An intrepid rabbit and a set of Latino twins with a bilingual parrot are the stars of two new fall PBS kids' series designed for the generally unserved early elementary school population. The emphasis in both is on positive ethnic values and cultural diversity.
PBS and Scholastic Entertainment ("Clifford the Big Red Dog") have teamed to present "Maya & Miguel," an animated weekday series scheduled to premiere on KCET Oct. 11.
"Maya & Miguel" revolves around 10-year-old twins Maya and Miguel Santos, their close-knit family and Paco, a linguistically gifted parrot, who live in a culturally diverse neighborhood. Maya constantly meddles in the lives of her friends and family, much to the consternation of her brother. The emphasis on the twins' ethnic background, states PBS, "makes learning their culture and language a fun, relevant and rewarding experience."
The voice cast includes Lupe Ontiveros as the twins' grandmother, Elisabeth Pena as their mother, Erik Estrada as the friendly mailman and Lucy Liu as their outspoken friend.
"Postcards From Buster," which also premieres Oct. 11, is a spinoff of public broadcasting's animated series "Arthur" and revolves around Arthur's best friend, the lovable rabbit Buster. The series blends animation with live-action footage of the little fellow's travels through the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico as he accompanies his dad, an airplane pilot who is flying a Latin rock group on a concert tour. Buster keeps in touch with his friends by sending them video postcards about the people he's met and the places he's been.
Besides examining North American cultural diversity, "Buster" also aims to help nonnative speakers develop communication skills in English.
"Thomas & Friends": This PBS series stars Thomas the Tank Engine and focuses on Thomas and his train engine friends on the Island of Sodor. Debuts Sept. 18.
"Tokyo Mew Mew": Fox Box imported this popular Japanese animated show, which follows the adventures of five girls who possess the powers of endangered animals to battle aliens set to destroy mankind. Sept. 18
"Higgly Town Heroes": Disney Channel's song-filled CGI animated series introduces preschoolers to the concept of everyday heroes. Sept. 12.
"The Batman": Kids' WB! animated series revolves around a twentysomething Batman who is just finding his way as a protector and defender while simultaneously learning how to balance his duties as billionaire bachelor Bruce Wayne. Starts Saturday.
"Da Boom Crew": A new sci-fi animated series from Kids' WB! about four orphan friends who are mysteriously transported into the parallel universe they created in their hip-hop video game. Starts Saturday.
"Atomic Betty": Cartoon Network's animated series follows the adventures of Betty, a little girl with a big secret -- she's an outer-space superhero. Sept. 17.
"Unfabulous": Emma Roberts, the young daughter of Eric Roberts and niece of Julia, stars in a Nickelodeon comedy series about a gawky teenager who uses music to compose herself through the pangs of adolescence and everyday life. Sept. 12.
"Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide": Nickelodeon's live-action comedy series tracks the wild and crazy adventures of a seventh-grader and his two best friends. Sept. 12
"Darcy's Wild Life": Stan Rogow, executive producer of "Lizzie McGuire," has created this comedy about a Hollywood teenager who suffers severe culture shock when her family moves from Malibu to a rural working farm so she can have a "normal life." The series will air both on Discovery Kids on NBC and Discovery Kids Channel. Oct. 2.