'The Proud Family' Returns, Now Even Louder and Prouder

'The Proud Household' Returns, Now Even Louder and Prouder

When “The Proud Household” debuted on the Disney Channel on Sept. 15, 2001, it launched one in every of TV’s first animated African American households.

Over 52 episodes and a TV film, the sequence supplied a lighthearted depiction of a Black suburban household going about their on a regular basis lives. The headstrong middle-schooler Penny Proud (voiced by Kyla Pratt) took the lead, along with her strict however loving mother and father Oscar and Trudy (Tommy Davidson and Paula Jai Parker), feisty grandmother Suga Mama (Jo Marie Payton) and precocious toddler twin siblings BeBe and CeCe rounding out the remainder of the clan.

They bickered, supported each other, threw shade and confirmed love — all the issues that typical on-screen households do. However earlier than The Prouds, TV audiences hardly ever bought to see a Black cartoon household doing these run-of-the-mill issues, too.

Now the groundbreaking brood is again with “The Proud Household: Louder and Prouder,” a 10-episode revival scheduled to air weekly on Disney+ beginning Wednesday.

Throughout the present’s authentic run, from 2001 to 2005, Penny went by way of the paces of early adolescence — goofing round along with her multicultural crew of associates, pouting about chores, dodging college bullies and testing parental boundaries. Whereas lots of the present’s themes have been common, they have been delivered in a approach that was uniquely and deliberately rooted in Black tradition.

The dialogue was studded with the sorts of colloquialisms and vernacular that may be heard in lots of Black households. The kids’s playground banter employed of-the-moment slang, typically pulled from rap lyrics. There have been private jabs about being “ashy” and sophistication warfare was waged at any time when the working-class department of the household butted heads with their “bougie” in-laws.

Even the physique language and nonverbal cues — a cautious side-eye, an indignant up-and-down glare — have been embedded as nods to Black viewers. The humor labored on a number of ranges, with foolish sight gags that enchantment to grade-schoolers and extra refined punch strains to maintain grown-ups engaged.

“Plenty of what we’d do was like, ‘Wink, wink. You recognize what we’re saying, proper?’” mentioned Bruce W. Smith, the present’s creator. “We have been hiding a variety of innuendo and, frankly, household enterprise underneath the guise of what our characters have been saying and going by way of. The place the present shines is in all of its cultural references.”

Smith is a veteran animator who spent a lot of the ’90s engaged on characteristic movies like “Area Jam” and Disney’s “Tarzan” and “The Emperor’s New Groove.” By the tip of that decade, he set his sights on serialized tv, aiming to fill a void within the small display screen’s animated choices.

“‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Household Man,’ ‘King of the Hill,’ all these animated sitcoms grew to become the fad,” he mentioned. “I used to be simply taking a look at them like: OK, we’re not on this. We’re not concerned someway, and we needs to be.”

On the time, live-action sitcoms like “Moesha” and “Sister, Sister” had confirmed that Black teenage women may each carry a sequence and draw a devoted viewers. Smith got down to create a cartoon sitcom within the vein of “Moesha” — one which centered a Black lady’s life and experiences.

His first step was teaming up with Ralph Farquhar, a creator of “Moesha,” in addition to its spinoff, “The Parkers,” and the short-lived Black household dramedy “South Central.” Collectively, they oversaw “The Proud Household” and its subsequent 2005 TV film, with Smith additionally directing a number of episodes.

“The truth that there was nobody else doing it was unhappy,” Farquhar mentioned, in a joint video interview with Smith. “However for us, it was this chance. We wished to inform our tales in a approach that we perceive. In that nuanced approach that solely comes from dwelling it.”

Smith added: “The beauty of it was there was nothing earlier than us. There was no bar set. For us, that was thrilling as a result of then we may set the bar.”

Along with commonplace home scenes — kitchen desk spats, curfew breeches, babysitting snafus — there was a smattering of extra academic story strains. These included a poignant Kwanzaa celebration and a Black Historical past Month tribute to oft-overlooked luminaries just like the pioneering aviator Bessie Coleman and Shirley Chisholm, the primary Black girl elected to Congress.

“That’s what I cherished concerning the authentic: We talked about issues that different folks shied away from,” mentioned Pratt, who took on the position of Penny at age 14. “And we’re doing the identical factor this time round.”

The revival, which can also be overseen by Smith and Farquhar, retains a lot of the unique’s taste, but it surely has been up to date for the 2020s. As a substitute of pagers, the youngsters use smartphones. Dated phrases like “off the heezy fo’ sheezy” are out; “woke” and “Black lady magic” are actually in.

The unique featured visitor appearances by widespread early ’00s performers like Lil’ Romeo, Mos Def and Mariah Carey. “Louder and Prouder” is equally star-studded, with cameos by the likes of Lil Nas X, Likelihood the Rapper and Lizzo. The heartwarming theme music, carried out by Solange Knowles and Destiny’s Child, additionally bought a makeover — the 2022 model is sung by the newcomer Joyce Wrice.

Penny and her associates are actually solidly into their teenagers, with all the physique adjustments, heightened hormones and social minefields that entails. And some new gamers have joined the returning core forged.

The previous actuality TV star, EJ Johnson, voices Penny’s gender-fluid pal Michael. (The recurring character Wizard Kelly is a sly allusion to Johnson’s father, the NBA legend Magic Johnson.) And a same-sex couple, Barry and Randall Leibowitz-Jenkins (Zachary Quinto and Billy Porter), have moved into the neighborhood with their adopted youngsters: son Francis (Artist Dubose, higher referred to as the rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie) and daughter Maya (Keke Palmer), a fiery activist who serves as Penny’s new foil.

Palmer, whose breakthrough got here within the 2006 movie “Akeelah and the Bee,” credit Farquhar with discovering her a number of years earlier, when she was 10. (He cast her in a Disney Channel pilot that didn’t get picked up.) He requested her to hitch “Louder and Prouder” as a result of he knew she’d been a longtime fan of the unique.

“I noticed a household that jogged my memory of my very own — I even had boy-girl twins in my household,” Palmer mentioned. “That was a present that represented what my Black American tradition appeared like. I believed they bought it proper!”

However, Disney selected to not renew “The Proud Household” when the unique manufacturing run led to 2005. (Disney declined to touch upon the tip of the unique present.) Within the interview, Smith and Farquhar mentioned they’ve by no means recognized why the present wasn’t allowed to proceed, however they made clear that they all the time hoped to deliver it again in some type.

“From the second we stopped doing the unique model, we had been campaigning to deliver it again,” Farquhar mentioned. “We weren’t fairly positive why we ever even stopped.”

They weren’t alone. “The Proud Household” has been a gradual supply of millennial nostalgia on-line, with followers sharing artwork and cosplay pictures impressed by the present on social media, and revisiting beloved episodes in blog posts. Pratt mentioned overzealous followers have often reached out to her in actual life, too.

“Folks have been speaking to me actually each different day of my life, attempting to get the present again on,” she mentioned.

Farquhar and Smith mentioned they seen a brand new outpouring from “Proud” followers after Disney+ started streaming the unique on Jan. 1, 2020. Disney apparently seen, too. The corporate approached the boys a couple of revival, after which publicly introduced it on Feb. 27, 2020.

Farquhar and Smith have since signed a multiyear general take care of Disney to provide animated and live-action sequence and films and to develop tasks for rising and numerous expertise. Smith boasted that the “Louder and Prouder” workers, from the administrators to format artists to animators, “appears to be like just like the present.” (Like a lot of the leisure trade, animation has historically offered far fewer alternatives to girls and other people of colour than to white males.)

Smith has wished to develop Black folks’s presence and affect in animation since he began working within the trade within the early Nineteen Eighties, he mentioned, a mission knowledgeable by his personal experiences as a younger cartoon fan.

“After I was rising up, I cherished reveals like ‘The Flintstones’ and ‘The Jetsons,’” he mentioned. However collectively they painted an unwelcoming image: “I didn’t exist at first of time, and I don’t suppose they’re searching for me to exist when spaceships begin flying off this planet.”

“I gotta do one thing about that,” he continued. “As a result of I really like this medium and I wish to see myself on this.”

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