The racial optics of Black characters in animation and Black animators is a conversation at the beginning of getting mainstream attention. In the latest episode of Taking Up Space on Facebook Watch (from Netflix’s Strong Black Lead), former Fugees frontman Wyclef Jean and several other Black creatives discuss the impact of having Black writers, animators and voices behind the camera.

Avia Fields, who voices Ben Love on the new Netflix animated series Motown Magic, said the first time she saw Black people reflected onscreen was the children’s show Gullah Gullah Island. 

Michael Carrington, the head writer for Motown Magic, reflected on the boom of Black-led television sitcoms of the ’90s and how their erosion led to the displacement of Black creatives who would eventually collaborate.

Wyclef Jean also discussed the impact of representation for Black kids, as well as the power of imagination. “I want kids to know that the heartache that they go through, the pain that they go through, they will be rewarded for it, but they can’t stop dreaming,” Jean said.

As far as Black children and family content coming down the pipeline at the streaming giant:

Motown Magic: Executive produced by Smokey Robinson, this new Netflix animated series is inspired by and built around a classic Motown song. The show also stands out in that 90 percent of the cast, including voice actors and musicians, are Black. Also, over 50 percent of all cast and crew involved in the project is African American.

Family Reunion: Anchored by an all-Black writers room (!), this show chronicles a big city family who travels to small-town Georgia to reconnect with their extended family. Scheduled to air in 2019, the show stars Sister, Sister actress Tia Mowry, Loretta Devine, Anthony Alabi, Talia Jackson, Isaiah Russell-Bailey, Cameron J. “CJ” Wright and Jordyn James.

The untitled Wyclef Jean project is currently in development and will be a CG-animated feature film. The animated movie is inspired by Jean’s childhood in Haiti, where he lived until his family emigrated to Brooklyn at age 9, and then to New Jersey, where he began his musical career. The script will be written by Justin Marks, whose credits include the acclaimed The Jungle Book and the upcoming film Top Gun: Maverick.

Then there is Prince of Peoria, a live-action action family sitcom geared at the tween audience, which centers on a diverse family in Middle America. The show is notable in that one of the major characters has two moms. It premiered on Netflix on November 19.

Check out the latest episode of Taking Up Space below:



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