The Start of Little Hardhats
(1990) Independent video producer and Father of five, Fred Levine observed His own children’s fascination with big machines when the light went off in His head to make a kids movie featuring real people in the real world, using big machines to get their jobs done; this pre-dated the recent trend in reality based programming by many years.
With a recession taking it’s toll on Levine’s corporate independent video work, He grabbed his camera and simply headed off to a nearby road construction site, where he quickly befriended the workers, whose cooperation he enlisted to get his now signature, up-close and personal production style shots. Levine also enlisted His own children to both appear in His movies and serve as reviewers.
The First Video
Levine’s first title, Road Construction Ahead, was completed in late 1991 after one year in production. Levine was confident that His speculative children’s movie would be a success, but had no idea how to make that happen. Some ill-fated paid advertising sent Him back to the drawing board, with the result being a decision that Road Construction Ahead needed to be reviewed by critics.
After making tiring cold calls to children’s video reviewers, Levine was awoken to an early morning telephone call one morning from a family member telling him that “….you’re in the New York Times!” Within minutes of that telephone call, back in 1992, Levine’s telephone rang non-stop for five days on the side of a mountain in Vermont where He lived and worked, netting about $11,800.00 in VHS video sales in five days, pay dirt!
The Start of A New Genre
Everybody reads the New York Times, resulting in the AP Wire picking up the story and every major newspaper in the Country ran the AP story, or wrote one of their own. Major magazine publications also featured the story, including People Magazine. National TV shows soon followed suit and Levine appeared on Good Morning America, The Home Show, The Morning Show and a five minute, prime time feature story on Eye to Eye with Connie Chung, with Harry Smith. VHS tapes were selling afterwards at a volume of 750 per day!
While Levine’s objectives at the onset included monetary reward, as a concerned parent, He also wanted to produce quality, educational and entertaining movies for children, edutainment, if you will. At the time, most all children’s programming was either fantasy, like Barney, for example, or violent, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Levine’s commitment to producing quality children’s edutainment, clearly sets Him apart from the rampage of knock-offs and copy-cats that proliferated after seeing the widespread media attention to Levine’s blockbuster hit, Road Construction Ahead. This was a family business, a Father who was inspired by and involved His own children in His work. Levine’s five children, four Boys and one Girl, appear in each of His ten movies. The most recent, All Aboard, is hosted by Levine’s youngest children.
In addition to receiving widespread critical reviews and national media attention, Levine’s movies won a vast array of awards including the one for which He is most proud, being included in the exclusive list of “The Top Ten Best All Time Movies for Toddlers and Preschoolers”, along with Disney Studio classics, by prestigious, Parents Magazine.