For decades animators have worked remotely, so when the pandemic struck The Proud Family co-creator, Bruce W. Smith wasn't too worried about stay-at-home orders halting the production of the reboot of the show, which was announced recently for Disney+.
“Interesting thing about animation is that it was prepared for crises as such over the course of the past easily the past 30, 40 years,” Smith tells Inside the Issues. “The process of animation hasn't changed incredibly. You know, the television model would always do a lot of the duties that it takes to create a show. We do those remotely.”
The show follows Penny Proud, an African American, as she navigates teenage life whose “every encounter inevitably spirals into bigger-than-life situations filled with hi-jinks, hilarity and heart,” according to Disney+.
While the team is able to get their work done, with some adjustments, Smith misses connecting with co-workers in an office setting.
“There's the recording sessions that are all done remotely, which is very different from an animation standpoint. We have a lot of our actors with padded walls in their closet, with our set up, our microphone setup, and all the software that goes with that, from a recording standpoint, that’s been a bit different,” he said. “I think just from the organic process of making these things is me running into the other Executive Producer on the show, Ralph Farquhar, running into his office with an idea; him running into my office with an idea. Us, kind of, collaborating in that sense to make this show, is something that, the spontaneity of that, is something that I miss. The spontaneity of just simply relaying an idea to an artist, just by walking into their office, the idea of us sort of gathering and this whole animation thing is very communal in that sense.”
Smith said the country’s ongoing conversations around race and racial equality will make its way into the show.
“The real, sort of, like, heart and soul of our show really relies heavily on its racial identity and how we handle issues of race,” he said. “Our stories always aimed higher. The previous iteration had us telling stories about black history, had us telling stories about the internet, had us telling stories about race relations. So this version dives a bit deeper, because we are now much more, I guess what you would call a four-quadrant show, which means that we’re eight to 80, so we get to service a wider audience and therefore subject matter really deems much wider.”
Some developments will include introducing new, “progressive characters” with more complexity as well as storylines similar to real-life situations in the series titled The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.
“Our audience really follows along with this so they can expect really controversial issues on race, controversial issues on what's happening in the world today,” he said. “We talk heavily, we’ve brought in technology in our show in terms of how kids interact on social media.”
In recent years, there have been concerns in Hollywood over white performers voicing characters of color. Smith said in order to understand the complicated issue, you need to start by understanding its history.
“From an entertainment standpoint, you have to look at the history of entertainment and the history of entertainment, as it refers to African Americans,” Smith explained. “We know the road that it took for us to get to the screens, that was a long, complicated road to get our stories told. So, therefore, through that long and complicated road, we didn’t necessarily have the talent that really had the ability to jump in front of the camera; really, truly tell our stories.”
On the animation side, rather, Smith said the industry wasn’t kind to African Americans in terms of their representation in cartoons of the 30s, 40s, 50s.
“Therefore there weren’t a lot of African American artists that actually represented this medium for an awfully long time. So to be able to get your story told in its most accurate form, it needs to be informed by those people,” he said. “So when I first got into this business, way back in the 80s, I discovered there wasn't a whole lot of us to be able to tell those stories, therefore you didn't see a lot of us on the screen, because there wasn't a lot of us that was actually in position to get the opportunity to tell stories that really truly reflected the African American experience.”
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