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$3.5-Million Donation for PBS’ ‘Puzzle’

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Public-television station KCET Channel 28 said Wednesday that the pieces of the puzzle for its new series for preschoolers, “The Puzzle Factory,” are coming together thanks to a corporate donation of $3.5 million from Southern California Edison and Rebuild L.A.

The money will be used to produce the first 65 half-hour episodes of the series, which aims to teach preschoolers about cultural diversity and getting along with others through a group of ethnically diverse “people” puppets who sing, dance, make friends and solve life’s problems in a colorful puzzle factory.

“The Puzzle Factory” is set to premiere nationally on PBS in the winter of 1994.

KCET, which will produce the show locally with New York-based Lancit Media, added the new donation to the $4.5 million in federal funding it received for the series from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1991.

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But the producers said they are seeking another $5 million to cover the full scope of the project, which includes an ambitious “outreach” program to provide supplemental materials to day-care centers, where many children will be watching the series.

“Our goal is very specific,” said KCET President William Kobin. “It’s to teach kids the value of diversity, and that differences are to be celebrated. They are living in a multicultural world, and they have to learn to accept their differences, to be non-judgmental and to be tolerant.”

Southern California Edison, working with Rebuild L.A., signed onto “The Puzzle Factory” project because it has similar goals. As Edison chief executive officer John E. Bryson put it, “We want to be the leader in showing that we can build on the strengths of diversity.” The money for the series comes from the $35 million Edison has committed to renewing Los Angeles.

Rebuild L.A.'s Barry Sanders said that most exciting part of “The Puzzle Factory” is that it teaches children about racial prejudice. “The most effective way to make a difference in race relations is to get to the youngest members of society,” he said. To Sanders, it is particularly important that the show is produced in Los Angeles: “The series is uniquely L.A. because the experiment in race relations is uniquely L.A.”

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