Kids' show episodes with LGBTQ+ themes break ground on Treehouse

A show created by and starring Victoria’s Kimberly Persona will break barriers in the preschool television world this weekend.

Treehouse TV is airing two LGBTQ+-themed episodes of Miss Persona — the first of their kind on the Corus-owned network.

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Making television for children under the age of five comes with great responsibility, Persona said, which is why the creative team behind the show is feeling chuffed about the episodes.

Love Every Moment, which airs Saturday at 8:45 a.m., deals with same-sex marriage, while I Wanna Wear — Sunday at 11:45 a.m. — has the cast of characters on the music-centric show attending a pride festival.

“Treehouse has never had any sort of LGBTQ+focused episodes at all, so this is a huge first for them,” Persona, who plays the title character, told the Times Colonist. “We’re very honoured to have their trust to be able to tell their stories.”

Treehouse is the largest children’s television network in the country, broadcasting popular programs Dora the Explorer, Peppa Pig and Max & Ruby. Those multimillion-dollar franchises originate in the U.S. and England, where episodes dealing with same-sex relationships risk running afoul of certain advertisers.

Miss Persona, which airs only in Canada, was under no such pressure from outside sources. Persona said she received no pushback whatsoever from Nelvana, the Canadian studio and children’s media company that distributes Treehouse TV.

“If other countries in the world may not be accepting of [the topic], maybe those countries need these episodes more than they think,” she said. “These episodes need to be made, so whether or not another country wants to air it, it only emphasizes the reasons why we need to make them.”

The 14-minute episodes airing this weekend were a long time coming. Persona, a Stelly’s Secondary grad, created the show in 2010. Shortly after she left Victoria for Toronto, episodes — which she paid for with her own money — made their way to YouTube. Miss Persona has since become an independent success story, earning two Daytime Emmy nominations in the U.S. for its YouTube programming.

When Persona and her husband, showrunner Brandon Lane, decided to explore LGBTQ+ issues under the Miss Persona umbrella, the couple issued a request for proposals. The submission they chose for I Wanna Wear was by queer El Salvadoran-Canadian writer Raf Antonio, a former classmate of Persona’s at the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria.

It was important to have someone from the LGBTQ+ community explain what that means to a preschooler, Lane said. “We always tell stories from the preschooler’s perspective, so we made these about family. You can have two moms. You can have two dads. We just presented it as a same-sex family.”

These stories are how children build their moral scaffolding, he said. “We just wanted the representation to be there so that it is part of what they are absorbing. What happens in your childhood ripples out for the rest of your life. Preschool stories are important, so we take that responsibility to heart.”

Episodes of Miss Persona air daily on Treehouse TV and are available on-demand at Amazon Prime Canada.

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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