An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Move Over, Dora: 'Nina's World' Brings Another Bilingual Girl To TV


Let's shift gears now and hear about a bilingual Latina coming to TV.


ISABELLA FARRIER: (As Nina) I'm 6 now, Lucy. That's a hand plus a finger.

MONTAGNE: The little girl's name is Nina. And she is the star of a new show on Sprout. It's that the cable network's first fully owned original animated show. And as NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, some big names are lending their voices to "Nina's World."


FARRIER: (As Nina, singing) The sun is coming out, so let's go find a new adventure.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Nina has a sidekick, a star-shaped talking pillow. And she goes on adventures, often with her very hip grandma.


RITA MORENO: (As Abuelita Yolie, speaking Spanish).

DEL BARCO: Voiced by actress, singer, dancer, Rita Moreno.


MORENO: (As Abuelita Yolie) Oh, you look positively super.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, in unison) Gracias.

DEL BARCO: Moreno's Abuelita takes care of Nina while her parents work in a bakery. And she does yoga.

MORENO: She's very contemporary. And that's very important for the show because it shows that senior people are every bit as cool and hip as they are. I certainly am. I'm the cool - one of the coolest grandma's I know.

DEL BARCO: Abuelita Yolie mixes Spanish and English with what Moreno calls a gentle accent and a sense of humor. She has an admirer in the town librarian, a character voiced by actor Mandy Patinkin. Moreno says Abuelita helps teach simple lessons to Nina and preschoolers who watch the show.

MORENO: They're not trying to do one of those fancy-schmancy series where children are, you know, going into the galaxy and all that kind of stuff - not that there's anything wrong with that.

SANDY WAX: We believe that the real world of today's kids and families is a very cool and fun place. We don't believe that we have to be transported to magical kingdoms and castles in order to create a relatable story that really speaks to this generation.

DEL BARCO: Sandy Wax is the president of Sprout.

WAX: We're much more about, you know, playing on the floor, the everyday moments of childhood. And we do that through something as simple as celebrating kids' birthdays on air.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: (As character) Cock-a-doodle-doo, Ava's turning 2. Happy second birthday to our little angel, Ava.

DEL BARCO: Sprout has a live morning program with people and puppets making weather announcements and encouraging tikes to get dressed and start the day. "The Good Night Show" helps them wind down and get ready for bed.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: (As character, singing) Hey, hooray, we had another fantastic day. And now it's time to say good...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Grandmother?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters) No.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: (As character, singing) Good...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Brother?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters) No.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: (As character, singing) Good night.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters) Yay.

DEL BARCO: Sprout began 10 years ago as a joint venture between PBS, Comcast, Sesame Workshop and HIT Entertainment. It started off running episodes of "Sesame Street" and other shows from those networks. NBC Universal now owns Sprout. Over the summer, it began airing new original episodes of "Clangers," a reboot of a classic BBC show about an alien family. The show is narrated by William Shatner of "Star Trek" fame.


WILLIAM SHATNER: (As narrator) They like music, of course.

DEL BARCO: Sprout is producing its own original series, one about aliens, another about trucks and "Nina's World," not the first cartoon with a Latino star. There's "Dora the Explorer" on Nick Jr. and "Handy Manny" on Disney Junior, for example. But Rita Moreno says she appreciates the shows diversity. Nina's friends and neighbors are Jewish, Chinese, African-American, East Indian. And one is deaf.

MORENO: I think all of these children's animated series are growing up. They are seeing the world in a different way, which is why I also love that our show has other nationalities, not just Latinos. It's very important because that's the way the world is made.

DEL BARCO: "Nina's World" is not Rita Moreno's first children's TV show. You might remember her from the 1970s PBS show, "Electric Company."


MORENO: (As Carmela, shouting) Hey, you guys.

Hey, you guys. Oh, yeah, people still ask me to do that. It stripped my vocal cords. We finally (laughter) - well, we finally just pre-recorded it in advance. It was one of the great experiences of my life. And I cannot tell you how many people in my profession said, don't do a children's show. You'll never work again as an adult. And I just said, I don't care. This is a very important to me.

DEL BARCO: The 83-year-old Rita Moreno is one of the very few and very first performers to win an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy. Starting tomorrow evening, a new generation - what the network calls Sproutlets - will be able to hear her on "Nina's World." Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #3: (As character) I think we're ready to save the world now. Come on.

(LAUGHTER) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition,, and