Kiri and Lou launches on Nickelodeon in United States

Popular Christchurch-made cartoon Kiri and Lou has launched in the US on the Nickelodeon network.

The animated series, aimed at two to seven-year-olds, has been a hit with adults and children, following the adventures of Kiri the feisty dinosaur and her best friend Lou, a gentle thoughtful creature.

Writer and director of the series Harry Sinclair told RNZ's Jesse Mulligan the show’s appeal comes from its major focus on emotions. 

Its beginnings go back a decade ago, when Sinclair says he was thinking about making a kids’ show. The series was produced in Christchurch.

“Having a daughter made me think a lot about what she was watching on TV and so I wanted to do something that was more peaceful, gentle, kind show for kids.

“Just the idea of doing something very sweet and very beautiful and very New Zealand, very Kiwi show that would be great for kids to watch here, that was the original point of the whole thing.”

An extraordinary cast of actors lend their voices to characters, including Olivia Tennet, Rima Te Wiata, Jaquie Brown and Mark Wright.

There’s also Josh Thomson who often plays multiple different characters in the same scenes but “no one would ever know because he’s so good at what he does”, and Jermaine Clement who “contributed many of the funniest things just through adlibbing”.

“We record the voices first and put together the whole thing as a piece of audio and then the animators take that audio and are inspired to create all the facial expressions from there.”

The TV series - which was animated in a Christchurch studio - is winning hearts all over the world. Sinclair says it was “very startling” that the “eccentric little show from New Zealand” ended up on one of the biggest mainstream channels in the States.

“It’s very exciting, because Kiri and Lou doesn’t look or sound or feel like anything else that they would be playing so I’m absolutely thrilled that they think it’s worth doing.

“I think it really appeals to them that it’s very about emotions, that’s a major theme in it, is how to handle your emotions, what are emotions. Since we started making the show, that’s become a very key thing that children’s programming is trying to do. So I think they like that.”

For New Zealanders, it will still feel very Kiwi, he says.

“We use te reo Māori to the extent that I use te reo Māori, which is you know not a lot but the kia ora and ‘I got a full puku’, just to sort of normalise the feeling that’s part of our culture.”

The show has been most successful in Britain, he says, where there were 21 million streams in the first couple of months of the show on the BBC player.

“I’m just thinking about all those little British kids saying puku, I love the idea.”

It’s also on air in Australia, Canada, Finland, Sweden, and Mexico.

“The great thing is we don’t change it. Obviously if it’s on in Mexico, it’s a Spanish version. But the Americans are watching a completely New Zealand version, we don’t revoice it, we don’t change a single word of it for other markets,” Sinclair says.

Season two and three of Kiri and Lou is on TVNZ and full episodes can also be found on YouTube.

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