Minorities in cartoons: “Wild Kratts”

This week’s minorities in cartoons blog post is “Wild Kratts,” an educational show on PBS. The series focuses on zoology, nature, and the environment.

The Kratt brothers, Chris and Martin, are the show’s stars, and appear in live-action wraparound segments. The siblings have hosted several previous nature shows, including “Zoboomafoo,” an earlier PBS series.

Background

The series focuses on the Kratt brothers and their nature-watching team. They travel the world in the “Tortuga,” a flying tortoise-like aircraft. The team’s missions involve either learning about animals in their native habitats, or protecting the animals from harm. Said harm comes either from natural threats or from one of the show’s recurring villains.

The Kratt brothers use various equipment in their missions. Most of it’s of a “twenty minutes into the future” or “Jetsons” variety—hoverbikes, a “miniaturizer” shrinking device, etc. However, the “creature power suits” are the show’s signature devices. The suits provide the wearer (usually the Kratts) the abilities of a particular animal when an animal-specific “creature power disc” is used.

Cast

Other than the Kratts, the Tortuga team includes:

  • Avivia: a young Hispanic woman who invents and designs the team’s technology, including the creature suits and discs. Aviva can be somewhat competitive, but is proud of her inventions and engineering skills.
  • Koki: a young African-American woman who maintains the Tortuga, including its database and communications systems. She’s also the one who tracks the movements of various animals or the Kratts. Later episodes show Koki also maintains the Tortuga’s security/power systems. Koki is sometimes skeptical or sarcastic, as seen in an episode about bats. (She took the longest to warm up to them.)
  • Jimmy Z: a young Caucasian man, Jimmy’s the Tortuga’s pilot. While earnest, he’s also the least knowledgeable about animals. This prompts various opportunities for questions. Jimmy’s obsessed with pizza, napping, and video games. He’s also the most afraid of some of the animals the crew meet.

Aviva and Koki have had some stories center around them. One episode, “Termites Versus Tongues,” sees the two accidentally end up in a termite colony, thanks to a mishap with the miniaturizer.

Villains

The series’ villains, like those on “Captain Planet,” are motivated out of selfish, ecologically harmful reasons. The villains include:

  • Zach Varmitech, a sleazy but petty/childish robotics inventor. Akin to a warped version of “The Flintstones,” Zach uses animals to power some of his robots. Zach particularly dislikes Aviva and has a (one-sided) rivalry with her, feeling his inventions are superior to hers. He also wants to steal Aviva’s inventions for his own purposes. (The two as kids went to summer camp together.)
  • Donita Donata, a fashion designer who uses live animals (held in suspended animation) for her “fashions.”
  • Dabio, Donita’s dim-witted assistant and loose parody of 90s model/romance novel cover icon Fabio.
  • Gourmand, a disgraced gourmet chef who specializes in dishes made from endangered/exotic animals.

Occasionally, all the above villains will team up. One example is in the series’ Christmas episode. The villains teamed up to steal various baby animals as part of a bizarre holiday money-making scheme.

Voice actors

Athena Karkanis voices Aviva. Karkanis is an actress who’s appeared in some live-action roles. Some of her series include “Chappelle’s Show,” “Total Drama Island” (voicing Anne Maria), and “Degrassi: The Next Generation.”

Heather Bambrick voices Koki. Bambrick voices Daniel Tiger’s mother on “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.”

Jonathan Malen voices Jimmy. Malen’s mostly starred in various Canadian TV series, including “Republic of Doyle.”

(Updated 12/7/16)

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