Ridley Jones is the man to call if you need help with a lost necklace, an AWOL baby penguin, or a group of loose caribou. You can also make Ridley Jones your girl.
Netflix’s 6-year-old title character in its animated series is a classic screen hero who was routinely male. Chris Nee, creator of “Ridley Jones”, is determined to end this stubborn trope for television’s youngest viewers.
She said that “Girls are not really the action-adventure leaders of shows” aimed at preschoolers. It was a different experience to take Ridley on that adventure.
Nee considers herself to be a “huge” enthusiast of 1970s and 1980s thrill-ride movies such as “Goonies,” Star Wars, and “Indiana Jones”. Ridley gave Nee a tip of his fedora in the six-episode series that debuted July 13.
Iara Nemirovsky is Ridley’s voice actor. She is part of an impressive cast which also includes Jane Lynch, Laraine Neuman, Sutton Foster and Jane Lynch.
Nee is an award-winning animator of animated children’s films. Her consistent goal is to include a variety of characters. It was with Doc McStuffins, about an African American girl who’s career goals inspired viewers, particularly Black children, to consider medicine an option. She also did it with Ridley Jones.
Ridley will continue a family tradition and join her grandmother and mother in protecting the museum that they call home.
Heather Tilert (director of Netflix’s preschool content), said Nee is “just really, a master of storytelling.
There are obvious lessons to be learned. For example, Ridley pushing for more responsibility than she is capable of handling. However, Nee and her writers aren’t adamant about gender equality. Ridley’s exploits prove that point.
Ezra Menas voices Fred, a friendly and hair-conscious bison. Ridley questions Peaches, the monkey, if Fred is “a he or a she” in the first episode.
“I don’t know. “They’re just Fred,” responds Peaches. Ridley replies, “Cool,” and the action resumes.
Ridley’s question about Fred is based on a real conversation Nee had with a child who was talking to a friend of his that identified as neither male nor female. Nee stated that actor Menas is notbinary to give the character authenticity.
She stated that she is determined to push the boundaries of representation by including a rare, if not unheard character in a preschooler’s show.
She said that Fred “is playing out a lot a lot of what I felt growing up gay in the 70s and ’80s,” when homophobia toward gay men exploded with the AIDS crisis. Nee stated that it is now the trans and nonbinary worlds being targeted.
She said, “You might be in a moment to find your true self. This is a very joyous thing. At a time when it’s hard to see the news and you are aware that there are many factions of this country who really hates you.”
What would Nee, a parent to a teenage girl, have to say to viewers who may consider them too young to face questions about gender?
She said, “It’s just what’s actually happening in the world. And we’re reflecting that.” “Sticking your heads in the sand won’t change that. It is going to indicate that we aren’t being as supportive to these kids as we could be.”
Netflix executive Tilert stated that Nee’s diversity is an important part of the streaming service’s value. The company signed a multiyear agreement with Nee in 2018.
Tilert stated that “We have a global membership base and it’s really vital to us that all our members, especially our children, can see themselves on screen and in our shows.” That’s part how we build trust.
Nee’s upcoming Netflix series include Ada Twist, Scientist, based on the books of Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, about a Black girl who is curious and has boundless curiosity. “Spirit Rangers,” follows the magical adventures three Native American siblings.
Nee stated that shows that appeal to children who identify with the characters don’t exclude others viewers. She cited “Ridley Jones”, as an example.
She said that girls will be excited because they may see a different version of themselves than they have before. It could also inspire them. “But, boys will most likely want to see it as well and experience the excitement of being completely invested in a girl-led program. That’s what I believe is important.”