'Harvey Street Kids': the next generation of children's television that makes you laugh while giving you life lessons
Adults may be hesitant to broach certain subjects but this show implicitly addresses topics in a way that children will understand, yet it does not seem like pushing an agenda.
With summer vacation rolling out, Netflix is choosing the perfect time to release DreamWorks’ new animated show ‘Harvey Street Kids.’ Inspired by the classic 40s Harvey Comics, the show promises to expose its audience to a world spurting with imagination and youthful fun that carefully sandwiches social commentary.
Back in the good old days, the Harvey Comics introduced three female characters Little Dot, Little Lotta and Little Audrey. Readers at the time grew rather fond of the trio that reflected the white-bred mentality of the era. For ‘Harvey Street Kids,’ the girls have been appropriately redefined and redesigned for the current digital generation.
Kelly Kulchak, Head of Current Programming at DreamWorks Animation Television, told Meaww how the executive producers did a wonderful job at retaining the DNA, innocence, and hopefulness of the original characters and adjusting them so that children of this generation can relate to them. She said: “It’s such a great process looking back at the 1940s. What we embraced about it was the innocence: the feeling that the world was your oyster and that anything is possible if you just work together. We brought that DNA and gave it to these two brilliant producers to add their own bit of inspiration.”
The producers of the show include Aliki Theofilopoulos, a two-time Emmy-nominated storyboard artist and writer who was on the team of Disney’s ‘Phineas and Ferb’ and ‘Mickey Mouse,’ and two-time Emmy-nominated executive producer Brendan Hay, who has worked on shows as ‘The Simpsons.’
Harvey Street Kids focuses on the everyday adventures of Dot, Lotta and Audrey, who live in a world where there seem to be no adults. Bound by only their own imaginations, the three of them and a street full of other kids enjoy the opportunities that come with the outdoors. Despite the fact that the show caters to children who have probably been exposed to technology their entire lives, the world ‘Harvey Street Kids’ showcases is free of the devices like televisions and cell phones.
Instead, it focuses on showing its audience the value of the outside world. The characters are often seen taking a dip in a mud pond, playing a rather interesting version of kickball and battling skunks. In terms of the content, the show stays true to the 1940's simplicity—a time when fun was finding fascination in the world outside with your friends next door.
Kelly reveals “We’re so so excited about Harvey Street Kids. It’s a breath of fresh air because, it’s this amazing show about kids just being kids and having an amazing imagination. It’s about having faith that the smallest thing can make for the most incredible day with your imagination. This all happens on a Saturday afternoon with kids. You’ll notice there are no phones and no televisions and the kids are outside and playing.” In a digital age where children often confine themselves to screens for entertainment, this show could serve as a source of inspiration to motivate them to simply go outside and play with their friends.
The simplicity and innocence of the content are perfectly reflected by the 2-D animation used to produce the show. The producers have also used bold, bright color palette to emit a sense of wonder and excitement. Trees range from a summery orange to a royal purple. The color choices add an element of fantasy to an otherwise realistic portrayal of life, which complements the storyline extremely well, as the show tells stories about everyday life that is made interesting by the imagination of the kids.
Every character on the show is extremely well-defined, and more importantly diverse and distinct. Dot, one of the three lead characters, is an African-American girl, who is incredibly smart and logical. Lotta, on the other hand, is an extremely caring and sweet girl, who happens to be a lot taller and larger than the other kids. And Audrey is an impulsive and imaginative girl who sees the world as more than what meets the eye.
Every child watching this show will find themselves in at least one of these characters. Kelly says: “We want kids to be able to find themselves in all of our shows. That goes to diversity. That goes to body shape. That goes to personality. That goes to everything. You want to be able to, you know, feel like you are watching a show and say, I know that person or I am that person.”
Furthermore, regardless of their personalities, each of the three lead girls is extremely opinionated and isn’t afraid to speak up. It truly is a breath of fresh air to see such well developed, strong female characters lead a children’s television show. ‘Harvey Street Kids’ will most definitely inculcate values of gender equality within the minds of the children watching the show on an implicit level.
The show also contains a character named Pink Eye. Though he is often the butt of several jokes due to his unique obsession with picking his nose and creating booger sculptures, there are a few nuances to his character that would be considered socially revolutionary even in this day and age.
When Pink Eye is first introduced, we find out that he loves classical dancing; the animation even showcases him in a ballerina costume. In yet another episode, Pink Eye expresses his love for wearing dresses. Pink Eye is also a part of the cool boys club named Bloogey Boys who embrace him for who he is. The show creates a space in which a character who identifies as male is accepted for exploring his desires to dress up and express his individuality. This is just one of the instances in which the show promotes values of acceptance and focuses on the representation of all kinds.
Often times, as adults, it is extremely hard to start conversations about diversity and acceptance with young children. Though they are complex topics to address, left unaddressed they lead to bigger problems in the long run. This show implicitly addresses topics in a way that children will understand, yet it does not seem like pushing an agenda.
Along with social issues, the show also teaches extremely important lessons. For example, there is an entire episode that focuses on the three girls trying to raise funds to improve the park they play in. In yet another, they fight against the Bloogey Boys to help a short character named Tiny enter a treehouse he is banned from for being too short. The first episode beautifully showcases the importance of caring for public spaces and the second episode implicitly acknowledges discrimination of any kind is an injustice. It is amazing to see a show that is packed with so much humor and youthful fun teach its audience such important lessons in life. The show is not just entertaining but also extremely educational.
‘Harvey Street Kids’ has a rather simplistic storyline that not only leaves the audience rolling on the floor laughing with its otherworldly adventures but also starts a conversation about social issues. There is a sense of wonder and amazement associated with the innocent fun the characters engage in. It is the kind of show a parent wouldn’t mind watching with his or her child on a sunny afternoon.
You will love ‘Harvey Street Kids’ if you enjoyed: ‘Phineas and Ferb,’ ‘Recess’ or ‘Kids Next Door.’
‘Harvey Street Kids’ is all set to come out on Netflix on June 29.