Raven-Symoné and LeVar Burton Urge ‘Thought-Provoking’ Children’s Shows: "They Can Handle It"
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“Raven’s Home” star Raven-Symoné, “Reading Rainbow” host LeVar Burton and the creators of “Cobra Kai” were among a star-studded list of honorees at Variety’s first-ever Family Entertainment Awards, presented by Kidoodle.
Both Raven-Symoné and Burton received the storytelling visionary award for their respective long-time contributions to kids’ programming. Other honorees at the Dec. 8 ceremony included Pete Docter, chief creative officer at Pixar Animation, who received the leadership award from composer Michael Giacchino; Julian Shapiro-Barnum, creator of the web series “Recess Therapy,” who received the family entertainment safe streaming hero award from Kidoodle’s chief content officer Brenda Bisner; and the executive producers of “SpongeBob Squarepants” and SpongeBob voice actor Tom Kenny, who received the franchise award from Nickelodeon Animation president Ramsey Naito.
“Kids are the smartest people I know,” Raven-Symoné told audience members at The West Hollywood Edition. “The family space and the kids’ space is worthy of bold, thought-provoking content. They can handle it.”
Raven-Symoné stars in and executive produces “Raven’s Home,” a reboot of the 2003 family sitcom “That’s So Raven” that grapples with challenging topics like racial profiling and peer pressure in an age-inclusive format.
“I do believe, like Raven, that [children] deserve the best of what we have to offer,” Burton echoed during his acceptance speech. “I’ve never been ashamed, I’ve never backed into that which I do in this space, because our kids deserve it.”
Like Raven-Symoné, Burton has also continued to work in the family entertainment space as the founder of LeVar Burton Entertainment and recently signed on to executive produce a documentary called “The Right to Read.” Following a storied, 23-year career working on the PBS Kids show where he made his name, Burton is seeing the fruits of his labor: in the course of this year alone, Burton was announced as an inaugural awardee at the Children’s & Family Emmy Awards, hosted the non-televised portion of the Grammys, led the Rose Parade as grand marshal and even released a master class.
“Sometimes I don’t ask for permission; I just do whatever it is that I feel like I need to do, and that generally works out alright,” Burton told Variety on the carpet, when asked the secret behind the longevity of his extensive career molding the minds of young children. “But more than anything else, I’ve just been dedicated to this for most of my life.”
Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg — all of whom are credited as creators, writers, executive producers and directors on Netflix’s “Cobra Kai” — received the final honor of the evening, presented by series regular Xolo Maridueña. Recognized for their breakout storytelling, the trio revealed during their acceptance speech how they took inspiration from 1984’s “The Karate Kid” in the making of “Cobra Kai,” adding life lessons throughout the spinoff in order to make the show accessible to younger generations.
“With the umbrella of martial arts to tie these [characters’] journeys together, we’re able to deliver mature themes not usually explored in younger programming, all while keeping everything rooted in a popcorn-infused, crowd-pleasing karate war,” Hurwitz said. “It’s a delicate balance, and one we take great pride in measuring from episode to episode.”
Variety's Katie Reul contributed to this post.