What It's Like to Be the Executive Producer of PBS KIDS Shows

Daniel Hautzinger
Pinkalicious with her brother Peter and friends Jasmine and Rafael. © 2020 WGBH.  Underlying © Victoria Kann, or Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann. TM: Victoria Kann.  All third-party trademarks are the property of their respective owners.  Used with permission.
Pinkalicious with her brother Peter and friends Jasmine and Rafael. © 2020 WGBH. Underlying © Victoria Kann, or Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann. TM: Victoria Kann. All third-party trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Used with permission.

Pinkalicious & Peterrific airs throughout the day on WTTW11 and the 24/7 WTTW Kids channel, and can be streamed at wttw.com/kids.

The PBS KIDS show Pinkalicious & Peterrific, which launches its second season on Monday, March 30, is a great show for children ages 3-5 while they’re at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sure, it entertains them while they watch it—but it also encourages them to be creative outside the show. “The goal of the show is to inspire kids to get more creative,” says Dorothea Gillim, the executive producer of the series. “Kids are naturally creative: they might enjoy finger-painting, or music, or movement, so we’re trying to support their natural inclinations to be artistic and to express themselves.”

The animated series is based on books written and illustrated by Victoria Kann, who is also involved in all aspects of the series. (Kann is the “visionary of the show,” says Gillim.) They follow a young girl named Pinkalicious, her brother Peter, and their friends and family as Pinkalicious imaginatively experiences the world and expresses herself artistically.

Dorothea GillimDorothea Gillim is executive producer of 'Pinkalicious & Peterrific' and 'Molly of Denali' In the new season, Pinkalicious and Peter learn to yodel in order to retrieve a goat, watch as the garden gnome who lives in their backyard plans a playdate with another gnome, and get a new pet. “I don’t want to reveal too much, but the pet is pink and its name is Rosy,” says Gillim. Plus, we learn more about Pinkalicious’s friends Jasmine and Rafael, while the fan-favorite character Robota returns.

In order to channel the creativity that the show might inspire in a kid, Pinkalicious includes live-action interstitials with fun activities that allow kids to be creative at home, as well as games on the PBS KIDS website such as the new “Pinkcredible Story Maker,” which helps children build a three-part story using the characters and locations of Pinkalicious. With many schools closed across the country, “it’s a great time [for parents] to capitalize on the resources of these shows and have fun, and spend time building on the important skills,” says Gillim.

As the executive producer, Gillim knows those resources well, since she is involved in every aspect of the show, from scripting to voice-recording to animation and games. “It’s a lot of fun,” she says. “There’s so much variety in my job: I work closely with Victoria Kann; with the talented and tight-knit cast in New York, directing some of the voice recordings; I review all the wonderful designs and animation that come from studio Sixteen South in Belfast; with the digital team at WGBH [the PBS station where the show is produced].”

Molly of Denali. © 2018 WGBH Educational Foundation'Molly of Denali.' © 2018 WGBH Educational Foundation

She is also the executive producer for Molly of Denali, the first national children's series to feature a Native American lead character, which premiered last summer. For that show, Gillim works with Alaskan Natives, who are involved in every part of the show in order “to ensure that the stories are authentic and resonate,” says Gillim. “The feedback has been overwhelming,” she continues. “I have never worked on a show where people tear up on a regular basis. We hear from kids and adults who are watching who are so moved and appreciative to see themselves represented onscreen in a positive way.”

Molly, too, has plenty of activities and games available that could be useful in these cloistered times: they encourage kids to get outside and learn to use informational text, among other things. As difficult as self-isolation can be, “this is a great time to build on kids’ excitement when they watch a show, and develop it offline,” says Gillim.

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