ComicMix Six: Television for the next generation of fandom
We were all kids once and, let’s face it, for many of us there was a particular television show or short that caught our attention and grabbed our inner-geek by the shoulders to shout “Look at me!” Whether you had a particular fondness for Interplanet Janet (“She’s a galaxy girl!”), Underdog, or Super Grover, chances are that something you saw in early childhood helped shape you into the fan you are today.
My sister and I always loved Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends (new action figures are coming out this year!), and my niece is a huge Power Puff Girls fan. This got me wondering what shows will inspire today’s budding geeks. The great thing about these days is that DVD and the Internet make it possible to view not only the latest children’s shows, but everything you feel that old nostalgia for as well. However, today’s children aren’t always as excited about the Wonder Twins or Cowboy Curtis as Mom and Dad may have been. Here, then, are some more recent selections for the latest generation of fans:
From Pirates to Samurai to Space-Travelers and everything in-between, this colorful and musical CGI-animated show (formerly aired on Nickelodeon, and now available on DVD) is all about five anthropomorphic neighbors whose imaginations take them on adventures to faraway times and places. While teaching children about the value of friendship and imagination and introducing several styles of music and dance, this show also stirs the core of future gamers. You see, the characters, Austin (a kangaroo), Pablo (a penguin), Tasha (a hippo), Tyrone (a moose), and Uniqua (a creature vaguely reminiscent of a child-sized pink ant), are like a game group. They meet, they create characters, they play out their roles and scenarios as their game characters, and then they have a snack. If you’ve ever gamed at a con, you know this drill.
This popular PBS show has such a huge fanbase, it even has an exhibit devoted at the New York Hall of Science. Cyberchase is about three Earth children who get pulled into cyberspace through a computer. The kids use their math skills to get out of challenging situations and defeat the evil bad guy Hacker (voiced by Christopher Lloyd). Each episode takes place on a cybersite—essentially a different world within cyberspace—so these children are also able to take on different roles in a variety of fantasy realms. It has the added bonus of teaching kids that math can be cool whether you’re a girl or a boy, and that’s awesome!
3. Super Why!
Here, we have a cheerful group of friends from a place called “Storybook Village.” The friends are fairy tale characters until there is a problem to be solved. Then Princess Pea, The Littlest Pig, Little Red Riding Hood, and Whyatt Beanstalk (whose older brother Jack is now a guitar-strumming teenager) turn into little heroes, complete with costumes and coordinating vehicles called “Why Gliders” that allow them to enter a book where someone is encountering a similar story. They change the story to a more agreeable outcome and learn the answer to their own problem as a result. Not only will this show help children learn to read, it will likely inspire the next generation of fanfic writers!
4. Dragon Tales
What’s not to love about friendly, bilingual dragons? This series focuses on two children (and then later adds the boy who lives next door) who have a magic dragon scale that transports them to a fantastical land of dragons, fairies, and really amazing plant life (pillows grow on trees here!). The children befriend a small group of juvenile dragons and they all learn how to play nice and be polite in English and Spanish.
5. Kim Possible
Though aimed at a slightly older set than the rest of the list, KP still has a great appeal to the kindergarten set as well as their parents. Produced by Disney from 2002-2007, it follows the life of a fashion-conscious cheerleader who fights crime with the help of her best friend Ron Stoppable, his hairless molerat Rufus, and a genius boy named Wade who practically lives at a remote computer console. Kim has to balance the stresses of school, friends, family, cheerleading, and saving the world from villains bent on controlling it—and she’s still as stylish as ever!
Word Up! Following the adventures of a girl with the powers of super-strength, flight, and amazing vocabulary, Word Girl teaches children new and interesting words while keeping grown-ups entertained, too. Along with her chimpanzee sidekick Captain Huggyface, Word Girl defeats an interesting variety of villains, many of whom seem to have a food-based power—the Butcher can shoot meat from his hands, and once gained an attack called “Chicken Cordon Blam!” after stealing “The Beef Jerky of Supreme Power! Word Girl is not just an entertaining and educational program, however— it’s also a comic book!