Back in May of 2006, children’s author Victoria Kann introduced young readers to a dynamic young girl named Pinkalicious who had a strong spirit, a wonderful imagination and a crazy love for the color pink. Almost 12 years later, after inspiring 63 books (selling over 23 million books worldwide) and a stage musical, Pinkalicious and her brother Peter are the stars of their own animated show on PBS Kids.
Pinkalicious & Peterrific, which is produced by WGBH Boston with animation by Belfast-based studio Sixteen South, is designed to encourage preschoolers to participate in the creative arts — especially music, dance and visual arts.
Linda Simensky, VP of Children’s Programming at PBS, recalls seeing the first book in the library when it came out. “I knew it was the kind of book that my daughter was going to love, and I was right,” she says. “When the second book, Purplicious, came out, I knew I had to buy it. There was no point to wait for the library to get it.”
Executive producer Dorothea Gillim’s goddaughter was also a big fan. “Her mom told me that the book was very popular with her daughter. She kept asking her to read it to her over and over again. I quickly became aware of the huge fan base of the show.”
Gillim, whose credits also include PBS hits WordGirl and Curious George, believes that readers connect easily with Pinkalicious because she has a wild imagination and is not afraid to express herself. “She has a pet unicorn called Goldilicious,” she adds. “There is a touch of whimsy in all the stories, but she’s very relatable and deals with typical kid problems.”
They Like What They Like!
Simensky says one of the factors that made the project resonate with her throughout the development process was that the books encourage kids to be proud of who they are and what they like. “When Pink meets her friend Purplicious for the first time, she is confronted with the idea that not everybody likes the same colors, and that some people act as if their opinions are always right. Pink actually stands up for what she likes. I think that aspect of the character really stays with kids.”
Both Gillim and Simensky praise the show’s lovingly crafted color palette and the compelling collage style developed by the team at Sixteen South, an award-winning Irish studio that has also worked on shows such as Big & Small, Pajanimals and Lily’s Driftwood Bay. Gillim says they were very impressed with the work that the studio had done, and realized that they would be a great fit in terms of animation style. “We were looking for a collage-style show, and they had done something like that before,” she recalls. “They really nailed the look and our mission for the show. It was a very clear choice for us.”
The team at Sixteen South uses the popular 2D animation software CelAction (which is also utilized for shows such as Lily’s Driftwood Bay and Sarah & Duck) to create the tactile animation. “Taking the books’ beautiful and challenging illustration style and adapting it to create this rich and layered animation was certainly a challenge, but they did it beautifully and really mastered it for the show,” notes Gillim.
Inspiring Love for the Arts
Another aspect of the show that sets it apart from hundreds of preschool shows on the market is that it aims to help develop young viewers’ familiarity with the arts and to power up their cognitive and emotional skills.
“Our goal [at PBS Kids] is to have a collection of shows on the air that represent a really well-rounded curriculum,” explains Simensky. “We’ve been doing lots of shows on science, math, literacy; but we needed to increase our focus on the arts for children. People don’t often get that side of it right. They come up with shows that teach kids how to paint. I think it’s important to show the arts in the context of a kid’s life. Pinkalicious tackles the subject in a very non-obvious and unique way. Art and imagination play a huge role in her life. Each character on the show is impacted by art in different ways, and they all fit together very well for us.”
Finding the right child actors to provide the voices for Pinkalicious, Peterrific and the rest of their neighborhood friends was also a huge part of the equation. “It was really important that the voices sounded like real kids,” says Gillim. “Not only did they have to sound relatable, each episode has a song in it, so we auditioned about 80 kids in New York. We finally narrowed down the list to six Pinks and six Peters, and then we paired them up to find out the ones with the best chemistry. We were very lucky to have Kayla Erickson (Bubble Guppies), who is 10 now, as our Pink and Jaden Waldman, who just turned eight, as Peter.”
According to Simensky, early on during the development process for the show, people at the network wondered whether boys would like to watch a show about a girl called Pinkalicious. “Our attitude from the very start was that if the show is funny and fun enough, everyone will like it,” she notes.
“When we screen the show for boys, they seem to like it. Peter has a bigger role in the series than in the books. He is a great character and offers a different point of view. The friends have also taken on more important roles. A lot of people have sent me pictures of their boys reading the books, even though the word ‘pink’ is on the cover. When we tested the show, they all liked the music and the whimsical look. They especially loved the episode about a Pinkatoo bird that goes missing.”
Pinkalicious & Peterrific premieres on PBS Kids on February 19. The first season of the show features 36 half-hour episodes and one hour-long special. Kids can also check out the show on the PBS Kids Video App and pbskids.org/pinkalicious.
This article was written for the March ‘18 issue of Animation Magazine (No. 278).