A show meant to bring viewers back to their youthful days of exploration and imagination. “Craig of the Creek” is not only incredibly charming but also surprisingly intriguing in its themes and diverse characters.
Nothing can ever quite match those days of discovering hidden temples and battling deadly dragons in your backyard. Luckily for cartoon-lovers, writers of the beloved LGBT show “Steven Universe” Matt Burnett and Ben Levin, naturally tapped into that adventurous side of Cartoon Network’s viewers with their new, highly charismatic show.
Craig is a 10-year-old boy whose sole purpose is to enjoy his days with his best friends, Kelsey and J.P., as they explore the illustrious creek. Described as a utopia for kids, the creek plays its own role as a titular character, coming to life with the many kingdoms and fantastical lands constructed by the children in Craig’s neighborhood. Like their previous work on “Steven Universe,” Burnett and Levin were able to create an up-and-coming masterpiece with a few simple tweaks to the commonplace cartoon formula.
Going back to the basics of classic 90s shows, “Craig of the Creek” doesn’t boast galactic fights or impossible storylines to follow. Instead it is more atoned to shows such as “Ed, Edd n Eddy” that celebrate the freedom and imagination that come along with being a child. Through each turbulent, yet fantastically mundane, adventure, Craig and pals not only learn to depend on one another for emotional and physical support, but they also constantly come to the realization that they are in fact children exploring their own fantasy worlds. These lessons allow Craig to come up with creative ways to solve mysteries and defeat whatever bully may be terrorizing his kingdom.
Premise aside, possibly the biggest reason the show has been a popular discussion topic among critics and cartoon fans is because of the titular character’s social and racial situation. Craig is black. He does not reside in poverty. He does not come from a broke home. As shown several times in the show’s opening sequence, he comes home after school every day to a loving, nuclear family complete with an annoying older brother and a curious younger sister.
Craig, as the namesake of the series, is one of the most dynamic characters in Cartoon Network’s history. He’s intelligent, interesting and enjoys a good mystery. Craig also manages to realize the overall lackluster and unrealistic life that he and his friends reside in.
Specifically, in the episode “The Final Book,” Craig is the one who solves the mystery of the missing novel with little help from his friends. Also, while following the plot of a classic “Hardy Boys” mystery novel, Craig is privy to the unrealistic nature of the teen-detectives’ lives and isn’t fazed when he’s forced to admit that white teenagers owning convertibles is not only undeletable but also ultimately a stale idea.
The creators spoke about the importance of representation in cartoons in business magazine Fast Company.
“We saw first-hand [working on “Steven Universe”] how much representation mattered to people and how important it is for people to feel seen,” Levin said. “And so, when we had the opportunity to create a show, we wanted to make something fun that the kids would love but would also have a positive impact. In animation, you’re creating the world from the ground up. So, every character is a decision in its own way. So, as we’ve gone through the show, we talk about ways that we can provide representation as we create characters.”
“We worked hard to put together the team that would help shape the show, a very diverse group of voices to add something that we needed that we couldn’t do on our own,” co-creator Burnett said in the same article. “That was always our goal when we decided to create the show, to work with a huge range of people and get their voices heard on TV.”
As episodes are being re-run at the top of every hour, there is obvious heavy support from Cartoon Network. Twitter profiles have been created in support, and the show’s fan base, and fan wikis have begun to garnish attention on various platforms. Undoubtedly, much like its sister shows, “Craig of the Creek” will prove to be another niche cartoon that will only collect more viewers as the series grows.