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Scholastic Eyes U.S. Hispanic Kids With Cartoon

June 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003 REUTERS Ltd. All rights reserved. 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - These days, even 'toons are eager to tap the Latino market.

A unit of Scholastic Inc., the U.S. publisher of the Harry Potter book series, said on Monday it will launch an animated series for children with Hispanic characters in the main roles to promote cultural diversity in the country.

Hispanics number some 37 million and are the largest U.S. minority.

``The Misadventures of Maya and Miguel'' will follow the lives of 10-year-old twins living in a multicultural neighborhood in an urban area and their close relationship with their family.

The twins' parents, Rosa and Santiago Santos, have Mexican and Puerto Rican backgrounds.

About 75 percent of the Hispanic population in the United States is of Mexican descent, but Puerto Ricans have also a strong presence in the cultural and political life of cities with large Hispanic populations, such as New York.

``We are doing this for all kids but ... this is the first time that we are centering on a Hispanic family,'' Deborah Forte, president of Scholastic Entertainment, told Reuters. ``We are conscious that children are growing up in probably the most diverse population our country has seen.''

Additionally, parent Scholastic will likely follow with reading books for children based on the new show, most likely under Lectorum, the largest Spanish-language book distributor in the country with over 25,000 titles from more than 500 domestic and foreign publishers.

Other media companies have previously tested the Hispanic market with animated series with good results.

Nickelodeon, a unit of Viacom Inc., has a very successful show for preschool kids, ``Dora the Explorer,'' based on a seven-year-old Latina girl who solves problems and uses both Spanish and English to communicate with her friends.

Warner Brothers' pitch to older Hispanic kids, ``Mucha Lucha,'' is a zany rendition of Mexican wrestling starring Ricochet, Buena Girl and The Flea, a trio of pint-sized wrestlers learning grips at the International School of Lucha.

Scholastic's new series, which will be in English but available on second audio system (SAP) in Spanish, is set to debut in the fall of 2004 on PBS Kids, a public television broadcaster.

``The premise here is ... that shared happiness is valued more than personal gain,'' Forte said. ``A lot of kid shows, the center of the story will be around the main character wanting to be the most popular, or the most beautiful or the best athlete. These stories are not about things like that.''

Scholastic also plans to launch a Web site based on the Maya and Miguel show.

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