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A kids’ show for us.
Posted Thursday, May 1, 2008, 12:00AM
Tammy Stoner and her production company, Pink Pea, have blazed a new trail in television programming for children with Dottie’s Magic Pockets. It’s a live-action show whose target audience is young kids of lesbian and gay households, although I can’t imagine any kid not getting a supreme kick out of the enchanting program. And it packs a terrific educational punch.
In its own words, Pink Pea is “an independent production company dedicated to creating programming that represents the fabulous diversity of nontraditional families.” Stoner says that she didn’t need to look any further than her own home to come up with the premise of the show. “When we were in early development of Pink Pea, the production company for Dottie’s Magic Pockets, my ex-partner and I were looking at schools for our son, so that transition process—me having been a stay-at-home mom—was on my mind. At home, he and I had spent hours creating imaginary characters with sock puppets, some of whom inspired the puppets you see in the show today.”
They’ve more than hit the mark with Dottie’s Magic Pockets, but not without fighting some uphill battles. “We started this as an independent company in order to maintain creative control, but the downside—and the most challenging aspect during this launch period—has been reaching the kids without major distribution. But once we reach them, they love it, so that motivates us to continue promoting and building relationships with LGBT centers and other organizations to get the word out,” says Stoner.
Pink Pea has produced a hip and zippy show that overflows with imagination, using a zany cast of live characters interspersed with funky animation. I watched two episodes of it, “Doing the Flower,” and “Beet Beat,” and both were blithe forays into Dottie’s world of fun and learning with a set that’s an irresistible cross between Pee Wee’s Playhouse and a kaleidoscopic shopping spree at Urban Outfitters.
Dottie conjures up a batch of friends, and we are introduced to each one. James the Flower is a well-to-do French daisy, complete with the appropriate accent and a cup of tea. Randal the Beaver wears John Lennon-style glasses, and though he’s sweetly naïve he also appreciates a good hug. Motilda the Mouse is a real firecracker and a devoted friend to all. Wally the Wall is always available to help out, and he looks fantastic in his purple fun fur. That leaves my favorite friend of Dottie’s, Uncanny the Singing Can. Everything she says is done very operatically, and for a little can confined to the mantle, her presence is far-reaching.
In the center of it all is Dottie, keenly portrayed by Jen Plante. “The character of Dottie herself was inspired by the wacky sensibility and abilities of the actress who plays Dottie,” explains Stoner. Plante’s Dottie is an effervescent woman who is both high-spirited and down-to-earth. (Oh, and as an added bonus to grown-up viewers, Dottie’s a hottie.)
Stoner is not just the CEO of Pink Pea; she also created the concept, wrote the scripts, worked on the Claymation and wrote many of the songs you’ll hear on Dottie’s Magic Pockets. She got some help from Pink Pea’s creative director Wayne DeSelle, director/editor Andrea Maxwell and producer Kathleen Latlip.
Stoner is pleased with the feedback about the show. “[It’s] incredible. Our biggest surprise was the fabulous reaction from mainstream, traditional families, whose support has equaled the nontraditional families in the LGBT community.” She’s also thrilled with how the kids, the most important viewers, have responded: “The reaction from the children has been the most rewarding by far. A little girl in Georgia turned to her mom after seeing Dottie’s Magic Pockets and said, ‘That little boy has two mommies, just like me!’ When our producer, Kathleen Latlip, heard that, she cried. It’s also especially exciting to see the way all children—from both traditional and nontraditional families—respond to Dottie’s gentle wackiness. We really feel like we are helping to create a more compassionate tomorrow for the children of today.”
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