The past year has seen many industries reckon with their shortcomings when it comes to addressing race and racism.
Continued demands for justice—and for better representation in all aspects of culture, including entertainment—has galvanized many kids media companies to examine their inadequacies and invest real time and effort into creating lasting change. Broadcasters, producers and toymakers have worked over the last 12 months to make improvements to their diversity and inclusion efforts on screen, behind the scenes and on shelves in order to more effectively serve all families.
As part of our Inclusion industry series, we asked studio execs to round up some promising shows in development that put representation front and center to help address the real gap in on-screen diversity.
My Dad the Bounty Hunter (pictured, top)
Producer Netflix Animation
Style: CG animation
Format: 10 x 22 minutes
Status: In production, premiering August 14
This action-comedy is about a Black family that seems totally ordinary, until the kids find out their dad is really the toughest bounty hunter in the galaxy.
Why it’s hot: “This Netflix project comes from the talented duo of Everett Downing (Hair Love) and Patrick Harpin (Hotel Transylvania). From Flash Gordon to Blade Runner, I’m a huge fan of sci-fi action- adventure. But as an African American—with a few notable exceptions—it’s been rare to see animated projects in this genre with characters who look like me. So it’s exciting to know a show like this is getting made, [not just with] people who look like me on screen, but also behind the microphone and at the drafting board.” Musa Brooker, creative director at Six Point Harness
Producers: Lion Forge Animation, 41 Entertainment
Style: 3D animation
Format: 13 x half hours
Status: In development, seeking broadcast and streaming partners
Delivery: Q1 2023
Two merfolk sisters are sent away to hone their powers at boarding school, where they uncover the secret magic they need to protect their oceans.
Why it’s hot: “There has been a conversation developing online and through fan communities about the lack of BIPOC representation in fantasy and sci-fi storytelling—genres without the baggage of being tied to historical oppression, over-policing or the racism that the Black community faces. There are far too few diverse stories that allow for pure escapism, taking the viewer away from those unfortunate realities for a short time. What’s important about this story is that it’s the first glimpse of a new Black mermaid world with its own lore—built on tales that can be found throughout Africa, the Caribbean and the American South— while also offering an escape to an underwater world through fun, high-stakes adventure.” Carl Reed, president of Lion Forge Animation
Star Trek: Prodigy
Producers: CBS Eye Animation Productions, Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Secret Hideout, Roddenberry Entertainment
Style: CG animation
Format: 10 x 20 minutes
Status: In production, premiering on Paramount+ this fall
The first Star Trek series aimed at younger audiences, this interstellar adventure features a crew of young aliens who have to figure out how to work together while exploring the galaxy.
Why it’s hot: “Star Trek is a property that’s always thematically in line with inclusivity. Star Trek: Prodigy includes many different characters from different planets. The series underscores a key element of Nickelodeon’s content strategy—to build and expand the worlds of enormously popular franchises, and to give audiences more of what they love. We are not only invested in telling great stories that have inclusive themes, [but also in making sure] the artists on the show are equally diverse.” Ramsey Naito, president of Nickelodeon Animation
Producer: Big Bad Boo Studios
Style: 2D animation
Format: 20 x 11 minutes
Status: In pre-production, with Ravi Steve (Kim’s Convenience) attached as a writer and story editor
Delivery: Q1 2022
A young judge-in-spirit takes the bench in her backyard, setting up a mock courtroom to help her neighbors solve their problems.
Why it’s hot: “With this show, we hope to introduce kids to some things they have never seen before in a children’s series—the legal system, for starters. And also a strong female character from an Indian background who happens to be dyslexic, but doesn’t let that stop her from being the best judge she can be for her friends and neighbors.” Shabnam Rezaei, president of Big Bad Boo Studios
This is part three in a four-part series focusing on the Inclusion Industry. Tune in for the final piece tomorrow that provides an update on Kidscreen’s D&I progress and goals.