Chloe Lang is the name of the ten-year-old American actress who plays Stephanie in the next season of the TV series about LazyTown, which is currently being filmed. Chloe is a great athlete who loves to sing and dance. She is excited to see herself on screen. What is your full name and how old are you?My name is Chloe Lang and I am 10 years old. Where are you from? I live in Connecticut,...
Magnús Scheving started LazyTown in 1995 with the aim of encouraging children and their families to live a healthy lifestyle in a fun way. After years of continuous success in Iceland, sales of fruits and vegetables increased by 22 percent, among other things, following the LazyTown Energy Campaign. About four years ago, the actual expansion of LazyTown began, and now it is a world-renowned brand that is steadily strengthening its position as the only international brand dedicated to the health of children and families.
As evidence of this, we can mention a survey that was conducted among the audience at the LazyTown theater show in the UK in April this year. Among the respondents, there were 43 percent who stated that their children were more interested in and consumed more healthy food than before, and about 36 percent said their children exercised more after being introduced to LazyTown. Magnús puts a lot of effort into ensuring that the basic idea remains and that LazyTown moves people.
“Health is a rather difficult subject because it can be difficult to define for children what health is. What is healthy for a four-year-old girl is very different from what is healthy for a 40-year-old, so I prefer to say that health is about balance and that children are given the freedom to make their own choices when it comes to lifestyle. There is all kinds of fun children’s material, but violence is often involved and there are few real role models.”
“There is really no other children’s content on the market that is as health-oriented as LazyTown, and I found it a great challenge to convey the right message to children in a TV show in an interesting way, without being preachy,” explains Magnús. “The reality is that children’s content only has a certain stamp and children are usually put second when it comes to quality. Children’s material is therefore always getting cheaper and poorer, but we decided at the beginning to put a lot of effort into the quality, even if it would be more expensive,” he adds.
It can be difficult to realize the success that LazyTown has achieved on a global scale. Now, 53 TV shows have been broadcast around the world, in countless languages. Recently, LazyTown signed an agreement with the BBC in Great Britain for the co-production of 26 new episodes called “LazyTown Extra”. In the first phase, 26 episodes will be partially produced in LazyTown’s recording studio in Garðabær, while the other part will be recorded by the BBC. At the moment, negotiations are in the final stage with other television stations about the same type of cooperation. In the new episodes, Ziggy will go and meet children in each country individually.
In just a few months, about one million people have seen the LazyTown live show in Great Britain and seven South American countries. Next year, it is planned to open live shows in at least five additional countries in South and Central America as well as five European countries. LazyTown is so popular in South America that when Magnús was invited to go there and meet the Chilean Minister of Health, he couldn’t go through customs at the airport without signing autographs for the customs officials, and kids had gathered in front of the terminal to see Sportacus arrive at until eight in the evening.
“The woman who booked my hotel room knocked one day and politely asked if she could bring her child, who was at a nearby preschool, to see me. I said of course, and when I came down to the lobby a little later, there were about eighty children between the ages of three and six who wanted to show me a play about movement. The people at the hotel didn’t understand what was really going on, but I sat down for a good forty minutes while the children showed me all kinds of movements, push-ups and jumps that they had practiced.”
“Being an Icelander and coming to Chile and seeing that you have had an impact is absolutely amazing,” says Magnús, who has not only had an impact on children and their families. The government has consulted him about the growing obesity problem. Health ministers from around the world have sought after meeting him and most recently, Magnús was an honored guest at a conference with the leaders of the world’s largest food companies and key influencers within the health sector, where he spoke as a leading expert on children’s health issues.
Magnús has also accepted the invitation of The Sun, which is the most widely read newspaper in Britain, to write a series of columns in the paper. “I will write in the paper as Sportacus and start in July. Because of the semester, it is difficult for me to write columns regularly for the newspaper, so this will be done by means that every three weeks I will be their expert on a specific issue related to health that is being discussed in the UK at any time,” explains Magnús.
Magnús also works on writing a book at the moment. “I’m writing a book with Miriam Stoppard about child rearing. Miriam wrote, for example, The Women’s Educator and books for parents that have sold millions of copies. We are currently writing a book together with the working title How to Raise Healthy Kids, which is a hugely exciting project. We will probably finish the writing this year, so the book should be ready for publication on the international market next year,” says Magnús.
LazyTown regularly receives letters from children and adults from all over the world thanking them for the positive impact that the shows or the play has had on them, but there are also letters from parents asking for help and good advice to lead a healthier lifestyle. As a result, the decision was made to create a club in LazyTown to support children and their parents.
“For the price of one pizza a month, you can become a member of the club for two years with your child. They then regularly receive a package sent to their home with various goods, such as music, posters, books, stickers and a DVD where Sportacus talks to the kids. This will be followed by a program from a to z and the kids will receive a prize after each year they complete. After two years at the club, they are sent a jacket and a so-called “superhero training program”, where they have to train with their parents, grandparents for one month before they graduate and receive a trophy,” Magnús explains, estimating that a large percentage of die-hard LazyTown fans, who are now at multi-millions worldwide, will join the club.
Invitations and prohibitions
There has been a lot of discussion about the marketing of products for children, and there are differing opinions on whether advertising that appeals specifically to children should be banned, but Magnús has his own special approach to this issue. “I don’t think the question is whether advertising should be banned by law, I think the responsibility must ultimately lie with the companies that produce goods or provide services for children. I totally agree that it is harmful to children’s health to advertise rigidly unhealthy goods. Therefore, the decision was made that LazyTown would never be associated with such goods.”
“The main question is what is most promising for success, and I think that if all those involved in the upbringing of children in one way or another, such as parents, teachers, entertainment producers and television station managers, join hands, this unfortunate trend could be reversed. This has happened many times in history, the most immediate example is the awakening of the public about the harmfulness of smoking, which is now totally recognized by society, and smoking is not allowed anywhere among children. This same trend has already begun when it comes to healthy lifestyles, but all interested parties must come together, not just the legislature.” LazyTown is constantly looking for ways to gain more influence on this.
“Among other things, we would like to offer a cheap and convenient option in restaurants as a countermeasure to all the unhealthiness that is available by opening a LazyTown restaurant. With increased health awareness, there has been an attempt to connect the various characters that children know with healthy food, where children need to feel that the connection is real for it to inspire them. LazyTown has more children’s content than any other, and therefore we really want to open a restaurant that would be a kind of McDonald’s of the 21st century,” explains Magnús.
With the growing popularity of LazyTown, many food companies have wanted to link their products to the company. “We have carefully chosen our partners and said no to countless brands that we don’t think it’s right to be associated with. While we have been saying no to fast food restaurants and chocolate manufacturers who could pay us immediately, the financial flow has been slower in parts, but instead LazyTown has been growing steadily and putting its name on a product we trust.”
“The result of this is that the LazyTown brand has become much more valuable and partners have to work harder than otherwise to meet our standards. Now, for example, Kellogg’s is designing a special LazyTown morning cereal so that it meets our criteria, instead of our logo being placed on some other morning cereal on the market,” says Magnús.
The future possibilities of LazyTown seem to be countless. Magnús says he’s only halfway through what he set out to do in the beginning, and his energy and enthusiasm don’t seem to be waning. “It’s been a lot of work, but a lot of fun. Things are so busy that you rarely get a chance to stop on the slope and enjoy the view because you are somehow always on your way up or sliding down.”
“I sometimes get a bit numb to the success that has been achieved while there is so much to do, but then you stop every once in a while and realize that we are being compared to big companies like Disney and Pixar. Those companies have approximately 15,000 employees, while the core of LazyTown’s staff is around fifty people, although more people come to the projects worldwide. Many of our employees have done their work out of passion alone and I wouldn’t have enough money to pay them for everything they have put in within the company,” says Magnús
Magnús does not rule out the possibility that the show will be sold to larger parties in the coming years. “Often smaller parties are bought out and you have to be prepared for that possibility. I am proud to see the brand grow and that the production of LazyTown’s material can take place abroad without me being directly involved. Now, for example, a number of actors of various nationalities are playing Sportacus on stage, as well as the LazyTown puppets have become part of the BBC’s production. Maybe it’s just as well, because at some point the last day of selling will come,” Magnús says and laughs.
“LazyTown is really a young company and has a lot left to do. We recently discussed inside the company what LazyTown really wants to stand for, and the result was that we want to move people, both physically and mentally. Archimedes said, “Give me a pole long enough and a place to stand on and I will move the world.” Hopefully LazyTown is a pole long enough to move the world,” says Magnús in conclusion.