This experience was all thanks to Marvel Studios and Disney, but the opinions are 100% my own.
My daughters are head over heels in love with the latest addition to Disney Junior – Vampirina! We tuned in for the debut on October 1st and have been watching it ever since. It quickly became a favorite of mine as well because of the great lessons it teaches my girls. Even within the first episode it was clear that the creators of Vampirina wanted kids to know that everyone is the same on the inside. Yes, Vampirina is a vampire, but that doesn’t mean she can’t make friends. Every time she lets a friend in on her secret, they accept her for who she is.
Recently, I was given the opportunity to speak with the executive producer of Vampirina, Chris Nee, as well screen two new episodes. I am not ashamed to admit that this show has had me tearing up on more than one occasion. I suppose I am just really sensitive – and seeing the lessons Vampirina and her friends learn, make me happy. These are lessons that are important for my girls to learn as well, and I am thrilled that Vampirina is helping them do so.
Crafting Shows That Both Parents & Kids Enjoy
As I a mom with two young girls, I can vouch for the fact that sometimes there are kids’ shows that I just cannot stand. Vampirina is not one of those. This is a show that I can sit down and watch with my daughters. I find myself laughing and singing along with them – and yes, even watching it when they are not with me. We asked Chris what her secret is to writing shows that both parents and kids enjoy (if you didn’t know, she created Doc McStuffins!).
Chris let us know why this is something that is important to her. “I think it’s incredibly important because what I really want to do is bring families together to watch shows. Shows that so actively alienate the parents, create the separation in the enjoyment. For whatever reason, I have a great ability to remember what it felt like to be a kid, and that’s what I’ve tapped into for twenty years working in kids TV.”
Chris then let us in on what she says is her secret. “When you ask someone who works in kids TV exclusively – who are you writing for – they’ll say ‘the kids.’ I know that’s the right answer, but I’m writing for myself. I’m trying to make myself laugh. I’m trying to work out my own stuff and remember my own childhood. Trying to remember those feelings and write the world that I hope we can live in. I’m also a mom. I certainly know what it’s like to want your kid to watch shows that the music is something you can stand because you’re gonna watch it a lot. And maybe there’s a couple of jokes for you, but everything needs to work for the kids first. If I give you guys something that’ll make you laugh along the way, I think it’s a great way to make it a universal experience. ”
You may not know this, but Vampirina is based on a children’s book series. Chris added a couple of characters when creating the show, Gregoria and Demi, and she told us why. “Gregoria and Demi I added to the cast because I really wanted the comic relief. And I really like intense specificity of character – you can see that on Doc [McStuffins] where everyone’s really solidly who they are. I wrote Gregoria for Wanda [Sykes] having no idea she would say yes. That character was the biggest leap of faith because she’s a very cantankerous character for a preschool show. There were moments where I had to say, ‘I promise you it works in my head, it works in my head.’ It’s gonna be her with this voice and Wanda’s voice is Wanda’s voice. There’s no missing that. The character works for me and I have so much fun writing her. And Demi is delightful to write for. ”
The Voice of Vampirina
Isabella Crovetti is the voice of Vampirina. She sings for her as well as talks – and wow! The first time I heard her sing I was blown away. She is really good. Chris actually brought her up in our interview because she has been impressed by her as well. “Can we talk about [Isabella’s] singing voice? She was probably eleven years old when she first came in to sing the songs that are coming out now. The first time we worked with her she came to a big recording studio. She walked into the middle of it and she stopped and said, ‘I need to warm up.’ I was like, ‘oh this kid’s a pro.’ in a good way. She just opened her mouth and we could have taken the first take. She’s a Broadway level singer who happens to live in LA and we get to take advantage of that.”
How Can Vampirina Go Outside During The Day?
I have seen a lot of chatter online about the fact that Vampirina goes outside during the day. We asked Chris how that is possible. “It is a very intense sunblock and we do talk about it in the episodes. Obviously you have to find a way to get past that piece. There had originally been a line in the pilot, and it just got lost for time. There was so much we wanted to do emotionally in that episode. But it will come up later on and there will be episodes where if she goes outside, it’ll be very clear.”
One of the things I noticed right away is how affectionate Vampirina’s parents are – not only to her but to each other. This is something that Chris said she loves about the show. “I love this family and I love seeing a family that feels really real to me. In animation sometimes, it’s hard to have characters touch each other. The amount that the parents hug each other – you actually believe that they’re together – which sometimes you don’t get in weekly animation. A lot of that, honest to god, has to do with who you get to voice the characters, but it’s hard to have physical contact. We got so lucky with the cast. There’s just such a warmth to the family.”I try to create a world where you can have characters say I love you and you don’t go ‘ick'””
Vampirina has two best friends – Bridget and Poppy. Girl power is a reoccurring theme in the show when the three of them team up (just wait until you see them make a band!). As a mom of two girls, that is something I love and appreciate. We asked Chris how that came about and why it was important to her. “We didn’t need another boy lead character. It is important to shine a light and bring representation that we know is sorely lacking on the screen. So, it’s definitely something that I feel passionately about and that will always be the case. I mean will there be a next character that’s a boy? It certainly could be a boy. I enjoy being able to bring out what I know girl character’s can be – which is anything and everything.”
The other theme that I really like in Vampirina is acceptance. As I mentioned above, whenever she lets a friend know who she is, they accept her. This is a very important lesson for kids – especially with the way the world is right now. Chris agrees, and that is why she puts so much of it in to this show. “The show feels very 2017 to me. It is a show where we say, ‘she is different and sometimes that’s hard to be friends with.’ We’re not saying that she isn’t different, we aren’t saying that everybody’s exactly the same, and stuff isn’t being conveyed as a conflict because we’re coming from different perspectives. In fact, we’re saying that’s exactly what this is and yet you can still be friends. It’s important to be friends – it’s important to see each other from your perspective.”
She ended with something that brought some tears to my eyes. “Honestly, we need a little more of that in this world – facing stuff that is different. We have a huge country that’s really different. Maybe the only way that we’re gonna get someplace is to say, ‘you’re different from me but let’s hear each other and I still want to be your friend through it.’ For me, that’s what this show is about. Different is acceptable.”
A young vampire girl faces the joys and trials of being the new kid in town when her family moves from Transylvania to Pennsylvania.
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