Taboo KB&JJ

Taboo and Gaumont develop Indigenous-inspired kids series

EXCLUSIVE: The Black Eyed Peas member, who is of Hopi/Shoshone and Mexican descent, is bringing First Nations philosophies into the kids TV space.
June 28, 2022

By Jeremy Dickson and Sadhana Bharanidharan

Black Eyed Peas member Taboo (pictured) and French prodco Gaumont “gotta feeling” their upcoming Indigenous-inspired kids series will have a positive effect on young audiences around the world.

Created by rapper Taboo (a.k.a. Jimmy Gomez) and his creative partner Ben Jackendoff, KB & JJ is currently in the works as an international co-production.

Paris-based studio Gaumont (Do, Re & Mi) is producing the project alongside Australian prodco Flying Bark Productions (100% Wolf) and California-based Skyview Way Studios. Writer/director/animator Jake Duczynski (Cooked), of Gomeroi and Mandandanji descent, is collaborating on the series.

Aimed at preschoolers, KB & JJ (78 x seven minutes) is being developed as a CG-animated toon that tags along with two unlikely best friends: a young orca whale and a jellyfish. Their adventures under the sea will draw prominently on the wisdom, philosophies and practices of Australian First Nations communities.

For Taboo, who is of Hopi/Shoshone and Mexican descent, his heritage is the driving force behind the creation and ongoing development of the series. “I asked myself—what if I could infuse music, that I already have a stronghold on, into content that best represents my DNA and my narrative?” he says.

As a veteran in the music industry, Taboo has spent more than two decades as a member of the Peas, one of the best-selling bands of all time with a discography encompassing a variety of genres including pop, hip-hop, Latin and EDM.

He says he and Jackendoff were developing the idea for a┬áseries focused on Indigenous cultures, and were put in touch with Gaumont US EVP Terry Kalagian through animation producer Aaron Simpson (Aiko and the Masters of Time). Together, they approached Flying Bark to be a production partner, due to its specialization in Indigenous-led productions and Australia’s robust Indigenous screen community. First Nations artists will notably be incorporated into the show’s music, a process Taboo has been involved in, bridging local and global sounds.

“I got a list of Aboriginal Australian acts and I’ve basically sampled their vocals, and incorporated my own flavor on it to make it more international,” he says. “I make the music into a world sound, but also highlight those artists from that region.”

Set in a Bombora reef in Australia, the series’ plot points and themes are also being shaped with guidance from Indigenous communities across the Pacific. (Bombora is an Indigenous Australian term for an area of large sea waves that break over a submerged offshore reef or rock shelf.)

According to Kalagian, characters in the series will experience other environments and cultures in the world—including a visit to the Indigenous-inspired realm of dreaming—via an ancient underwater slipstream. It will also incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing , exploring concepts and values such as people’s responsibility to one another and our relationship to nature and animals.

Taboo and Jackendoff also have another animated preschool series in development with Gaumont. Journey’s Farm (52 x 11 minutes) explores a young boy’s life on his family’s farm, which is part of a larger farm co-op. In each episode, the titular character anticipates problems through music before solving them. Taboo is producing a soundtrack of nearly a dozen original songs for the show’s first season.

KB & JJ and Journey’s Farm aren’t Taboo’s first foray into kids content. Last year, he authored a children’s book entitled A Kids Book About Identity and in 2020 he co-wrote the third volume of Marvel Comics series Werewolf by Night.

He credits his friend, the late Kobe Bryant, for sparking his interest in venturing into kids content. “Kobe’s life after basketball really inspired me,” he says, citing how Bryant went on to produce the Oscar-winning animated film Dear Basketball and publish kids’ books through his California-based company Granity Studios.

Taboo has also found inspiration from fellow Native American showrunner Karissa Valencia, whose animated preschool series Spirit Rangers is set to premiere on Netflix later this year and will include voicework from Taboo’s son Jalen.

“He had never acted before, but she gave him a shot,” says Taboo. “You always want to celebrate creatives that are doing something in the Indigenous space, let alone on a big global scale, so I owe Karissa a lot for giving my son an opportunity.”

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