PBS KIDS announced Lyla in the Loop, a funny and engaging new animated series for kids ages 4-8, will debut February 5, 2024. Produced by Mighty Picnic and Pipeline Studios, Lyla in the Loop follows Lyla, a dynamic 7-year-old Black girl, who lives in a big city with her close-knit family, fantastical blue sidekick Stu, and a host of relatable and quirky characters in her community, who use creative and strategic problem-solving and critical thinking skills to address a range of everyday problems together. The new series will debut in both English and Spanish.
“Lyla is curious and resourceful, and when it comes to figuring out solutions to everyday problems, she doesn’t give up, even when it takes several tries to get it right,” said Sara DeWitt, Senior Vice President and General Manager, PBS KIDS. “We know audiences will quickly be drawn to Lyla’s determination and can-do-attitude, and we’re excited to introduce this warm, funny, and smart series to our viewers.”
The series centers on Lyla’s family and diverse community. In addition to Lyla, the show features her family – mom Lydia and dad Louis, who run Loops Lunch diner; older twin sisters Liana and Louisa; younger brother Luke; and sidekick Stu, who always does exactly, literally, what was asked. With her family and best friend Everett Phan, Lyla tackles all sorts of challenges, from building her own homemade carnival games using repurposed materials, to riding along and lending a hand on the neighborhood trash and recycling route, to making a puppet show that recreates the Jamaican folktale, Anansi and the Goat. Lyla even helps her sister navigate the ethics of creating an art project with the help of Stu, showcasing an age-appropriate example of current questions surrounding the use of real-world AI tools. In every adventure, Lyla and Stu introduce and explore foundational computational thinking concepts, leading to some comedic disasters and creative solutions, all while helping others in their community. The series will support a wide range of learners, modeling flexible approaches to finding and designing solutions, and creative self-expression.
“Kids are natural creative problem-solvers, experimenting and investigating the world around them with joyful curiosity,” said series creator and showrunner Dave Peth. “Lyla in the Loop celebrates and encourages kids and the grownups in their lives to recognize those innate abilities and see them as a powerful tool to help others, express themselves, and solve all kinds of problems in everyday life.”
The series pulls inspiration for its setting from Philadelphia, creator Dave Peth’s homebase, and includes vocals by students from the public School District of Philadelphia in the series theme song, which was composed and performed by Grammy-nominated musician, Divinity Roxx.
“Finding stories and issues our audiences can relate to is paramount to creating the relatable world of Lyla Loops,” said series executive producer and head writer Fracaswell Hyman. “When viewers can connect to and identify with characters, they’re more likely to absorb and retain the curriculum. Working with a diverse group of writers who share authentic stories and interrelationships that ring true is where we find inspiration, humor, and heartfelt moments that may spark new ways of looking at ourselves and our friends.”
Added story editor Monique D. Hall, “Kids who watch Lyla in the Loop will find themselves inspired by Lyla’s creativity, encouraged by her willingness to try new things (even if they don’t come easily to her), and entertained by all the fun messes she gets into–and out of–with her buddy, Stu!”
Lyla in the Loop producers will also work to create interactive episodes that incorporate AI-assisted conversation with the main character, Lyla. During the episodes, Lyla will ask the viewer questions, utilize responsive AI technology to understand what the viewer says, and respond accordingly. These episodes will undergo efficacy research to assess children’s learning and engagement and will be released to audiences at a later date. Lyla in the Loop digital content for kids, families, and teachers, launching in tandem with the series, will reinforce its core messages, support play and experimentation with computational thinking skills, and encourage creative expression.
The show is created and executive produced by Emmy-winning producer Peth (Odd Squad, Peg + Cat, Scribbles and Ink, Design Squad), founder of media production and consulting company Mighty Picnic. Pipeline Studios, the Emmy-winning children’s content studio (Elinor Wonders Why, Alma’s Way, Bubble Guppies) is animating the series.
The voice cast includes Liyou Abere as Lyla Loops; Izzy Woodbury as Stu; Isaac Ng as Lyla’s best friend Everett Phan; and Eden Cupid, Elijah Lindo, Joseph Motiki, Shechinah Mpumlwana, and Morrissa Nicole, as the Loops family. Fracaswell Hyman is the series Executive Producer and Head Writer; with Monique D. Hall serving as Story Editor; Huy Tran as Director; Laurie Rabin as Supervising Producer; Trina Sanyal as Associate Producer; Joon Chung as Script Coordinator; and Nneka Bolden as Digital Producer.
Series advisors for Lyla in the Loop include Amon Millner, PhD, Associate Professor of Computing and Innovation at the Olin College of Engineering directing the Extending Access to STEM Empowerment (EASE) Lab, series Curriculum Director; Nermeen Dashoush, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Education, Boston University, Lead Advisor; Yenda Prado, PhD, Education Researcher, University of California, Irvine, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Advisor; V. Scott Solberg, PhD, Professor, Department of Counseling and Applied Human Development, Boston University, Career Pathways and World of Work Advisor; Cosette Strong, Strong Consulting Group, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Advisor.
Funding for the new series was provided by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a grant from the U.S. Department of Education as part of the Ready To Learn Initiative, a federal program that supports the development of innovative educational television and digital media targeted to preschool and early elementary school children and their families.
Source: PBS Kids