Many of you already know Marc Brown's lovely 8-year-old aardvark, Arthur, the star of his own PBS series. To know him is to love him. This sweet and generous little guy is secure enough in the success of his own show that he is helping his best buddy launch his own spinoff.
"Postcards from Buster" premieres at 4 p.m. Oct. 11 on WTTW-Channel 11. And it's a great departure from the animated "Arthur" since it's a mix of live-action footage and animation.
Buster has left his friends to travel with his father, the airline pilot, as he ferries a Latin rock group, Los Viajeros, around the country. But Buster isn't forsaking his friends-in fact, the show is his live-action video postcard to his friends and Mr. Ratburn, the teacher who oversees some of Buster's homeschooling while he is on the road.
We still get a taste of Arthur and the crew in Elwood City since Buster calls his best friend. But mostly, we are privy to Buster's creative filmmaking process.
The promotional material explains that Buster's "footage is woven seamlessly into each animated story."
But that's not quite the case. It takes a bit of adjusting when Buster, sitting in the animated car with his cartoon dad, looks through the camera lense and all of a sudden we see the real rolling hills of Indiana farmland.
What makes the transition work is Buster's great narrative and questions.
Buster, like any kid traveling, meets other kids who show him their world. He greets his new friends from behind the lense of his camera. So there is never a combination of real people reacting to animated characters a la the movie, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."
Instead, people talk to the camera and we hear Buster's voice and running commentary. This bunny-boy is a great interviewer. He asks the direct, tough questions that children do, such as: "If Chicago's in Illinois, why is it Lake Michigan?" or, to the young girl who is Buster's new Muslim friend in her hajib, "Why do you wear that on your head?"
The show is geared to children ages 4 to 8-with a special emphasis on the 6-to-8 set. And it presents kids with not just a lovely travelog about the country but good information about different ways of life.
Also, the music is wonderful. Los Viajeros performs the original songs that correspond to each of locations. (The theme song is performed by Wyclef Jean, formerly of The Fugees.)
The show airs at 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and repeats on 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. For a special treat, catch Buster's trip to Chicago which airs at 4 p.m. Oct. 12.
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