“Let’s hear it for Mira, Royal Detective!” Kids have fallen in love with Disney Junior’s hit musical animated series, set in a magical Indian-inspired land. At the TCA Summer Press Tour, Disney Branded Television hosted a panel called “Diversity in Children’s Animation” that featured Joe D’Ambrosia, GM and SVP of Original Programming for Disney Junior, and actor Kal Penn, who voices the mongoose Mikku on the series. Together, they talked about why the cultural representation in Mira, Royal Detective has helped it become a hit around the world.
“In terms of diversity and inclusion, our approach is pretty simple,” Joe D’Ambrosia shared. “All of our stories really need to act as a mirror and a window. A mirror where a young kid could watch TV and see a reflection of themselves out there and also as a window where another kid could view another child’s experiences. Mira, Royal Detective is a great example of that… It talks about and supports stories that are inspired by the cultures of India. It provides great cross-cultural experience for not only South Asian families who can see themselves on TV, but it also really opens up to much broader audiences, the customs and cultures of India.”
For Kal Penn, being part of this series is important because he wishes something like it existed when he was a child. “I didn't really grow up seeing myself on screen, whether that was an animated character or live action,” the actor confessed. “I have nieces and nephews who are in that 2-to-7 range and I have friends, college buddies who have kids who are in that range. It’s amazing to be able to send them links, send them the toys, and sing the songs with them in a way that is culturally-specific. But like Joe said, it’s really for a global audience and to see all of these diverse kids who are the friends’ kids, my cousins’ kids, all of that, watch the same content, smile for the same reasons, and sort of see each other in the characters… it’s just so cool.”
“What you see on air is really just the tip of the iceberg,” Joe D’Ambrosia added about the team behind Mira, Royal Detective. “Besides having a very diverse cast and crew, actually everybody who touched that property — whether you worked in marketing, whether you're in programming or social — Shago [Shagoriki Ghosh Perkins], our great consulting producer, conducted several workshops. We did immersive off-sites, we all visited an Indian temple, we went to Dabba’s and tried out local cuisine. We really were very specific to make the show as authentic as possible.”
“For folks who are still asking that question of what does that mean, who cares whether you see yourself or not, it really means that as an audience member, especially as a child, that's the difference between considering boundless possibilities in your world and feeling limited,” Kal Penn concluded. “It used to be that if somebody wrote a show about a South Asian girl named Mira set in a fictional town in India, your agent would get laughed off the phone call, not to mention not even have an opportunity to pitch a show like that. So, I just think it's incredible that it's moved leaps and bounds.”
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).