When “The Proud Family” premiered on Disney Channel on September 15, 2001, it featured one of the first animated African-American families on TV.
Over 52 episodes and one TV series, this series is a delightful depiction of a suburban Black family telling about their everyday lives. Stubborn middle schooler Penny Proud (voiced by Kyla Pratt) takes the lead, with her strict but loving parents Oscar and Trudy (Tommy Davidson and Paula Jai Parker), her fierce grandmother. Evil Suga Mama (Jo Marie Payton) and preterm infant twin sisters BeBe and CeCe round out the rest of the clan.
They cycle, support each other, throw shade and show love – all the things that typical on-screen families do. But before The Prouds, TV audiences had rarely seen a family of Black cartoons do such seemingly innocuous things.
Now the breakout series is back with “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder,” a 10-episode revival scheduled to air weekly on Disney+ starting Wednesday.
During the show’s early run, from 2001 to 2005, Penny went through her teenage phases — around her multicultural friends, pouting about housework, dodging bullies at home. school and parental boundary testing. While many of the show’s themes are universal, they are delivered in a unique and purposeful way rooted in Black culture.
The dialogue is filled with the kinds of colloquial and vernacular words that can be heard in many Black households. The jokes at the children’s playground use modern slang, often taken from rap lyrics. There have been personal criticisms of being “rude” and of class warfare being waged whenever working-class families headbutt their friends-in-law.
Even body language and nonverbal cues—a wary glance, an indignant top-down glance—were inserted as nods to Black viewers. Humor works on many levels, with silly jokes appealing to 12th graders and more subtle stories to appeal to adults.
“A lot of things we would do like,” Wink, wink. You know what we’re talking about, right? ‘” said Bruce W. Smith, the show’s creator. “We hid a lot of hints and frankly the family business under the guise of what our characters have said and are going through. Where the show shines is in all its cultural references. “
Smith is a veteran animator who spent most of the ’90s making feature films like “Space Jam,” “Tarzan,” and Disney’s “The Emperor’s New Groove.” Towards the end of that decade, he began to focus on serial television, in an attempt to fill the void in animated films on the small screen.
“The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “King of the Hill,” all of these animated sitcoms became all the rage,” he said. “I just look at them like: OK, to be not in this. Somehow, we’re not involved, and we should be. ”
At the time, live-action sitcoms like “Moesha” and “Sister, Sister” proved that teenage Black girls could both make a series and attract a distinct audience. . Smith began creating an animated sitcom themed “Moesha” – a series focusing on the life and experiences of a Black girl.
His first step was to team up with Ralph Farquhar, the creator of “Moesha,” as well as its spin-off, “The Parkers,” and the short-lived Black family “South Central.” Together they oversaw “The Proud Family” and its subsequent 2005 TV series, with Smith also directing several episodes.
Farquhar said in a joint video interview with Smith: “The fact that no one else does it is sad. “But for us, it was an opportunity. We want to tell our stories in a way we knowledge. In that nuanced way that only comes from living it. “
Smith added: “The great thing about it is that there is nothing in front of us. No bar is set. For us, that was exciting because then we could set up the bar. “
In addition to the usual family scenes – the kitchen table, the curfew, babysitting snafus – there’s a lot more educational storylines. These include poignant Kwanzaa celebrations and a Black History Month to honor lesser-known celebrities like pioneering aviators Bessie Coleman and Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the seat. Congress.
“That’s what I loved about the original: We talked about things other people avoided,” said Pratt, who took on the role of Penny at the age of 14.
The revival, also overseen by Smith and Farquhar, retains much of the flavor of the original, but it’s been updated for the 2020s. Instead of texting, the kids use smartphones. Dating phrases such as “off the heezy fo ‘sheezy” have been dropped; “Wake up” and “Black Girl’s Magic” are now in.
It initially featured guest appearances by popular early ’00s performers like Lil’ Romeo, Mos Def and Mariah Carey. “Louder and Prouder” also stars similar stars, with cameos such as Lil Nas X, Chance the Rapper, and Lizzo. Warm theme song do Solange Knowles and the Child of DestinyThere’s also a makeover – the 2022 version is sung by new artist Joyce Wrice.
Penny and her friends are now into their teens, with all the physical changes, heightened hormones, and social minefields that follow. And a few new players have joined the core cast again.
Former reality TV star, EJ Johnson, voices Penny’s opposite-sex friend Michael. (The recurring character Wizard Kelly is a sly reference to Johnson’s father, NBA legend Magic Johnson.) And a gay couple, Barry and Randall Leibowitz-Jenkins (Zachary Quinto and Billy Porter), have moved in with them. neighborhood with their adopted teenagers: son Francis (Artist Dubose, better known as rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie) and daughter Maya (Keke Palmer), a fiery activist who plays the role of Penny’s newcomer.
Palmer, whose breakthrough was in the 2006 film “Akeelah and the Bee,” credits Farquhar with discovering her a few years earlier, when she was 10 years old (He left her in a Disney Channel pilot without being picked up.) He asked her to be on “Louder and Prouder” because he knew she was already a longtime fan of the original series.
“I saw a family that reminded me of myself – I even had a boy-girl twin in my family,” Palmer said. “It’s a show that represents what mine What black American culture looks like. I think they did the right thing! ”
However, Disney chose not to renew “The Proud Family” when production originally ended in 2005. (Disney declined to comment on the ending of the original film.) During the interview, Smith and Farquhar said they never knew why the movie wasn’t allowed to continue, but they made it clear that they always hoped to bring it back in some form.
“From the moment we stopped making the original, we’ve been campaigning to bring it back,” says Farquhar. “We’re not entirely sure why we’ve even stopped.”
They are not alone. “The Proud Family” has become a steady stream of millennial nostalgia online, with fans sharing the show-inspired cosplay and artwork on social media and watching favorite episodes in blog post. Pratt said extreme fans also often come to her in real life.
“People have been talking to me literally every day of my life, trying to make the show come back,” she said.
Farquhar and Smith said they noticed a new wave of “Proud” fans after Disney+ began streaming the original on January 1, 2020. Disney also seems to have noticed. The company approached the men about the revival and then made it public on February 27, 2020.
Farquhar and Smith have since signed a multi-year master deal with Disney to produce series and animated films, live people, and develop projects for diverse and emerging talent. Smith brags that the “Louder and Prouder” staff, from the directors to the layout artists to the animators, “looks like the show.” (Like most of the entertainment industry, animation has been offered historically fewer opportunities for women and people of color than for white men.)
Smith has wanted to expand Black’s presence and influence in animation since he began working in the industry in the early 1980s, he said, a mission that has drawn on his experience. himself as a young cartoon fan.
“When I was growing up, I loved shows like ‘The Flintstones’ and ‘The Jetsons,’” he said. But together they paint an unwelcome picture: “I didn’t exist in the beginning, and I don’t think they were looking for me to survive when the spacecraft began to fly off the planet.” .
“I have to do something about that,” he continued. “Because I love the medium and I want to see myself in it.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/arts/television/proud-family-returns.html ‘Proud family’ is back, even louder and prouder