When “TODAY” co-host Savannah Guthrie noticed her daughter gravitating towards all things princess as a toddler, she seized on an opportunity to bring something more empowering to the space. The journalist paired up with parent educator Allison Oppenheim, and together they released the New York Times bestselling children’s book, “Princesses Wear Pants,” in 2017.
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“We are not anti-princess — we just thought maybe we could bring more substance to the storylines,” Savannah explained on “TODAY.” Now, her girl powered storyline has transformed from the page to the screen in the new animated series, “Princess Power,” which debuted on Netflix Jan. 30.
The preschool series, based on Guthrie’s bestselling book, celebrates the magical power of female friendship, diversity and teaches leadership through the central message: “It’s not what you wear but what you do that makes all the difference.”
The whimsical series also has some major star power behind the production. Drew Barrymore is among the executive producers of the series, along with Guthrie and Oppenheim. Rita Moreno, voices Great Aunt Busyboots and Tan France is the voice of Sir Benedict.
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The 14-episode season follows four young royals: Rita Raspberry (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss), Kira Kiwi (Dana Heath), Penny Pineapple (Luna Bella) and Bea Blueberry (Madison Calderon) who each hail from a different fruit kingdom. Each character has a special talent, but together they use self-expression and teamwork overcome their hurdles and help their kingdoms.
Know Your Value recently caught up with Guthrie on the animated series, as well as the lessons of cooperation, inclusivity and empowerment she hopes children will take away from the show.
Know Your Value: We’re excited to see the hit “Princesses Wear Pants” books come to life in this new animated series. How did it come together?
Guthrie: After the books were successful and people really found them to be resonant, we started thinking what if this could become an animated show? One of the first things that happened, that made it seem like it could be possible was Drew Barrymore, Ember Truesdell and Flower Films partnered up with us.
Once we had that partnership, we really were in a strong position to get an animator and then a distributor. It’s a long process to bring a children’s picture book to the screen. Animation is so difficult – and to get it right and get the characters right was such a labor of love. I’m just thrilled that it’s here – after all these years – and it looks so good. It’s true to the messages of the book. We’re just hoping that kids and parents love it as much as we do.
Know Your Value: How does the series shake up – or reinvent— notions around the traditional princess theme?
Guthrie: It’s aligned with what the book “Princesses Wear Pants” was trying to accomplish which was, we all know our little girls of a certain age just seem so drawn to princesses and everything pink and glittery and frilly.
We are not anti-princess and we never have been, but we wanted to embrace their love of princesses by infusing it with something meaningful and substantive. So that’s where the whole metaphor of princesses wear pants came from. The princesses wear pants because they have things to do, they have important jobs and responsibilities and so the show really takes off from that message.
All four of our princesses – they’re an ensemble – they all have unique talents and unique interests. And it's very much focused on their problem-solving, their cooperation, and I think it really redefines “princess” away from the shallow stuff … and more towards a young lady in a readership role.
We hope the series really emphasizes that part of what a princess is, but it comes with a spoonful of sugar because kids are kids. Little kids want to see frills, fashion, excitement, adventures – it has all of that. But hopefully embedded deep within in it is a message that these are young ladies of substance who are looking to make their worlds a better place.
Know Your Value: What does the story teach girls about self-expression, responsibility and becoming doers in their communities?
Guthrie: Every show presents a problem that needs to be solved and the girls work together. The main message of the show is the girls don’t look around their worlds and see a problem and just standby.
They are doers, they play an active role, they are creative, they’re entrepreneurs, they’re innovative, resourceful and they’re humorous. So they’re bringing all of their talents – whether it’s science and STEM, arts and crafts – they’re bringing every aspect of their personalities to the mission in each show.
So, I think it’s being really well-rounded and incorporating all of those aspects of a young girl’s personality – her intelligence, her flare – it’s a wholistic approach and I hope that’s what really comes through.
Know Your Value: Why develop a series focused on preschool-age children?
Guthrie: I think that is the age when young girls predominately become attracted to all things princess – it’s all around them. So getting that message at the preschool age in a form that is appealing and entertaining but also gives them a message that’s deeper was really important. I think preschool is the perfect time to do it. That’s where the interest is, that’s where we have their attention with this type of programming. That’s the opportunity to really see these ideas early, that what they do is far more important than how they look, or what they wear.
Know Your Value: Finally, what can children learn about teamwork and celebrating differences?
Guthrie: I love that this cast of princesses is so diverse in every sense. They’re diverse in where they are from and the kingdoms they represent; they’re diverse in their personalities and their styles. They’re diverse in their strengths and their attributes. I think that’s one of the primary messages of the show and I’m hopeful people will take that away and that everyone can see a bit of themselves in all of our characters.