Tuning in to TV: Animated show teaches healthy habits to kids
Many TV shows have dispassionate origins, recycling a well-worn format or piggybacking on a trend. But the roots of “Doc McStuffins,” an animated program for children ages 2 to 7, are downright maternal.
Chris Nee, creator of the series on the Disney Channel and the new 24-hour Disney Junior channel, wanted to ease her toddler son’s experience with doctors and hospitals after he was diagnosed with asthma.
“It was me as a mom, more than as a writer first, saying, ‘What can I do to make this better for him?’ ” Ms. Nee recalled.
The result is a fanciful, music-filled show (“Wash Your Hands” is among the original songs) about Doc (voiced by Kiara Muhammad), a girl who converses with her stuffed animals and toys and treats their scratches, sniffles and whatever ails them.
Doc and her pals share tips about staying healthy and offering care and compassion to others. The show also attempts to demystify what happens in a doctor’s office to make visits less scary for its audience.
Among those in the cast: Loretta Devine as a reliably competent plush hippo named Hallie. Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”) is a guest star in the debut episode, voicing a jack-in-the-box dad who takes his son for a checkup.
“It’s got a different flavor than usual in the [TV] preschool world,” she said, offering kid-friendly humor with a touch of sophistication and bold characters that Ms. Nee said harken back to those that she enjoyed on “Sesame Street” as a child.
There is, for instance, a snowman who’s a hypochondriac on the series (produced by Dublin-based Brown Bag Films and the Disney Channel).
“Kids love that character. They don’t understand the full implications, but they find it really funny,” said Ms. Nee, who sees value in aiming a bit over a young viewer’s head.
“We know kids are watching shows over and over again. Trying to create shows so that a kid gets every moment on the first viewing is shortchanging them.”
“He calls it his show. I’m at least trying to get him to use ‘ours,’ ” Mrs. Nee said.
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