Wednesday, April 11, 2012

TV Shows We Love: “Gaspard and Lisa” on Disney Junior

Gaspard and Lisa is an interesting, even intriguing variation on preschool entertainment. Set in Paris, the main characters Gaspard and Lisa are “best friends forever.” The beautifully animated French setting means that the characters pepper their speech with French terms like “bonjour” and name a pet frog Pierre. Gaspard and Lisa are very kind and supportive of each other and any small misunderstandings are quickly remedied. They have their own best friend vocabulary, most notably they shout “catastrophe” when something goes wrong. They also do a cute little victory dance (involving a hip bump) when they solve a problem. But none of these things is what makes it so intriguing.

They’re an altogether adorable duo. The fundamental difference in Gaspard and Lisa is the world they occupy. The characters are living stuffed animals who live side-by-side with human beings in an otherwise recognizable human world. In fact, that was the premise of the book on which the series is based, Anne Gutman’s Gaspard and Lisa - Friends Forever. In the book, Lisa and Gaspard are the only stuffed dogs in a classroom of human children. The kids just assume that Gaspard and Lisa are already great friends, but the two stuffed dogs don’t even know each other. Gaspard even resents the implication that they should be friends since they’re both stuffed dogs.

Gaspard and Lisa form a friendship despite their superficial similarities. There is something glorious about the way Gaspard and Lisa challenges assumptions about identity. It’s the next logical step in a culture that is less and less racially preoccupied. Gaspard and Lisa is slightly surreal, but in a very good, very intriguing way. And like the books, the show seems to have a deep understanding of a child’s world and concerns. This one is for them, not us, written with a realistically child-like voice, uttering a child’s concerns and joys. But I just have to sit back and marvel at this enchanting little world. The Paris of Gaspard and Lisa really is the City of Lights: the lights of progress and hope.

Gaspard and Lisa can be seen daily on Disney Junior.

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