A new TV show created by Toronto's Brandon James Scott brings history and travel to life for preschoolers.
Remember as a kid when possibilities seemed endless and a cardboard box could transform into a fort, a tank, a mountain, or a Super Mario pipe? (Maybe that last one was just us.) Justin Time is a new animated program for pre-schoolers slated to air in Canada next year that brings that boundless creativity to the small screen. The show, created and produced in Toronto by Guru Studios, centres on Justin, a young boy who imagines himself travelling around the world at different points in history.
Brandon James Scott, the creator and art director of Justin Time, says imagination plays a large part in the show. “Justin has an imagination that gets carried away, a little like how Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes did. He gets excited about some idea with his imaginary friend Squidgy—and they’re just sort of riffing on something—and his bedroom transforms into the place. That’s how we represent his imagination and him getting carried away. When you’re that young, the world is open.”
Squidgy—a goofy, orange, block-like character—embodies that openness, in classic cartoon fashion, by being able to shift into various shapes. One neat addition to the show is an iOS app that lets children interact with Squidgy by actions such as tapping and swiping the screen and shaking the device. Scott shares a story about a friend’s child who took the iPhone with Squidgy on it, placed it on his bed beside him, then jumped up and down: “Shaking the iPhone makes Squidgy dizzy: he was treating the iPhone like a friend.”
Along with a focus on the imagination, Scott says history and travel inspired him. “I love the idea of seeing all these cultures and places and, as a preschool show, exposing little kids to some of this exciting stuff like different countries and different cultures, giving them a taste for it,” he says. “It could be very cool and important. Maybe later when they’re learning about it in school they’ll remember seeing it in an episode of Justin Time.”
Speaking to Scott, it’s obvious there’s a connection between Justin and his creator. Scott has a fascination with the world but admits he hasn’t seen enough of it: “It’s something I haven’t done nearly as much, so maybe this is a reflection of wanting to travel more.” Being in Toronto, however, is an inspiration, and Scott gives the “multiculturalism and acceptance” of the city partial credit for the feel of the show. “You don’t have to walk very far to get to a place with a different feeling,” he says.
With a second season of Justin Time already in production, it doesn’t appear that Scott will have lots of time to travel. Luckily, he’s got a healthy imagination.
CORRECTION: September 29, 2011, 3:45 PM This post originally stated that Justin Time would air later this year, when in fact it will air beginning sometime in 2012. We regret the error.