Animation Guild

Fall 2019

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16 KEYFRAME Nickelodeon's The Casagrandes, the upcoming spin-off of the channel's The Loud House, manages to create a plethora of new characters with distinctive personalities and physicalities while still staying beholden to the ethos and designs of the original hit series. The new show, which premieres in October, will also be, as co-exec producer Mike Rubiner describes, one that depicts a "multi-generational family with grandparents, aunts, and uncles, [and] cousins all living together [that is also] really empha- sizing the Mexican American aspect of it." It also a wonderful opportunity for Latinx animators, writers and others in the industry. For art director Miguel Gonzalez, who is Mexican American, this idea of following The Loud House secondary characters Ronnie Anne and Bobby Santiago as they join their rambunctious, enormous extended family in Chicago (or, as it's known in this universe, Great Lakes City) is an opportunity to celebrate his culture. He says one of his first objectives when he was hired for The Casagrandes—a show he describes as a dream project and one he'd do anything to be a part of—was to adapt The Loud House color schemes of browns and earth tones to reflect the more vibrant palette of what he associates with his heritage and family. "My inspiration was looking into Mexican pottery and drapery and anything I could incorporate," says Gonzalez. He and his staff would do research online, in books or ask friends and colleagues to bring in photos of the festive greens and blue interiors of their grandparents' and parents' houses so that he could cross-reference them with his own memories. He also knew his designs came with the caveat that he couldn't make the show look completely different because it would still incorporate previously known characters, like The Loud House lead Lincoln, and it had to be recognizable to viewers who were already fans of the first show. But, he says, "we try to be honest with the culture too: What do they wear? How do they wear it?" The Casagrandes employs respected Latino cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz—who was previously known for his work on projects like Pixar's Coco and Fox's Bordertown—as a cultural advisor who will go to bat for authenticity and will speak up when there's a worry of venturing too close to stereotypes of Latinx culture. But these facts are on the staff's minds about all characters, says writer Rosemary Contreras, who is also Mexican American and new to the franchise, whether showing the Italian American character Vito or neighbors Stanley and Rebecca Chang, who are a mixed-race family (there's an episode where the white wife attempts to cook Chinese food). Art director Gonzalez also loves that The Casagrandes can be a teaching tool. An episode about Día de los Muertos will explain that the Day of the Dead is not tantamount to Mexico's Halloween and also gave Gonzalez the opportunity to incorporate important cultural details like the displaying of ancestors' portraits and the skulls and orange marigolds associated with the celebration. Thought was also given to what food would be on the shelves of the family's mercardo (market), which is on the ground floor of their apartment complex and serves as a gathering place for the neighborhood. As for redefining what cramped quarters mean when we're talking about two apartments in a city dwelling versus a small house in suburbia? Rubiner drew from his experiences living in Brooklyn, where it's common to see four-unit apartments over a family-run business. "We wanted the sense that this was a tight- knit family, and they do live kind of packed- in together," he says. "But we also don't want a claustrophobic feeling of everywhere you go, you're tripping over somebody." He adds that "an important part of the show is there's this whole city for Ronnie Anne to explore," both in regards to what the neighborhood itself looks like with its shops and restaurants and the melting pot of people who live and work there. The set-up also allows for a bit of creative levity. Contreras wrote an episode where Ronnie Anne is pet-sitting a snake that gets loose in the apartment complex. The audience gets to track the animal's whereabouts throughout the building, giving them glimpses of how everyone lives and teaching those who don't live in apartments "what it's like to grow up and know all their neighbors." "We are trying to create stories that relate to all children," Contreras stresses. Even those who have never misplaced their friends' pet snake. —Whitney Friedlander LATINX ARTISTS AND WRITERS TAP INTO THEIR HERITAGE FOR THE CASAGRANDES I N P R O D U C T I O N

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