We are thrilled to announce the news that Brown Bag Films Toronto (formerly 9 Story) is in production on the exciting new animated series Luna Around The World for PBS Kids, created by Emmy-award winning animator, writer and artist Joe Murray (Rocko’s Modern Life, Camp Lazlo).
This new multiplatform series will debut across the U.S. in fall 2018 on PBS stations, the new 24/7 PBS KIDS channel and PBS KIDS digital platforms. With a social studies curriculum, Luna Around The World will encourage kids ages 4-7 to explore and appreciate cultures from all over the world, and build global citizenship and social skills.
We chatted with creator Joe Murray, about how this exciting new series came to be, and had him shine some more “moonlight” on what we can expect from the characters and stories of this wonderful new show.
Let’s dive right in…
1. How did you come up with the concept for Luna? (The show’s origins story)
Linda Simensky (VP of Children’s Programming, PBS KIDS) and I had been in conversations about doing a show for PBS for a while and I had some kid characters I was doodling around with. Linda mentioned that they were looking for a show that was geographic, which I loved and latched onto.
I love to travel, so I came up with a show about three kids traveling around with a Cirque du Soleil type circus, learning about different cultures as they go. But I felt they needed someone with them who knew the culture and their way around. Someone they felt safe with, but was not a parent. I thought “who would know every culture and every place they went? Then I thought, why not the moon? She knows everyone and everyone knows her. It is the same moon for everyone in the world. She became friends with the kids and joins them on of their adventures
2. What do you hope the show will give to kids?
A sense of their global community. A sense that there are other people who are similar and yet different out there. And also that what we do, how we live can affect others that live in other places. Global stewardship. Wetting their curiosity and starting a conversation about the world outside their door, and how amazing it is.
3. The main cast is comprised of Leo, a wombat from Australia, Carmen, a butterfly from Mexico, and Andy, a frog from the U.S. Why did you choose animals and insects for the cast of main characters? And any reasoning for those animals specifically?
Well, I sort of have a long history of doing animated shows with animals. I like that you can represent certain human traits and such with animals without needing to bring other details into the picture. I wanted a character from Australia, so I chose a wombat. I wanted a girl from Mexico, and the monarch butterflies are so beautiful there, I thought that was a natural. And I love doing frogs, so an American frog seemed right to me.
4. And let's not forget about Luna? What is her role in the story? And what makes her glow? (or what is her story?)
Her role is very important. She becomes the ambassador to all of the countries the kids visit. She’s a big sister type, some Mary Poppins to her. She likes to steer the kids into learning experiences, but does not force it on them. Lets them learn things for themselves. Of course, she has been around forever and knows everyone, but she also has a weakness for dancing and sometimes spins comically out of control, and gets stuck in doorways.
5. On to Circo Fabuloso, the travelling performance troupe, that takes our main characters all over the world – What makes it so fabulous-o?
The characters of the circo not only give the kids a familiar home base, but also a lot of comedy. The characters all have their circo talents but are all somewhat eccentric, for example:
Señor Fabuloso is the passionate leader of the circo, very dramatic and always intent on putting on a good show wherever they are.
Hockbar keeps the show running on time, but also keeps an eye on the kids when their parents (who all work in the circo) are busy.
My intent for the characters of the Circo Fabuloso was to have a fun place to book end the more curriculum heavy trips into the city where they are. Lots of slapstick keeps the entertainment coming.
6. How would you describe the look and feel of Luna?
The characters of Luna look pretty similar to my other shows (very different from other PBS shows), but I needed the backgrounds and color to reflect the actual locations and architecture of the places we were visiting while giving it a stylized feel. I started looking into travel posters and combined those with the dry brush type style of Mary Blair (Disney’s small world and development artist). I also like a lot of negative space, giving the characters and the audience a chance to breath.
7. Were you inspired by anyone or anything in particular when coming up with the show design?
Yes, as I said Mary Blair was a big inspiration. She has a playful quality to her work, and her style is associated with the international theme through “Small World”. There were many designers of those iconic travel posters of the 40’s and 50’s when Americans took to the road and skies to discover new lands. I wanted to capture that energy.
8. Was it challenging balancing the social studies curriculum component of the show with the character driven comedy element? Like did it make the writing of episodes trickier in any way?
Yes. Also, going from an age demographic of 6 to 11 down to 4 to 7 has been a challenge, but I think we are doing it. I’m very passionate about the curriculum, but it is a challenge to weave an entertaining and funny story throughout a small lesson on culture and geography. We feel strongly that it’s an important conversation to start with young kids, but also know they want to be entertained. It’s a difficult show to do. We have to wear many hats, from entertainers to researchers, to make sure the information we are providing is correct and factual. We visit 20 different cities with 4 different aspects of each city. We have an anthropologist on staff who works closely with our writers and storyboard artists to make sure we remain strong to our commitment of accuracy and entertainment.
9. And last question, what do you think makes Luna Around The World unique from other shows airing today?
The curriculum of the show is really a moving target, so we are constantly updating the locations where we are. It’s not like other shows where 4 + 4 will always be 8. But our show is the first for PBS that is storyboard driven. Meaning, we don’t go by scripts. We start from an outline of a rough story and storyboard it out to tell the story more visually, which in my opinion adds to the humor. The characters are also more driven in their personalities than many kids shows for this demographic. No doubt it will push some comfort zones, but when I watch my 4 year old son openly laugh at certain cartoons he watches, I want my show to do that, and give a spark to learning about our world.
For the official Luna Around The World press release click here!
And learn more about Joe Murray here!