By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer
Nickelodeon has a brand-new animated preschool series titled Bossy Bear, where the unlikely best friends of an overly excited extroverted ‘Bossy Bear’ (voiced by Jayden Ham) and a more humbling reflective introverted ‘Turtle’ (voiced by Jaba Keh) embark on misadventures aimed at challenging their friendship and childhood wits.
Based on the popular children’s books by David Horvath, who is also an executive producer for the animated series with his wife Sun-Min Kim, the story behind the animation is interesting in that it is entirely based on a fictional city called ‘Pleasantburg’, which is designed to reflect elements of Koreatowns across the United States.
There is references to Korean food like ‘bulgogi’ and ‘kimchi’ as well as pop culture such as K-Pop etc. It is an education for preschoolers about what being Korean American means and for Korean American preschoolers, it can hopefully act as an early intervention in the molding of their identity.
In addition to the characters of ‘Bossy Bear’ and ‘Turtle’, there is ‘Bossy Bear’s’ older sister ‘Bissy’ (voiced by Viva Lee), ‘Bossy’s Mom’ (voiced by Claudia Choi), ‘Bossy’s Dad’ (voiced by Shaun Baer) and more cute characters which make up ‘Pleasantburg’ including appearances by series K-Pop sensation group ‘Super Flock’.
In a recent interview with AsAmNews, Ham who plays ‘Bossy Bear’, Keh who plays ‘Turtle’ and Lee who plays ‘Bissy’ spoke about the experience of playing their characters and how they as young Korean/Asian Americans were able to relate to the experiences of the characters they voiced.
“I think ‘Bossy Bear’ has the same personality as I have. We are both always excited and both very extroverted and we have endless creativity and come up with the ideas which are sometimes good and other times gets us in trouble”, Ham expressed.
“I would say that I can definitely resonate with ‘Turtle’, because like him I can be introverted and we both have loyal personalities. He is also a voice of reason and I tend to think before I act”, said Keh.
“Unlike Jayden and Jaba, I have a difference from ‘Bissy’ First of all I am the youngest child in my family whilst ‘Bissy’ is the oldest. Other than that we are similar in that we both play guitar, we are both cool, and we are not pushovers”, Lee mentioned.
The ‘Pleasantburg’ depiction of Koreatowns across the United States allows preschoolers to interact and immerse themselves indirectly in understanding their Korean/Asian American identity. Ham discussed this and said even though he himself is still a kid, he feels the series is light-hearted so it makes it even easier for kids and preschoolers to learn about themselves whilst being entertained.
“Just playing ‘Bossy Bear’, I learned a lot about Korean culture. In one of the episodes we celebrate Lunar New Year, and we used a lot of Korean words and phrases like ‘gochujang’, ‘kimchi’ etc. So I can imagine younger kids than me watching this and having a fun time learning about themselves and their culture”.
Finally, Ham, Keh and Lee started a conversation about what they hope their characters and the ‘Bossy Bear’ series can inspire younger kids and preschoolers to feel about themselves, being Asian American and accepting that they are different in every way from the majority white American kids.
“I hope ‘Bossy Bear’ will make young kids see that being Korean/Asian is fun and something to be proud of. We may be different races, eat different foods and speak differently to our parents than our white friends, but this is what makes us special and unique”, said Ham.
“I agree with what Jayden said, and I also think younger kids should take away that they should be embracing their Asian American background and that we need to love who we are and our identities”, Keh mentioned.
“If young kids can take away one thing after watching the series, it should be that it’s cool to be different. I hope playing ‘Bissy’ and being part of this show will inspire young kids to be creative and not feel they need to reject their culture. We are all beautiful cool the way we are”, Lee proudly expressed.
You can check out ‘Bossy Bear’ on Nickelodeon and on Nick Jr.
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