‘The newest addition to the PBS Kids lineup is a fun and informative animated series. “Elinor Wonders Why” is the brainchild of cartoonist Jorge Cham, whose daughter Elinor is always filled with questions, and scientist Daniel Whiteson.
To make this a fun series for kids ages 3-5, the characters are all animals and live in Animal Town. Together they explore and discover things about science, nature and their community.
First, there is Elinor, an observant and overly curious bunny. Ari is an imaginative bat, and a little perceptive elephant named Olive rounds out the core group. Together these enthusiastic youngsters find answers to many things surrounding them and learn about the environment as well as how they can work together to solve problems and figure out things in life.
Cham told a virtual press conference, “I think the show is to encourage kids and to model getting them interested in nature and following their own curiosity, and being in charge of asking their own questions and finding their own answers.”
There’s no doubt kids are curious and always wondering why things react as they do or look as they do.
“Sometimes they learn a little bit about the environment and also a little bit about engineering,” Cham added.
About the look of the show, he explained, “The design of the show, I am a cartoonist. I was originally an academic. I like to say I am a recovering academic. But I am a cartoonist, and I draw bugs and I illustrate a lot of science education. A lot of the look of the show came from the designs, the original designs, my show and my cartoon style. That's really where we went. We were really interested in making it two-dimensional, 2D that energy.”
Each episode includes some music as well as the adventures of the animals as they learn and explore their environment.
“It is all sort of our core mission of getting people excited and interested and engaged with not just science, but innate curiosity and wonder about the world,” said Cham.
Both Cham and Whiteson have young children and often draw on the questions and curiosities of their own kids. As Whitson said, “So really the brainstorm started with, ‘OK, let's ask our kids what science is for.’ Before COVID-19, we walked around the neighborhood and asked questions, ‘Did you know that cats have babies too?’ The kind of thing that blows the minds of 4-year-olds. Really our episode, the goal is a question that a real child could ask.”
Parents will inevitably see some of the same curiosity in Elinor, Ari and Olive that their own children have. These three characters represent the inquisitiveness of our own kids.
“In terms of the animals in the show,” explained Cham, “this is something Daniel and I had a lot of conversations about because it is a science show and we are trying to teach about nature. So we wanted to be really clear and have some very sort of clear rules, I guess, intuitive rules in terms of how the world works. So the rule that we have is that all of the speaking characters are all these mammals so they are clear to explore things like lizards, bugs, insects and birds and worms and trees and nature. So they study those as the kids at home would study them or observe them. But we also sort of retain a lot of the animal characteristics for the characters so they are not stand-ins, as other shows. Ari still flies.”
The characters will definitely capture the imaginations of viewers and their curiosity will relate to them as well.
“Elinor Wonders Why” is now showing on PBS Kids.