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URLwire for Wednesday, December 4, 2002
WGBH Interactive Launches FFFBI - the Fin, Fur and Feather Bureau of Investigation 
The FFFBI is an international Web site for kids of all ages chronicling the exploits of an unusual, animal-run detective agency
WGBH Interactive Launch FFFBI
Based in Boston, Peabody award-winner WGBH is the leading producer of PBS prime-time programs and Web content, and is a major producer for public radio. It's also a pioneer in educational multimedia and in technologies that make media accessible to people who have visual or hearing impairments.
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Hampered by its own bureaucracy and budget cuts, the FFFBI recruits kids from around the world to file Field Reports, decode messages, intercept documents and guide FFFBI Agents to success. FFFBI Field Agents assist in thwarting bad guys like C.R.U.S.T. (the Confederacy of Rascals and Unspeakably Suspicious Troublemakers) and the Cyber Tooth Tigers, a band of technovillains led by the charismatic Skip Intro. Field Agents must also beware the strangely named Sandwich-Faced Daddy's Boys. All while maintaining the Bureau's strained relations with the CIIIA, Scotland Barnyard and InterPoultry.  

The FFFBI Agents are as unusual as the cases and bad guys they investigate. There's Agent Nelson, the 'Elephant of Surprise' you often hear about in successful operations. Computer Bug sisters, Glitch and Surge. Elbow and Wrist are our hamster/chicken duo. The Deputy-Director is a King Penguin who aspires to be an Emperor. There's also a mysterious mandrill, the Coffee Guy, and a hammerhead shark who is a master of disguise.

The site invites Field Agents to:

  • Solve interactive mysteries on two FFFBI missions: Rainforest Undercover-an adventure to the Galapagos and the Amazon; and Operation GAS-Chicken--a fowl genetic experiment threatens Mars
  • Take the FFFBI International Challenge: incognito missions in Kenya, Japan, Iceland and beyond. Can you go undercover to thwart the Bad Guys?
  • File Field Reports: real kids writing in from around the world
  • Encode messages with the FFFBI's Hencoder and send them to fellow agents
  • Get the skinny on computer bugs Glitch and Surge, Mitch "The Itch" McGurk, Elbow, Wrist, and other key players by reviewing their Agent Profiles
  • Master the Coffee Guy Quiz: brain-tussling trivia from our Mysterious Mandrill
  • Sign up for Bureau Briefings: an action-packed triple-secret e-mail newsletter
  • Play unusual games like You Idiom, Wrists Lists, Fly Papers, Agent Keane's One-Minute Mysteries and more
But the FFFBI isn't ALL fun and games. The site uses innovative interactive stories and cleverly
disguised original thinking games to get kids to solve mysteries and learn crucial skills along the
way, such as using the Internet for research and investigation, critical thinking, reading, and
writing. The project is also a seductively devious springboard to explore a wide range of subjects - from math and science to geography, genetics and history. Admittedly, it's also, as one kid wrote, "freaky weird." 

The prototype site, soft-launched in early 2002, proved to be popular with both kids and adults worldwide, drawing traffic from the UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Europe and even the Middle East. Thanksgiving weekend saw visits to this small, underground site leap to a total over 200,000. According to e-mail feedback from field agents, the FFFBI not only "made me feel like a real detective on a real mission" but "kept me out of trouble with my little sister" and "is the greatest and funnest in the world."

The Fin, Fur and Feather Bureau of Investigation was created and written by Bill Shribman, with
original character designs and illustrations by Rick Pinchera. The production team also includes Kevin Lesniewicz and Gentry Menzel, both veterans of WGBH's Interactive Kids Group.

Bill Shribman, Executive Producer for WGBH Interactive's Kids Group and his team also devised, designed, wrote and produced the Web sites for ZOOM, Arthur and Between the Lions. These three sites are among the largest and busiest at which, according to Nielsen NetRatings, is the most-trafficked Dot Org in the world. Praise heaped upon the ZOOM, Arthur, and Between the Lions sites includes the first Prix Jeunesse given to a Web site, the first ever Japan Prize Silver, NewMedia Gold and Silver, MIMC Gold and a rare endorsement from The National Education Association. 

Based in Boston, Peabody award-winner WGBH is the leading producer of PBS prime-time programs and Web content, and is a major producer for public radio. It's also a pioneer in educational multimedia and in technologies that make media accessible to people who have visual or hearing impairments.

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