A laboratory for creativity

The Way Kids Are...
June 1, 1998

The Way Kids Are

Who are these kids of the `90s? How do they differ from children of other generations? ‘The Way Kids Are’ is a regular series of columns in which we invite readers to help us understand kids. Each column will begin by describing a recent experience with a child, followed by an analysis that will examine what this teaches us about children today. Submissions can be made by contacting West Coast editor Virginia Robertson by phone: 213-966-4500, fax: 213-852-0223 or e-mail:

When he was six-and-a-half years old, Tyler Samuel Lee became enamored with the Cartoon Network show Dexter’s Laboratory, and he quickly developed an astoundingly accurate Dexter impression. It was so good, in fact, that his mom gave the show’s creator/writer/director Genndy Tartakovsky a call to have a listen. Tartakovsky was equally impressed and agreed to listen to the tape Tyler had created for an entire episode of the show. That tape was to make animated broadcasting history when it aired recently during a special 50th segment of Dexter’s Laboratory.

‘There was an instant appeal to his voice,’ notes Tartakovsky. ‘He got all the characters and their personalities right. It was the perfect complement to the show-that a six-and-a-half-year-old kid could come up with this.’

The original audio of Tyler’s quirkily tall tale ultimately metamorphosed into the seven-minute short ‘Dexter and Computress Get Mandark,’ which aired April 29. Series director John McIntyre chose a crayon background and a roughed up animation style to accompany Tyler’s rambling, tape-recorded audio track.

Finally, in the weeks leading up to, and following, his debut, Tyler, now seven-and-a-half, fielded interviews from USA Today, People Magazine, The Washington Post, Daily Variety, Newsday and a number of network television stations in New York City and his native Long Island, New York. And of course, KidScreen.

KS: What inspired you to do your own episode of Dexter’s Laboratory?

Tyler: I saw the episode of Dexter in the Mark Five-it was supposed to be a spoof of Speed Racer-and after it, I said, ‘Mom, can I have a tape recorder and a blank tape? And give me some privacy in the bathroom.’ I did the tape. I put the top secret plans in it.

KS: Was there anything about the experience of having your idea made into a show that surprised you?

Tyler: I didn’t really expect all of this stuff happening. I just expected [the episode] to be on TV. I expected them to make that show out of what I did, but I didn’t really expect all of the newspaper stuff. But I like it!

KS: Did it take a lot of guts to put it on tape?

Tyler: Yeah.

KS: Do you think the animators did a good job with all the drawings?

Tyler: Yeah. It was just like [I planned]. I thought it was very good. It wasn’t really how I expected. I expected it to be just the idea. But the promo that they did saying,’`We’re going to let this six-year-old boy do our 50th episode,’ I love it! Dexter said [in the promo], ‘Thanks, Tyler! You saved us a lot of work!’

KS: What was the reaction of kids at school?

Tyler: ‘Can I have your autograph? I want your autograph! Me too!’ They all clapped at the end [when a tape of the episode was aired at school].

I forgot most of [the comments], but I could remember some. Jonathan is my best friend-I always play with him in the playground. Jonathan said, ‘I like it when Dexter is about to sleep and he made all these kinds of faces.’

KS: What advice would you offer to kids who have creative ideas like yours?

Tyler: It may happen. I’d give advice to kids-if you want to, you could make a character. Send it in.

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