Sep 262013
 

Handy MannyThis week’s minorities in cartoons entry is “Handy Manny.”Manny” is a CGI animated series that debuted in 2006, and airs (in the United States) on Disney Junior. It previously was seen on Disney Channel’s former preschool block, Playhouse Disney.

The series revolves around Manny Garcia, a handyman who lives in the town of Sheetrock Hills. As a handyman, Manny’s seen in each episode repairing or building various items for the town’s populace. Unlike the Maytag Repairman, Manny’s services are in high demand. Also unlike the Maytag Repairman, Manny owns a set of talking anthropomorphic tools, complete with names: Felipe, a Phillips-head screwdriver (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui); Turner, a flat-head screwdriver (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker); Pat, a hammer (voiced by Tom Kenny); Dusty, a hand saw (voiced by Kath Soucie); Squeeze, a pair of pliers (voiced by Nika Futterman; Julianna Rose Mauriello in the earliest episodes); Stretch, a tape measure (also voiced by Futterman); Rusty, a monkey wrench (voiced by Fred Stoller); and Flicker, a flashlight (voiced by Greg DeLisle).

Other recurring characters include Kelly, a woman who owns a hardware store, and Mr. Lopart, a balding middle-aged man who owns a candy store. A recurring gag is Mr. Lopart insisting that he doesn’t need Manny’s help, then attempts his own handiwork…which usually goes awry, requiring Manny’s help.

Unlike most other young-children-oriented shows such as “Dora the Explorer,” “Manny” doesn’t pause the action to pretend to “ask” the viewer what’s going on. The educational facets of “Manny” are usually either life lessons learned (usually by the tools), or Manny/Felipe explaining the meanings of various Spanish words. (Flicker is a tool that mainly speaks Spanish.) The Spanish elements are one trait that distinguish “Handy Manny” from “Bob the Builder,” a show with a similar premise (a handyman with talking equipment).

The show saw one brief spinoff, “Handy Manny’s School For Tools,” a series of several-minute-long shorts.

The series sees plenty of guest voices by various celebrities, ranging from Lance Bass to Henry Winkler. Manny himself is voiced by Wilmer Valderrama, who appeared on the Fox sitcom “That 70s Show.” ¬†Kelly is voiced by Florence Henderson (of “The Brady Bunch”), while Mr. Lopart is voiced by Tom Kenny (the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants). The show’s theme song is by the music group Los Lobos.

Mar 072013
 

Doc McStuffinsThis week’s minorities in cartoons entry is “Doc McStuffins,” the lead character of an eponymously named series on Disney Junior (in the US). Disney Junior is a recently-started cable channel aimed at preschoolers, with both original shows and the former “Playhouse Disney” block from the Disney Channel’s morning lineup.

The show centers around a six-year-old girl named Dottie McStuffins (nicknamed “Doc” by everyone), who like other little kids likes to play doctor to her stuffed animals. Unlike other kids, Doc has a magic stethoscope that (when others aren’t around) brings toys to life, akin to “Toy Story.” Episodes usually involve Doc and the toys learning simple life lessons and/or Doc diagnosing various toys’ “medical” problems (such as a lack of Velcro on a toy opossum). The latter, of course, is meant to help kids in real life learn to deal with doctor’s visits.

Doc is voiced by teenaged actress Kiara Muhammad. Another voice on the series (a stuffed snowman) is by Jess Harnell, familiar to older viewers as Wakko Warner on 90s series “Animaniacs.”

The show is one of Disney Junior’s biggest hits, and has gotten much praise for featuring an African-American female lead character. It’s also one of the few preschool shows these days that doesn’t talk down to its target audience via obnoxious “Dora the Explorer”-style “questioning” of the viewer.

Here’s an interview with the show’s creator.