Cartoon Classics: The Proud Family

My last few reviews have been of shows from Nickelodeon, but this particular show is unique because unlike the other shows, this one is from the Disney Channel. The Disney Channel is a channel I’m slightly more familiar with, and while I didn’t grow up watching it, I would occasionally catch certain shows in passing at either my baby sitter’s house or at a friend’s house. But despite this, I had never even heard of The Proud Family up until a few years ago, when I saw memes being made of it and wondered where they were from, and then I wound up looking into it.

The Proud Family was a sit-com style animated TV show which aired on the Disney Channel from 2001 to 2005, and its remembered very fondly by both adults and those who were children at the time it aired. The show follows young Penny Proud, who is trying her best in life as a preteen girl while she deals with both school and family matters. As I mentioned earlier, it’s become the center of a few memes and it’s making somewhat of a resurgence on the internet, so naturally that made me ask: what was so great about it anyway?

To properly answer that question, I took a look at “Bring It On”, the very first episode of the series. The episode centers around our protagonist Penny Proud, a fourteen year old girl and the oldest child of her family, as she wishes to try out for the cheerleading team. Penny does the best at the audition and at first, it seems as though she has the most likely chance of getting in, until a new girl named LaCienga Boulevardez shows up just before the auditions are over and completely upstages Penny. Now there is only one spot left on the team, and this begins a rivalry between Penny and LaCienga, one which is only made worse when Penny’s father befriends Mr. Boulevardez. Penny is then faced with a choice: does she ruin LaCienga’s chances of making the team, or does she turn the other cheek?

Honestly, my first impression of this show was this: I absolutely loved it. Sure, it gets a little corny and points and the story is rather predictable, but it is hilarious. I laughed out loud at quite a few moments during the episode, and as the episode progressed I actually became pretty invested in the story and I wondered what was going to end up happening. I wondered if the plot would end up surprising me, but it actually has a rather disappointment ending. Maybe this is a good thing, though, as this may demonstrate to kids how life unfolds sometimes.

The animation is fast-paced but easy to follow, and the expressions of the characters really helps them emote. The characters themselves are also really well-designed, with unique features and color schemes. I love how diverse each character is, and I also should add that this is probably one of the most diverse kid shows I’ve covered so far. Not only does it have a non-white protagonist from a non-white family, but pretty much every character is either African American, Hispanic, or biracial. I think I only noticed a few white characters in this epidsode, and the majority of them were either background or minor characters. I actually love this, and it’s really refereshing to see compared to many of the other kid shows from that era. The animation style also really compliments this fact, as these characters are designed in a way that is not offensive or inaccurate— despite the cartoony style, they move and express like real people. However, the only complaint I have about the animation is the background: the backgrounds look rather messily done at some points, like they were rushed or little thought was put into them. There were even moments where it seemed like parts of the storyboard were still visible, although I understand this was probably done so the audience would pay more attention to the characters on screen rather than the environment they’re in. Despite all this, the animation is very captivating with visually pleasant and different character designs.

The voice acting is standard, I think. Some of the voices are somewhat draining to listen to, like Oscar Proud’s voice gets a bit grating after a while. He’s supposed to be comic relief, but the voice used for him somehow lessens his humor. However, an example of a character with a voice that makes them hilarious is Papi Boulevardez— specifically, every time this character laughs, I crack up. He has a cackling, hyena like laugh that doesn’t match his appearance at all and it’s amazing. Other than this, though, there’s not much to comment on with the voice acting. Many of the main characters have fitting voices, and the kids actually sound like kids, which is always nice to hear.

As for the writing: like I said, the jokes are hilarious and they all land really well, but like I also mentioned the story is rather predictable. There’s this whole subplot with Oscar visiting Felix Boulevardez’s home theater, but for some reason the two of them have to keep it a secret that they’re watching TV together at the Boulevardez house so Oscar has to sneak over there. When I first realized what was happening, my thought was, “Their wives are going to catch them, aren’t they?” And sure enough, towards the end of the episode their wives confront them and it’s like a moment from a corny sitcom. I don’t consider this ‘bad writing’ or ‘bad comedy’, but it made me roll my eyes. Other than this, the characters are all written well and the rest of the storyline has good writing. Even if the episode’s ending was a bit disappointing, it’s still a delight.

,Finally, and most importantly, what’s the appeal for children in this? There really is a lot: it’s funny, charming, and as a main character, Penny is relatable for young viewers. Even the particular story of this episode, with themes of jealousy and wanting revenge, is something a lot of kids may go through, especially in elementary or middle school. The animation style also helps to keep children entertained, as it’s fun and lively while being pleasant to look at. While it’s mostly aimed at older children, it’s harmless enough that younger children could watch and even enjoy it, and I really wouldn’t mind showing this to a little kid.

All in all, The Proud Family is a fun and very diverse show that adults and kids will both love. It’s definitely a relic from the Disney Channel’s golden age, and I highly suggest giving it a watch.