“Little J & Big Cuz” is the very fist animated series produced by and starring the indigenous people of Australia. The 13 episodes of the first season are broadcasted on NITV since April the 28th, and they bring a real revolution to Australian television.
The creation of this unique animated series is long overdue : “Never before has an Australian animated show targeted an audience of four- to six-year-olds from the Indigenous community. As an Indigenous person this seemed wrong,” says director and designer Tony Thorne to Broadsheet. “It should’ve happened 10 years ago.” He is very proud of this accomplishment : “It’s amazing. We’ve really established something. For Aboriginal kids, it’s the first time they’re seeing themselves as a cartoon character. And for non-Indigenous kids it’s a way of knowing Aboriginal kids and seeing what their world might be like. Seeing the characters as their friends. It’s a really important thing.”
The TV show follows five-year-old Little J, (voiced by Miranda Tapsell) and his nine-year-old cousin Big Cuz (Deborah Mailman) as they discover school and bring the viewers to their backyard, their daily life and the bush beyond. Important characters are their dog, their wise grandma Nanna and their teacher Ms Chen. For a kid’s show, it goes quite deep, exploring themes such as Indigenous identity, their connection to the countryside and the traditional practices of their people. But it is not heavy handed. Little J and Big Cuz are just kids and have no concept of politics. They just explore and discover the occidental culture, and proudly present their Aboriginal identity to their little friends.
The whole objective was educational: create a tool for teachers to ease the transition of Indigenous kids to the traditional school system. Research Developments (RD) reports that the series was borne out of a partnership between the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), Ned Lander Media, National Indigenous Television (NITV), Screen Australia, Film Victoria, Screen Tasmania and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation.
These education experts realized the power of television and decided to use it for a good cause (for a change) : “A team of experts convened to develop the resources, including Indigenous Education Consultants from both the early years and primary school sectors, and a former Senior Education Officer from ACARA” explains RD. “Tailored to work within pre-schools and primary schools, the free resources integrate with the series around episode themes and stories. Importantly, the resources will be mapped to the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum (Foundation – Year 2), and can be used by educators within and outside of the classroom.”
The animated nature of the series also means it is easy to dub. An episode dubbed in six Indigenous languages is being produced… Now, we hope that other TV channels from the Pacific will broadcast Little J & Big Cuz for all of us to see! Or you can catch the online diffusion on NITV.