Minorities in cartoons: “Kenny the Shark”

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This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is the animated series “Kenny the Shark.” The series debuted on Discovery Kids, a sister station of the Discovery Channel, in 2003, and ran for two seasons of 13 episodes each, or a total of 26 episodes.

Background

The series focused on the misadventures of Kenny, a tiger shark who, tiring of his life in the ocean, moved to a seaside community where he became the pet and best friend of Kat Cassidy, an 11-year-old girl who’s immensely interested in aquatic life, and sharks in particular. Kat lives with her family: parents Grace (an Asian-American woman who works as a therapist) and Peter (a Caucasian man who runs a grocery store), and her infant brother Karl.

While Grace seems to tolerate Kenny well, Peter on the other hand would sooner see Kenny sent back to the ocean, if he didn’t love his daughter/respected her love of Kenny. Most episodes focused on Kenny’s antics causing chaos for Kat’s life, or some individuals attempting to capture or mistreat Kenny.

Similar to Dr. Doolittle, Kat is capable of talking to the series’ various animals, although nobody else can understand them. Additionally, Kat’s parents are highly skeptical of said communication skills (the opening credits feature Peter stating “honey, she’s talking to that shark again!”). Also similar to other cartoon sharks like Jabberjaw, Kenny is capable of walking upright on his tailfins, while also (apparently) breathing air.

Other than those liberties, however, the show tries to present some educational facts about sharks (as a main reason it was produced); one episode compared the differences between tiger sharks like Kenny and great white sharks.

Other supporting characters in the series include Marty, a dachshund that lives next door and is Kenny’s best (animal) friend; and Oscar, Kat’s best (human) friend. Oscar’s obsessed with all things related to the ancient Mayans, as he’s one of their descendants.

Unlike most cartoons taking place in a fictional town or city, “Kenny the Shark” takes place in the real-world small town of Tiburon, California, which is located near San Francisco. The town’s name is based on the Spanish word for “shark” (tiburón).

Home video

“Kenny the Shark” aired on Discovery Kids through the 2000s, and even for a time after the channel’s change to The Hub in 2010. To date, it’s only received a few single-disc DVD releases.

Voice actors

Kenny was voiced by Jim Conroy, who went on to use the same voice for Ruff Ruffman in PBS’ “Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman.”

Kat was voiced by Kelli Rabke, most of whose credits seem theater-related.

Kat’s mom was voiced by Karen Culp, who largely does live-action TV programs such as “30 Rock” and “Law and Order.”

Oscar was voiced by Alexander King (no other acting or voice credits found).

(Updated 9/15/16)

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