“Characters tell stories, and kids love stories. If you have characters that are platform agnostic and kids fall in love with the characters, they’re going to listen to the story.” – Terry Thoren, USA

The past few weeks have been full of interesting and invigorating conferences and meetings for me, and this means that I have had the good fortune of speaking with some incredible people in the world of education.

At the Dell “Day of Innovation in Education” in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I met think tank experts, impactful education partners, passionate education advocates, and participated in meaningful discussions that covered topics such as “Closing the Learning Gap,” “The Digital Divide: Equity and Access,” and “How Technology Spurs Innovation in the Classroom.” And I also spoke with innovators like Terry Thoren.

Thoren, who has had a long career in media, knows a thing or two about what engages children. He helped bring the well-known and well-loved animations the Rugrats, Rocket Power, As Told by Ginger and The Wild Thornberrys to movie screens.

“One of the things that made these successful was that we would engage with children emotionally, and then they would go out and buy the merchandise,” says Thoren. “I realized that if you could take that same passion that children have to buy the lunchbox, to buy the toy or cereal or cookie and take that into the classroom and engage students to learn, it could be a very powerful tool.”

Thoren and his team at Big Bad Tomato first started focusing animations on kids with special needs and autism. They pair their cartoons with songs to help teachers create a deep connection with their students.

“Not every kid learns the same way,” says Thoren. “But if you have characters that are platform agnostic…that kids fall in love with…they are going to listen to the story. And story is really the beginning of teaching. In the beginning of teaching, we sat around the campfire and told stories about our tribe. Storytelling is what everyone does outside of the classroom. Let’s bring it into the classroom.”

Here, Thoren shares with me his vision for creating aspirational stories with kids,
and how that will affect content – and especially learning – in the future. Enjoy!

About Terry Thoren
Twitter Handle: @TerryThoren

LinkedIn Profile: www.linkedin.com/pub/terry-thoren/2/146/825

Website: www.bigbadtomato.com

Industry: Education     

Thoren is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Big Bad Tomato where he leads his team to create a world of animated characters with an emphasis to connect and engage children at risk and children with special needs.

Terry Thoren has been recognized by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most important figures in the marketing and promotion of independent animated films in the United States.”

Prior to his current role, Thoren served as CEO/President of TeachTown, an educational software company focusing on autism and special needs.  TeachTown combines rigorous research-based curriculum with broadcast TV quality animation and storytelling to create products that engage and motivate students to learn

Before TeachTown he served as CEO/President Klasky Csupo, the animation studio that produced the hit shows The Simpsons, Rugrats and Rocket Power, for twelve years. He oversaw the production of three Rugrats movies and The Wild Thornberrys movie for Paramount and he was the Executive in Charge of Production on more than 600 episodes of TV animation for Viacom. In 1987 he founded Animation Magazine, now celebrating its 25th year as the world’s only print publication about the business and art of animation.

  • In 1985 he founded the World Animation Celebration, America’s only international marketplace for the business and art of animation.
  • In 1983 he founded Expanded Entertainment, a production company specializing theatrical distribution of award winning international animation
  • In 1979 he was recruited by the country’s largest art theatre chain Landmark Theaters and moved to Hollywood to learn the business of distribution and marketing by working as a film buyer and a marketing Vice President.
  • In 1978 he co-founded the Denver International Film Festival.
  • He began his film studies career at the University of Colorado. Upon graduation he built a film school called the Visions Film Program and in 1976 became the
    Director of the Western States Film Institute.


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One Response to “Characters tell stories, and kids love stories. If you have characters that are platform agnostic and kids fall in love with the characters, they’re going to listen to the story.” – Terry Thoren, USA

  1. Ethel Myers Stanton says:

    Dear Terry Thoren:

    I am a cousin of yours through Ruby Thoren Myers, sister of Carl Oscar Thoren.

    I lived with Mildred Thoren in Pasadena for two years back in 1949 to 1951.
    I was going to school at PCC, Pasadena City College.

    I heard that you knew Aunt Mildred, but never met you or your family.

    I was able to visit with your Mother and Dad, Ted and Jeanne Thoren.
    He is certainly legendary for his years as baseball coach at Cornell.

    Now, I have heard of your work with Rugrats and related cartoons, and
    your programs for Teach Town.

    You certainly have been busy.

    Your Cousin,


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