Thanks to shows like Cartoon Network’s Victor and Valentino and Amazon’s Undone, Latino stories have found a phenomenal vehicle in animation this year. Now Nickelodeon is joining this inspired trend with a series that will put a multigenerational Mexican-American family front and center.
Using the positive reception the character of Ronnie Anne enjoyed during her cameos in the animated comedy The Loud House, the spinoff The Casagrandes keeps the tone and comedic style of the source material, but adds a Latino cast of characters that subvert tiresome stereotypes. The adults in The Casagrandes’ reality are doctors, nurses, business owners, college professors, and painters.
“It’s really important to have a Latino family on children’s television,” young actress Izabella Alvarez who voices Ronnie Anne (and was recently seen in immigration drama Collisions and the TV hit Westworld) told Remezcla during The Casagrandes‘screening at the Paley Center in Los Angeles. “It’s something special to my heart because growing up I never really had a Latino family to look up to on television.”
For Sonia Manzano, the veteran Nuyorican actress who was an integral part of Sesame Street for over 40 years, the existence of a program like this is encouraging but far from sufficient. “To tell you the truth, I thought by now there’d be 15 shows with Latino characters. It’s disconcerting to be my age and not see at least 15 shows, or 15 Latino directors, producers, and writers behind the scenes. But I’m glad that there’s a movement and that I’m still alive to see this one.”
Manzano recalled that as a child in the 1950s she struggled to define what her place and value within the United States was because of the lack of positive representation in media. “I never saw any Puerto Ricans or anybody Latin on television, only in Mexican movies I saw Latin people, and I wondered how I was going to contribute to a society that didn’t see me.” The Casagrandes, she hopes, will prevent children of color from experiencing that alienation.
Armed with celebrated Mexican-American cartoonist and author Lalo Alcaraz as a writer and consultant, The Casagrandes interweaves spiritual aspects of Latino culture with playful storylines that provide insight while entertaining viewers. Later this year, an episode dedicated to Día de Muertos, written by Alcaraz and directed by Miguel Puga, will introduce the Mexican holiday dealing with afterlife to a new audience.
Alcaraz, who worked as a cultural consultant in Pixar’s Coco, has such devotion for reflecting traditions and idiosyncrasies with truthfulness that he even corrected Manzano’s pronunciation of the word “flan,” in order to make it sound closer to how a Mexican abuela would refer to the dessert.
The family-oriented show also features the voices of Eugenio Derbez, Carlos and Alexa PenaVega, and Argentine-American voice-over legend Carlos Alazraqui (Rocko’s Modern Life), who plays book-smart skater Tio Carlos. “He’s kind of a version of me, probably a little bit more intellectual than I am,” said Alazraqui who took inspiration from his own cool uncles including his Argentine Tio Alfonso.
Similarly, Manzano’s character is an amalgamation of the love and discipline that Latina grandmothers embody. “They created this wonderful, over-the-top grandmother whose main purpose in life is to make sure her family is fed and that their emotional well-being is taken care of.” Beyond the heartfelt sincerity in her role, what the actress finds most audacious is how the team behind the show mined staple Latino experiences for comedy that will resonate beyond the community.
“It’s very funny that they are not afraid to show her tirar la chancleta and throw it at anybody who is annoying her. I really like broad humor like that,” added Manzano.
The Casagrandes premieres Monday, October 14 at 1:30 p.m. before moving to its regular time slot on Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. beginning October 19.