Contest?
SS: Over the last few years, we've produced documentaries like Speak Up, which was introduced by President Obama in 2011, and is now being used as part of the federal effort to get kids involved in bullying prevention activities; and multiple specials with CNN's Anderson Cooper. Contest is an opportunity to address this topic in a new genre. It's a great family movie with a bullying prevention theme; we are an entertainment network, and believe that all kinds of entertainment can play a powerful role in creating positive social change.
BY: What are you looking to to make sure anti-bullying month a success for Cartoon Network?
SS: Our vision for Stop Bullying: Speak Up is to continue our efforts to gets kids, families, schools, and communities involved in creating and executing the solutions. We can motivate and engage using the power of our screens; but it will be the young people in our audience who will make the world a better place. We are using our screens to inform and inspire their efforts.
It's a noble effort and I applaud them for it.
I also got a few words with the director of the film, Anthony Giunta, asking him if he'd been bullied as a kid:
Yes, throughout both grade school and high school... unlike today, though, I could close my door when I got at home from school, and not have to deal with it again until I got back there the next day. Now, with cyber-bullying, texting, et al, it can be a 24/7 nightmare for some kids.
Things can get really tough at times, and when you're young, your peer group can feel like your whole world. If our movie can make even one kid change her/his mind about making a tragic, irreversible decision -- and offer them hope -- then we did a good job.
Here's the trailer for the film:
Contest airs on Cartoon Network, Sunday, October 6, at 6 p.m. (ET/PT). It's something my kids want to see, and I'll be watching it with them.
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