Insights

Caillou Stands Against Racism

As we reach the end of Black History Month in North America, our latest episode of Caillou’s New Adventures aims to tackle the topic of racism and help kids understand imagery of marches for social change that, without context, could seem scary to them.

The episode was written by the hugely talented Harron Atkins, from the Sesame Workshop Writer’s Room. The WildBrain Spark Studios team worked closely with its child development expert, as well as with WildBrain Spark’s Diversity & Inclusion committee to provide valuable insights, ensuring the episode represents and explains the key issues in the most productive way possible – and with care, which is no simple task in just a five-minute episode.

The importance of representing diversity in content also needs to extend to voiceover casting. The characters that you hear in this latest Caillou’s New Adventures season are all voiced by actors whose backgrounds match their characters, to ensure authenticity.

Ryan Denham, Creative Producer at WildBrain Spark, has been leading the development of the Caillou YouTube series from the start. Here, he explores the importance of the latest episode and of supporting the education of children around the world today.

Sparking meaningful conversations between children and parents 

With all that has happened in the past year, a goal of ours for Caillou has really been to ask: “How can we help? Whether it’s parents and guardians, or children directly, how can Caillou help the audience gain understanding or equip parents to engage meaningfully with their kids about important topics?”

With children being locked down at home throughout summer last year, it was inevitable that they’d encounter some imagery of Black Lives Matter protests – be it in newspapers, or footage of clashes on the news as their parents watched, or even potentially witnessing them in person. Though the messages and goals of these protests were a powerful step forward in the push for positive change, without context and deeper understanding, to a small child the sight of a group of people marching and calling out could be scary. Even more so with the sensationalised images and violent clashes. So essentially, we wanted to help families foster those deeper conversations.

Showing the importance of changing the world for the better

And more than that, we wanted to show that people protesting for unifying change – and in the instance of BLM protests, racial equality – is a great and powerful thing. It’s a group of strangers uniting to change the world for the better through a demonstration that doesn’t just explain that racism is wrong, but that being anti-racist is absolutely right.

At the very least, it’s hopefully the start of a snowball of conversation and interaction between parents and kids, and a small amount of context that potentially soothes any lingering worry in a child.

Caillou helps children to better understand

How Caillou is represented in the story is crucial. He’s engaged and is the titular main character, of course, but he doesn’t drive the story. As always, he’s curious and eager to learn from those around him – which in this episode is Clementine, her mom and Jeffery, who explain what’s going on to him. Caillou asks questions and reaches understanding. As ever, he visualises elements of what he learns to help him process it – and he relates it to his own life simply because that’s how four-year-olds think.

Importantly, even his idea to contribute some cookies to the marchers is inspired by the efforts of Jeffery and his parents handing out water. Caillou learns from those around him.

Huge thanks to Harron for his work on finding the perfect balance of all the above elements through his writing. And here’s a final note from Harron himself.

 “I want to thank the WildBrain Spark team for using this platform to address such a big and important topic. I love writing for kids because I truly believe they are the key to a brighter, kinder, smarter and more empathetic world. We must give them their best chance. And that starts with introducing them to complex issues, like race and racism, from a young age, rather than shying away from them. We can do it gently, responsibly, and with care, but it must be done. As a black man and a black artist, the discussion of racism is hugely important to me. Of course, we can only do so much in a five-minute episode, but I hope that it does spark some important conversation between kids and the adults in their lives.

“I am so happy I get to contribute to this work and to share it with all the folks, no matter where they are, who adore our friend, Caillou”.

Watch the Caillou Stands Against Racism episode here: