We’re told that a Shimmer and Shine app is in the works and will be “released soon”. There’s also a brand-new online game that will launch this month on NickJr.com.
Read our interview with the brilliant Iranian-American show creator below:
Persianesque Magazine: What was the initial inspiration behind Shimmer and Shine?
Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz: Creating this show was very much an evolving process so it is difficult to pin down the one moment when the idea came to me. The idea for the show is a culmination of moments and memories throughout my life.
PM: From inception to screen, how many times did the characters’ names and look change, if at all?
FE: While the core look of the characters remains the same, there have been many slight modifications made to them so they look as cute and appealing as possible. We went through so many names until we landed on Shimmer and Shine–more than I can keep track of. It’s all part of the creative process of finding what feels right.
PM: What were your favorite cartoons growing up and why?
FE: I had so many favorites growing up ranging from Rugrats, to Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Care Bears, She-Ra, and The Snorks. I pretty much loved cartoons in general. When I was teenager I was still watching cartoons and my dad said to me, “You are too old to watch this stuff baba jan.” I said, “Dad, one day this is how I will make a living.” I was 13 and I didn’t know at that time that I would be spot-on.
PM: Do you feel that the quality of current cartoons match or exceed cartoons of the past?
FE: I think that as time goes by the technology that we use to make cartoons has grown exponentially, making it inevitable to exceed the technical quality of cartoons of the past. However, with that said as long as there is a compelling story, kids will fall in love with the show regardless of the technology used.
PM: How have your own kids reacted to the new series?
My kids love it so far. My daughter sings all of the songs and makes me print out artwork from the show for her to put up all over her room.
PM: Did they have any influence any creative decisions?
FE: Absolutely!!! I’ve been watching my son gauge what he finds funny and trying to make sure we have that type of physical comedy in the series. One of Shimmer’s catch phrases is something my daughter once said to me, “My favorite color is GLITTER!” I watch the two of them every day and see what makes them laugh and what they like, and then I make sure that we incorporate that into the show as much as we can.
PM: Do your children watch all the shows you’ve worked on?
FE: Like in many households, Dora the Explorer is a favorite. Some days I walk into my kitchen and see my daughter putting on little scenes from the show. It’s an amazing feeling to see my kids connect with something I worked on.
PM: You’ve been involved in a couple of other ethnically-focused Nickelodeon series (Dora/Diego and Ni Hao, Kai Lan), what made you decide to introduce genies?
FE: In all honesty, I loved I Dream of Genie growing up and still to this day, I love the idea of having magic and being able to move things with my mind. I still make wishes on the first star I see every night. For me, it was more about the magic, fun, and fantasy elements than being about any specific ethnicity or folklore.
PM: Did you pull anything from your own Persian upbringing to include in creating Shimmer and Shine?
FE: As a show creator, it’s inevitable that you put a lot of yourself into the show. It’s part of what makes the show so uniquely me.
PM: The music incorporated into Shimmer and Shine is lively and fun, it’s also distinctly Indian: Was it an intentional decision to mix the separate cultures together?
FE: Yes, I believe that there are many beautiful attributes in so many different cultures. I wanted to bring together elements from each of these cultures that I love to create a fun new world for our audience to play in.
PM: The clothes the girls wore, are also more Indian in nature, correct?
FE: We based the clothes in the genie world rather than one specific culture. It’s a combination of that and some current fashions that I love.
PM: Did you take any trips or travel to anywhere in Middle East for research?
FE: I have been to Iran multiple times throughout my childhood and as an adult, and I’ve always loved taking pictures there. We pulled those images for reference, as well as tons of other beautiful things we were able to find on the internet from all over the world.
PM: Can we expect to hear any Persian words used in the series?
FE: We currently have some Persian names as well as some Arabic names, but we are not limited to just those. If it feels right for the character and the genie world, then we will make sure to use it.
PM: Would you say that this show is more geared towards girls, or will boys enjoy it just the same?
FE: I think the show has appeal for both boys and girls, telling fun compelling stories full of heart and fun.
PM: What things do you think Persian kids will be able to relate to and/or recognize while watching the show, whether in the form of iconography or other specific references, if at all?
FE: As a whole, the series will engage all kids of any background, but there will be some names that Persian kids will recognize and possibly some styles of artwork.
PM: Do you think it’s important for all kids to feel represented/included in the cartoon world?
FE: I think it’s important for kids to feel like they have a voice. TV is just one of the many outlets for that. It’s empowering for them to feel like they have something that is their own.
PM: What lessons were most vital for you to teach children through this art form and series?
FE: Through this series, I’m hoping to teach kids endurance and resilience—to not let obstacles get in your way. There is always a way to figure things out.
PM: I find that my daughter will often imitate and retell stories and lessons learned from her favorite cartoons…How much does this aspect of cartoon creation weigh on your storyboarding and storytelling?
FE: At the end of the day, we are trying to come up with stories that our kids can relate to. I watch my kids and my friends’ kids, as well as draw from my own childhood memories, to find appropriate story lines with our amazing writing team that are fun for our kids with positive messages at heart.
PM: What’s in store for the future of Shimmer and Shine? A feature-length movie perhaps?
FE: With two fun-loving magical genies, the possibilities are endless. Whatever we do, I’m sure it will be full of fun and sparkle!