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Would You Submit Work to Kenn Viselman?

High-profile children’s entertainment licensor Kenn Viselman (Teletubbies, Thomas the Tank Engine), who refers to himself as the Madonna of the toy business, is launching a new preschool program called Millipede and he’s looking for content from children’s producers. The submission form contract has raised some eyebrows from people who have emailed us about it, and I’m curious whether others out there would feel comfortable submitting to Viselman’s show.

There’s a lot of legalese in there, so I attempted to translate it into human-readable language. Here’s what I came up with: Before you submit anything to Kenn, you have to acknowledge that your property is not unique and that Kenn may have already had the same idea. You also have to acknowledge that you won’t file a lawsuit if he ends up producing something that looks exactly like your own work. If he likes your idea, and hasn’t already thought of it himself, he’ll offer you a deal within his “standard parameters.” If you end up having any dispute with Kenn, you can’t take him to court. Instead, you have to agree that a random dude named Skip will resolve your problems (seriously, I’m not making this up folks).

I’m sure some of the terms are industry-standard for submission releases, but even if that’s the case, I find the entire process off-putting and one-sided, especially considering that Kenn’s the one looking for material. Here’s a longish article about the guy from a 2003 issue of Inc. magazine.

  • no i would not submit.

  • “Although Artist may believe that Artist’s Property is original and novel, [acceptance of pitch]shall not be construed as any acknowledgement or admission that the same or a similar [work has ever been created].”

    Ho. Lee. Crap. If there was ever something called rectal-cranial insertion, it can be found here. Is it to really say that every idea in the world belongs to this guy, as long as you mention it to him? And who is to say that a work on a same theme as another work is “unoriginal”?Anyway, I hope this guy doesn’t get any pitches. No one should agree to terms so anal retentive.

    • Ho Lee Crap: the first thing that comes to mind is a future graphic novel about a Chinese dissident. Only this guy is too far underground to get a Nobel prize – or arrested. He’s the kind of super pain in the ass that the world really needs right now.

  • Kenn Viselman = Never pitch ideas to.

    Ok, that has now been stored in my memory bank.
    Thanks Amid for the heads up.

  • What I’ve learned recently through my designwork is that legalize it bullshit for the ideator. Just give us a fair deal, don’t steal, and don’t try to own us. It’s that simple. That’s how I’m approaching everything now. We all have blogs. So, if you’ve been wronged, but blog about it until you’ve been righted.

  • Reminds me of all the papers I had to sign before interning at WDW. “If you come up with an idea that saves the company millions of dollars we do not have to give you anything.”

  • BR Inle

    Why sure, I’d like to work on a preschool show called Human Millipede…

  • The “unveiling” of “Li’l Pet Hospital” described in the article reads like something out of a Christopher Guest mockumentary.

  • elle

    sadly “you have to acknowledge that your property is not unique […] Kenn may have already had the same idea […] you won’t file a lawsuit if he ends up producing something that looks exactly like your own work” is industry standard in film & tv. while it sucks, remember it’s not necessarily just this guy being evil.

  • oh geez

    Why does a creator need help with ideas?

  • K. Borcz

    Who the heck spells Ken with TWO “N’s?”

    • Jay Sabicer

      He probably thinks that’s ‘original’, that’s why.

    • steppo

      Because he’s Kenner.

  • To indie artists, a lot of network contracts may look and feel pretty one-sided. If that were the case, then I wouldn’t be too surprised. But for a guy who essentially has his own consultancy? Kind of funky.

  • lampshayde

    Hasn’t this kind of stuff been going for a long time?

  • david

    bottom line: artists should not pitch to studios or dudes like this. once they stop this maybe some of the power will return to the artists. Until then all people who pitch will perpetuate this bullshyt AND you’re the reason why that exec you hate is driving the nicer car and can afford a nice house, because you let them get away with it.

  • Scarabim

    I think that Hanna-Barbera put out a submission form contract like that once, if I’m not mistaken. I remember seeing a copy of it in a class I was taking, and then rolling my eyes at it and tossing it in the trash…

  • Spencer

    Ummm…. No.

  • Are any studios NOT like that?


    I’m thinking, “Nope.”

    And remember, just because someone wrote that, does NOT mean it is even remotely enforceable in a court of law…

  • Mr. Imbecile

    Yes, I would submit my material to him!
    Yours very truly,
    Mr. Imbecile

  • Keith

    You should at least get something worthwhile ($$$$) up front if you deal with somebody like “Kenn.” Hence the old expression, “Kiss me before you screw me.”

  • Pretty standard really. If you make a pitch to a major corporation they will make you sign the same. Only thing is that a mega corp is more likely to workwith you than to steal from you. Of course there are always exceptions.

    • The Gee


      You’re right. In fact, employer-employee contracts may have similar language, too.

      From my perspective, the thing is that it is best to avoid these types of situations and just develop it yourself. It isn’t impossible to do nowadays, so, why not prove that the idea, the property can work first?

      Obviously, there is a lot already out there, some good, a lot bad. And, anything new is just another drop in the bucket. But, it is better than investing time, creativity, some form of passion, etc. only to hand it to someone who claims to have been there and done that.

      Make them come to you. (but still be cautious.)

  • Pretty standard stuff in this agreement, although I don’t know about Skip, usually both parties have a say in who would be arbitrator. I only submit specific projects to these kind of studios, and through an agent so i have someone watching my back. Never hurts to roll the dice every so often.


    Kenn is NOT a creator. More like a thief. That is why he wants your ideas. He’s not CREATIVE he’s a CROOK

  • Frank Ziegler

    I have an nickelodeon release that says the same thing. Seems typical…and wrong somehow.

  • As others have pointed out, this is in no way unusual. It’s but a symptom, like the unpaid internships, rip-off competitions and so many other issues we face. The problem is this:

    Producers/businessmen will not make a move without being paid well. Artists/creators will gladly give their art just to get it out there.

    In terms of balance of power, that will ALWAYS leave the artists screwed. Always. Until artists (all artists) start attaching a real value to their work, it’s not going to change.

  • This may be typical, but that’s all the more reason to execute your own work rather than waiting for some corporate bigwig to give you the thumbs up.

    No one ever said you could draw on the sidewalk when you were 3, but you still had the balls to do so. Why wait for acceptance now that you’re a full grown adult?

    If they’ve got a spot for you, you’ll get on the boobtube. Either way, you’ll still have fun and can show your work wherever you like.

  • Was my face red

    I’ve been on the other side of this one… when someone pitches you a show A LOT like something you really are already working on.

    You tell them this. They give you a funny look. Now they’re thinking you’re going to rip them off and when they see your show announced they believe it even more. Now they want to sue you and you never asked them to sign any kind of release.

    The engulf and devour of such contracts is horrible, but it’s not as simple as people sitting behind desks waiting to steal the hot new idea. Lots of people really do have the same ideas, but in the end it’s execution and continuos striving to get better that makes good work, not a one sentence pitch.

  • I freelanced for a big regional ad agency years ago in Florida, where we developed a campaign, hired a top flight illustrator and started buying print and billboard space all over the place. Three months later the senior art director showed me what looked like a very crappy ripoff of our campaign – out of Texas. I was stunned that anyone, or firm, would have the balls. The art director (Glenn was ethical, focused and serious about his work) explained to me that this happened all the time, and that the agency in Texas probably never heard of our campaign. It’s just part of the business and to not get worked up about it.

    This is a long post, sorry:

    Related; there was a study about 20 years ago, where rats in, I believe, Sweden were given a specific maze to run before finding food. The same maze was built in Australia where the rats learned it a little faster. In Japan the rats learned it still a little fast. The US, still a little faster, and on and on. What was going on? Everywhere the maze was built, the rats thereafter learned it progressively faster. Some day we may have a logical explanation, like the discovery of bacteria. Until then, work with people you can trust.

  • Toonio

    I wouldn’t submit crap to this guy even if it was valued $10 a can.

    Now this call for mischief! Send him pr0n related stuff with a clear statement: When you want to screw somebody be straight and say it like it is.

  • Your character, pitched to Kenn, will be ridculued on thousands of websites that act immature.

    From what I hear, this guy acts like Professor Scarecrow from the “Jasper” Puppetoons by George Pal.

  • haywood jablomy

    I’d sooner submit ideas to Todd Goldman.

  • Anne D Bernstein

    As some others mentioned, this kind of terminology is standard in many contracts at large corps like MTV, etc. (I’ll use MTV because I worked there.) It is necessary because there are many ideas that they hear pitched over and over. If is entirely possible that they HAVE seen your idea before or have some similar in development and they are trying to avoid YOU suing THEM.

    If there is something genius in the pitch it will be in the execution of that idea. Know who you are dealing with. If they have a good reputation, there is no reason that they would take your underlying idea (which believe me, someone has had before) and give it to someone else to work with.

    I used to use the example of “Dogs in Space” as a pitch that I had seen over and over. Of course, shortly after I used this example, someone showed me a new pilot about…a dog in space.

    Anyway, I don’t know this dude’s rep and that is far more important when deciding whether to deal with him.

  • Wayne

    I’m not going to bother to read the “longish article” about this character. His contractual conditions tell the same old story: you do all the work, offer all the ideas and sweat, and I get all the gravy–and there ain’t nuthin’ you can do about it. Talk about selling your soul to you-know-who.

  • K Bergen

    Don’t go anywhere near this. He will listen, say it is great but he has heard it before and steal it. Then he will sue you and tie you up on litigation. Run away.

    This guy was not the genius behind the Teletubbies, read the facts. He got the NA franchise rights and that relationship ended in a lawsuit.

    He is a con artist. ,