Volume 7, Number 2, 1998

Doobee's a video star

Northwest Airlines employee Kerry Kirkland, HP '76, is flying high. And, it's all because of a duck.

The 43-year-old Delaware native, a resident of Chelmsford, Mass., is marketing a high-tech, computer-animated video featuring Doobee Duck, a lovable, veggie-eating character who is fast becoming a hero of the toddler set.

Teaming up with her husband, Peter Grellmann, and his business partner, Claude Kallanian, Kirkland wrote a screenplay for the 15-minute, family-friendly video, which tells the story of Doobee's search for his favorite food-tomatoes.

"I wrote it when I was teaching preschool," says Kirkland, who now works a flexible schedule in ground-based customer service for Northwest. She's based at Boston's Logan International Airport, where an early morning start helps her in raising her two daughters, Kara and Natalia.

As a teacher trying to explain winter, spring, summer and fall to her young pupils, "I couldn't find any good books on the four seasons, so I decided to write my own," she says. "I incorporated a duck in the story because Peter had a duck that loved tomatoes."

She wrote the story six years ago, and first used it in "flannel board" presentations in her preschool classes. At about the same time, her husband and Kallanian, who had been working as computer engineers for Wang Laboratories, lost their jobs when the firm downsized.

The two started Earthrise Studios in the Grellmann home, producing computer animations, including company logos and short safety films, Kirkland says. In 1992, they began working on the Doobee Duck video because they thought it might be popular with children.

Using computers to develop the high-quality, three-dimensional digital animations is time-intensive, and the three spent 18 months on just 12 seconds of footage.

Altogether, it took them five years to finish the quarter-hour film-"just long enough time for a preschooler to sit" before losing attention, Kirkland says.

A graduate of Wilmington's Brandywine High School, Kirkland earned a bachelor's degree in primary kindergarten education
at UD.

Her brother, Kent, AS '74, is a human resources professional in Connecticut, and her sister, Celeste Mozeik, HP '83, is a Wilmington Country Club chef.

The video, formally titled Doobee's Four Seasons: The Quest for Tomatoes, involved a melding of talents. While Grellmann and Kallanian wrote software for the project, Kirkland conducted marketing studies, trying out the story on various children to see how they liked it.

One early snag was the name. Kirkland originally called her feathered hero "Doowee," but had to change it to avoid infringing on Disney's Dewey Duck.

Grellmann, accomplished on the guitar, keyboard and synthesizer, "wrote music for three songs in the video, and I wrote the lyrics," Kirkland says. In the finished product, Kirkland narrates the story and her husband sings the songs.

The Doobee video has already gained technical recognition on an international scale. It was honored at the Intercom International Film Festival in Chicago with a merit award for best animation, Kirkland says. And, the video won the 1997 Crystal Award of Excellence for Children's Programming from the American Videographers Association.

"We've sold about 1,000 of them so far. We sell quite a few for Christmas. A lot of people want a video that's educational and nonviolent. That's what Doobee is all about," says Kirkland, who is trying to interest Boston's public television station, WGBH, in showing Doobee.

"I always wanted to write children's stories...and I'm going to write more," she says.

On the immediate horizon is a sequel to Doobee. "I don't want to say too much about it, but it's about cute bugs," says Kirkland, who is working on the screenplay.

Doobee also has a web site <www.doobeeduck.com>, where net surfers can learn all about the waddling superstar.

-Phil Milford

The video sells for $14.95, plus tax and $4 shipping and handling. To order a copy, write to Earthrise Studios, 139 Robin Hill Rd., Chelmsford, MA 08124.