Jelly, Ben & Pogo
Siblings Jelly and Ben, along with their best sea monster pal Pogo, are always ready to help a friend, design a solution, and chow down on a Filipino treat! Jelly, Ben & Pogo is a popular series of shorts we created and produced for PBS KIDS. With its quirky humor and wholesome stories, the show engages kids to use Design Thinking to help friends. Fans and critics have heaped praise on Jelly, Ben & Pogo for showing AAPI and all immigrant kids that who you are and where you come from has value.
Initially pitched as an open-world gaming experience, the concept soon caught the attention of PBS KIDS’ original programming department who had visions of a new style of show for the network. As a series of 20 short episodes, we condensed heartwarming stories, quirky humor, effective curriculum and Filipino culture into a bite-sized three minutes. The episodes have all been available for streaming and have broadcast over PBS KIDS.
Jelly, Ben & Pogo is a production of O4W Media, LLC. We’re proud that Jelly, Ben & Pogo was made in Georgia! For more information, visit exploregeorgia.org/film.
Based on her own family, show creator Jalysa Leva conceived Jelly and Ben as Filipino Americans in a multi-generational household. Their friend Pogo is a giddy sea monster who’s eager to learn about life above water. Lola, Jelly and Ben’s energetic and supportive grandmother, sometimes joins the trio as they work to make things better for everyone.
A deliberate goal of the series is to normalize Filipino culture and language. For the characters, their way of doing things is everyday and requires no further explanation. In testing we discovered that kids could easily follow dialogue, even when it popped in and out of Tagalog.
The Design Thinking curriculum teaches kids the design process: understanding a need, imagining a solution, building a prototype, and refining based on testing and feedback. We worked with PBS KIDS’ curriculum team as well as our own curriculum advisor to make Design Thinking fun and age appropriate for our young audience. Each episode the characters use design thinking to help improve the life of someone in need. Once the characters have finished creating, they take ownership of their work by “signing” it with a sticker.
Throughout production, we featured people of Filipino heritage in key roles, including a majority-Filipino writer’s room and voice cast. Diversity was present at every stage of production over the course of the project.
Before beginning we spent almost a year in visual development. The design of the show had a fresh look with rounded geometric forms and vivid colors. At certain points, like when a character is expressing her point of view, the background recedes and the characters exist in a colorful void.
Visual production involved a large team which included character designers, background artists, prop designers, storyboarders, compositors, graphic designers, and animators. We used Toon Boom Harmony for all animation, and composited in Adobe After Effects. For audio we wanted the sound to be approachable and kid-like, so we went with drums and bass from vintage Casios, along with accordion, ukulele and other portable instruments. We used those same instruments for a lot of the sound effects.
We began kid testing as soon as we finished animatics for the first three episodes. Based on kids’ responses we knew we were on the right track. Critics have given the show rave reviews, and Filipino families have been especially touched to see this kind of representation. Writer Amy Tan explained, “Each episode takes the three best friends on little adventures around their land and underwater homes and aims to help children learn how to approach problems ... And while these lessons are being explored, you get to learn — or for many like me, relive — a culture that's not usually showcased.” Read more >>
On top of critical praise, Jelly, Ben & Pogo has received three Silver Telly Awards. Of course that kind of success means there’s more Jelly, Ben & Pogo coming. Stay tuned to find out what’s just around the corner.