Mythical figures and magical creatures have long been sources of inspiration for children’s television, and the ancient story of genies is currently enjoying a surge in popularity due to Nickelodeon’s hit animated show, Shimmer and Shine, that chronicles the adventures of two young genies. The show follows twin genie sisters Shimmer and Shine and their human best friend named Leah. Together, the three girls work through problems and overcome obstacles. The show is geared at preschoolers with its joyous, bright, colorful and imaginative animation and the stories infuse social and emotional lessons about the importance of friendship, teamwork, resilience and persistence.
The show has become such a massive hit that it is a driving force behind many highly desirable toys, from various posable dolls to detailed playsets, to plush toys, to a beautiful newly-released ride-on “magic carpet” scooter that lights up with sound effects, as well as countless apparel-related items. Later this year, Fisher-Price is scheduled to release a new collectible line of Teenie Genies and construction toys by Mega Bloks that were also inspired by this show. Hence, Shimmer and Shine has become a staple of pop-culture among the pre-school age group.
Shimmer and Shine was created by Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz, who previously worked on beloved shows such as Go, Diego, Go! and Dora the Explorer. Farnaz has worked with Nickelodeon since she landed an internship at the company when she was in college. Her experiences with the company combined with her creativity and expertise in art led her to getting her own original show–Shimmer and Shine–greenlit in 2015. Farnaz recently discussed the show and her hopes for its future.
Meagan Meehan (MM): You started “Shimmer and Shine” based on your love of glitter and genie stories. How has your series evolved the mythology of genies?
Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz (FEC): One way that we tried to evolve the mythology of genies was to break the master and servant relationship. In Shimmer and Shine, we focus on their friendship with Leah and we also expanded the world to show that there are many different types of genies–not just wish-granting ones.
MM: “Shimmer and Shine” is a huge hit! Did you ever expect it would get this big?
FEC: I never knew for sure whether or not the show would be a hit–no one could. I just knew that I infused it with things that I loved as a child and hoped that all of our hard work would pay off.
MM: What’s your favorite episode and character, why?
FEC: I love all the characters for different reasons, and I’ve placed different attributes of people I love in them. My favorite moment with a character would have to be when I first brought home the rough character designs of Princess Samira and showed them to my little girl. My daughter was almost 4-years-old at the time, and Princess Samira is named after her. I handed her the rough drawing, didn’t say a word about who it was and she held it in her hands, eyes wide open, shaking and said, “Mom, is this me?” My heart almost burst at that moment, watching her love for this genie. I told her “yes,” and she said, “I’m so beautiful.” I will never forget the joy that genie brought to her little face.
MM: The genies have pets! Do you think this makes them more relatable to children, many of whom probably have their own animals?
FEC: In reality, the genies are just like our audience, but with magical powers and magical pets. This allows kids to connect with the characters, as well as give them a fun extra twist that they can role play with.
MM: What do you think gives this show its appeal? Essentially, aside from being visually gorgeous, do you aim to make the content resonate on a level that children will understand and remember for years to come?
FEC: In every episode that we write, we hope to connect with kids. I hope that one day down the line, the kids in this generation who are fans will think back on this series as fondly as my generation thinks of Jem, She-Ra and all the other hits of our time.
MM: You have been a fan of animation since you were very young. Now having your own successful show, what are some of the most daring and/or innovative animation decisions you have made?
FEC: I am always looking to push the preschool envelope as much as I can with the design, stories, and characters. Preschoolers are exposed to a lot with technology. At home, I don’t water down conversations with my kids, but I do make them age appropriate.
MM: “Shimmer and Shine” now have a huge range of merchandise including clothing and toys. What are some of your favorite items associated with the franchise you created?
FEC: One of my all-time favorites is Teenie Genies. I love the stylization, the poses and all the different ones you can collect. My little girl steals all of mine!
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the show?
FEC: I hope to continue to evolve and expand the show, revealing new areas of Zahramay Falls, meeting more amazing genies with powers that we’ve never seen before.
MM: What other projects have you been a part of?
FEC: I started at Nickelodeon as the production assistant on My Life as a Teenage Robot. Then, I was the post-production coordinator on Go, Diego, Go! followed by post-production supervisor on Dora the Explorer and Ni Hao, Kai-Lan.
MM: What has been the most rewarding part of working in animation and what are your career aspirations over the next ten years?
FEC: One of the most rewarding parts of working in animation is getting to make up a world from your imagination and then watching kids fall in love with it!
MM: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to enter the animation industry?
FEC: Be humble, get an internship if you can, work hard, don’t be entitled and soak up as much information as you can every day.
MM: Are you currently working on any projects that you would like to mention?
FEC: My time is mainly focused on Shimmer and Shine right now, but I am starting to think about other possibilities.
[Featured Image by Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz]