UNICEF’s new ambassador for the International Children’s Day of Broadcast is an animated South Asian character named Meena, who stars in a new 13 x 13-minute cartoon series for kids ages two to 11 that bears the same name. The first episode of Meena (a co-production between India’s Ram Mohan Biographics and Hanna-Barbera) is airing free of charge on December 13, the first day of the annual event. The rest of the series, budgeted at US$100,000 per episode, will be offered to broadcasters for a modest license fee starting early in 1999.
Meena’s creators hope that the young spokestoon will help to increase global awareness of children’s rights issues. Meena was not designed to conform to anyone’s stereotypical ideal of a young girl, making her the perfect rep for ‘real’ kids around the world.
Meena was created, in part, by over 10,000 South Asian children that UNICEF consulted regarding direction of storylines, which discuss topics like health care and early marriage. A second character, Sara, is being developed, a teenager from Africa who deals with a different set of cultural problems.
Meena’s December 13 debut marks the seventh year of the International Children’s Day of Broadcast, and UNICEF is expecting more than 2,000 TV and radio stations in about 170 countries to participate in the event. To reach on-line audiences, UNICEF’s ICDB homepage will carry a slew of Meena-related interactive games and animation clips that broadcasters are encouraged to add to their own Web sites via cyberlinks.