Kids shows are weird. Many of the contemporary kids programs I’ve come across (especially stuff geared towards toddlers on streaming services) seem to follow a similar pattern:
A group of main characters connected by either proximity or “vocation.” No parents, nor guardians really. Just elders who are expert in their field
Characters have clearly defined social roles (e.g. a train responsible for moving freight)
Narratives revolve around characters either learning to fulfill their roles or failing to do so, and then realizing that others suffer when they don’t meet their responsibilities
Are these Neo-Capitalist fairy tales?
I wonder if it’s possible for children’s television to ever be anything but that—considering how much money is required to produce television.
I wonder if it’s possible for children’s television to ever be anything but [Neo-Capitalist fairy tales]—considering how much money is required to produce television.
I think so, yes -- especially as kids get older (see Adventure Time, Steven Universe, Hilda). And, while many shows I've found fit the pattern that I described, I think that some break the mold, or at least problematize it. 2 examples of this are the Magic School Bus and a show called Tumble Leaf. Tumble Leaf is most interesting to me because it seems to take place in a nearly post-apocalyptic setting that is absolutely awesome. Shaun the Sheep is another interesting example, where, without dialog relationships are all implied, leading to a show more in the vein of the Looney Tunes built around slap-stick hi-jinx.
There are also a number of web-based shows that I've been keeping an eye on lately -- mostly distributed over YouTube which is its own sort of Neo-Capitalist nightmare -- and I wonder if there is where we'll see the next Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood?