Thursday, February 18, 2021

'The Casagrandes' to Introduce New Lakota Character, Charles Little Bull

Meet Charles Little Bull: He's a role-model grad student in his twenties who wears his long hair in two braids. And today (Feb. 18), when Nickelodeon unveils his character on The Casagrandes, he'll become one of the first Lakota figures to appear in a major American animated-TV production!

His debut reflects Native American advocates' heightened campaigning to champion more positive, high-profile representation in media and news coverage. That's happening as they also push for sports teams to drop offensive mascots with stereotypical images of Indigenous people.

Consulting producer Lalo Alcaraz, who also worked on the Disney film Coco, has been an outspoken advocate for getting more Native Americans in film and television.

Little Bull, voiced by Native American actor Robbie Diamond, tutors one of the show's teen Latina characters, Carlota Casagrande. His first appearance comes in an episode titled “Undivided Attention," premiering Thursday, February 18 at 4:30 p.m. (ET/PT).

"Charles is a patient, encouraging, and positive tutor who never gives up on a student no matter how challenging," a Nickelodeon spokesperson told Axios in a statement. "Charles loves to learn, and when he’s not tutoring at the library, he’s hanging at the library  — he even has his own reserved table!"

The Casagrandes, which debuted in 2019, centers around an 11-year-old girl trying to survive in a big midwestern city. It's one of the first cartoons in the U.S. to feature a multigenerational Mexican-American family.

The spin-off from the network’s popular animation series, The Loud House, came as more networks were taking chances on Latino-themed shows.

Some activists are hoping other characters from the franchise, like Little Bull, get their own spin-off.

"We’re finally seeing a shift in Native representation in Hollywood and stories that center and include contemporary Native characters," Crystal Echo Hawk, founder and executive director of networking and advocacy group IllumiNative, told Axios.

She said she's hopeful Little Bull will be "the first of many Native cartoon characters on Nickelodeon."

The PBS cartoon Molly of Denali also premiered in 2019 and centered on an Alaska Native family.

That children's production focuses on a 10-year-old Athabascan girl with a video blog about life in rural Alaska. PBS said it was the first nationally distributed children’s series with a Native American lead.

From Looney Tunes to Peter Pan, earlier cartoons for years portrayed Native Americans using racist and stereotypical imagery. Often those characters didn't have names. Their tribal affiliations were rarely mentioned.

John Redcorn from the Fox cartoon series, The King of the Hill, was a Native American character portrayed as a loner in leather vests and windblown hair. His symbolism on the show was a topic of debate among pop-culture critics.

Oglala Lakota president Kevin Killer said he is excited Nickelodeon is highlighting native American culture.

“The ability to change the narratives around what we see on TV every day, what we watch, especially what we show our young people our children and you know I think its gonna be exciting, props to Nickelodeon”

Ramsey Naito, President of Nickelodeon Animation said “Our audience has loved the diverse characters, relatable stories, and rich animation found in The Casagrandes since the series debuted. The success of the show is due to the creative leaders who continue to showcase the love and laughter of this family, living in an environment that reflects the global world we live in today.”

H/T: Special thanks to @Jess0426 and @JesseCoffey15 for the news!; Additional sources: The Hill, KEVN.

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