When Victor and Valentino premieres on Cartoon Network, it’ll have been fifteen years since creator Diego Molano first had the idea for his animated show. Only, back in 2004, it was called “Victor, Valentino and Vicente” and the three young siblings at the heart of his Mesoamerican mythology-inspired story were part of a prototype for a video game, not a television series for kids. It was only when the animator begin dreaming up a pitch for a television show that he thought back to his thesis project and decided it would make for an enjoyable adventure-driven tale that kids of all stripes could enjoy. The titular brothers, one a bit of a stinker, the other a by-the-rules kind of boy, live in the fictional town of Monte Macabre with their grandma Chata. And, before they know it, they find all kinds of mythical creatures and legendary stories coming to life: the first episode alone sees them battling a larger-than-life alebrije that’s come to life.
The show borrows its storylines from indigenous cultures all around Mesoamerica, the region that runs from Central Mexico and down through Central America. Those myths were the ones Molano’s grandparents regaled him with when he was a kid in Miami, a true melting pot of Latino cultures. And while everyone around the world is familiar with Greek legends, Roman myths, and Egyptian gods, Molano was amazed at how similar stories from his own ancestry were all but invisible. A by-product, he knows, of colonial rule and the successful attempts by the Spanish and the Catholic Church to erase and eradicate much of the history and culture of the indigenous people they so helped to wipe out.
“It’s weird that no one knows who Quetzalcoatl was, which is a feathered serpent god of the Aztecs. I found it weird that no one knows who Tezcatlipoca is. Or Huitzilopochtli. Or Xipe Totec—all these really cool stories and gods and myths and legends. Why has no one ever done anything with these myths?” He set himself the task of bringing them into the US cultural imaginary, breaking them down and kid-ifying them for the 11-minute episodes that make up Victor and Valentino.
Sitting alongside similar takes on legend as Gravity Falls and The Book of Life, this 2D animated series is hoping to break barriers for Latinx representation in US children’s television. With episodes that feature La Lechuza, the Chupacabra, soccer-playing ghosts, dangerous venus flytrap plants, and an assortment of creatures that terrorize the churro and taco stands in Monte Macabre, Victor and Valentino hopes to be a truly bicultural show. Moreover, Molano will be voicing Vic in both English and Spanish (all episodes will be available in either language on demand and on CN’s app). The choice to lend his voice to the shorter brother is a nod to Molano’s own connection with the scheming, poncho-wearing boy.
“I’m literally that little — well, travieso, you see in the episodes,” he shared. “I mean, I grew out of it and sort of became a Valentino later, thinking I was more grown-up than I was. But Vic was me as a kid. Me creía que I was the best at everything, that I could do no wrong. I was kind of mean to my family and my cousins. But life had to keep on kicking me in the face to make me humble. It’s one of the things I love about the show: Every time Victor is a travesio, he gets his comeuppance. He learns his lessons at the end of the day. It’s a good lesson for kids.”
Aware of the great strides a show like this can have for Latinos in the animation industry, Molano is eager to see it finally out in the world. He hopes it’ll help usher in newfound interest in these myths and stories and give US audiences a different perspective on these people (aka, fight back against the misconceptions perpetuated by violent movies like Apocalypto). But at the end of the day, Molano knows this show will reach Latinx kids and give them characters that can give them a glimpse into their ancestry. “I want kids to know that these things exist. And that it’s part of our history. I want them to realize where they come from so they feel included.”
Victor and Valentino premieres March 30, 2019.