Volume 17 • Issue 23 | Oct. 29 - Nov. 4, 2004

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Alison Brown, mother of two Tribeca preschoolers, made a video of a stroller’s view of the city set to jazz, pop and classical music.

Video captures New York view from a stroller

By Angela Benfield

A Tribeca mom has created a new children’s video, “Littlewalks New York,” that mixes classical music, jazz and pop while taking you on a virtual tour of Manhattan – all from a toddler’s point of view.

“It’s filled with all the places that I take my children to see every summer,” said one Battery Park City mom. “I especially liked the way it was filmed – because I got to see the way my children see the city.”

After a long, depressing winter of being stuck indoors at her Franklin St. apartment with her toddler, Alison Brown, 35, got the idea of bringing a bit of the outdoors inside by filming her son’s stroller walks during the summer months.

“I thought ‘why hasn’t anyone made a video about being outside,’” asked Brown. She didn’t like the idea that her son, Ford, now 4, watched videos (such as Barney) which are filmed in a studio and have an “artificial” look. “What’s wrong with reality?”

Brown, who now also has a daughter, Felix, age 2, wanted to set it to music. But she could not endure listening to the usual nursery rhymes that played on children’s videos. She heard them endlessly as she popped in a video for Ford while preparing dinner or folding laundry. Many a parent can attest to how those songs grate on one’s patience. Hence, she decided to take a more cultural approach.

“The moms are the ones that put the videos in, so they have to like it, but kids like jazz, classical and pop too,” said Brown. She feels that the music in her video will spark an interest for tasteful music in the diaper-wearing crowd. “People underestimate the intelligence and sophistication of children,” she said.

After putting three or four minutes of video together on her camcorder, she played it for Ford, who loved it so much, he asked to watch it again and again. He wasn’t the only one; his playdates would like to watch the tape, too, and their parents would even ask to borrow it. That’s when Brown, a freelance art director for an advertising firm, got the idea to make it into a full-length video and market it to the public.

The perspective of the video is from the eye level of a child looking out from his stroller as he is being pushed through the city. Therefore, the filming had to be shot from that height. Alison first tried putting a camera in the stroller to accomplish the task, but the video came out looking like it was more of a roller coaster ride than a saunter, so she tried another way.

“I had to just walk around the city holding the camera like this,” Brown said, squatting with the camera by her side. “It was very hard, but the easy part was that I knew what my son loved to stop and look at.”

The video brings you through all the sites that an ordinary New York City mom would take her child to see: the Central Park Zoo, the Statue of Liberty, Chinatown. It’s also loaded with visuals that capture the interest of a toddler, but are usually ignored by adults on a typical walk, like puppies, fire trucks, construction crews, and boats.

Alison says that filming in a city as large as New York was problematic at times. Every time she filmed a person that was not within a crowd, her producer, who was with her during the shooting, would have to run back and have them sign a release form.

“Some people would look at me weird or get mad,” she said.

So, what area of the city presented the biggest challenge? “Battery Park City was the most difficult place to shoot,” Brown said. “They’re very protective and you need a permit.” She said park officers demanded that she cease filming one day because she did not have permission.

She intends on taking other cities for a “Little Walk” in the future. “I’m trying to decide if I should do the United States, like Chicago or San Francisco, or if I should do Paris,” she said.

“Littlewalks New York” is being sold Downtown at Whipper Snipper’s, 106 Reade St., 212-227-2600 and Shoofly, 42 Hudson St., 212-406-3270. It can also be obtained online at www.littlewalks.com.

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