Teaching children democracy

[attach]5130[/attach]The children have spoken and have elected Hudley as the new mayor of Moltonia. And, unlike Ontario, Moltonia didn’t have any problems with voter turnout.

Moltonia is a fictional, dragon-inhabited city in which the interactive TVOKids show, Pillars of Freedom, takes place. Created by brothers Jeremy and Jonas Diamond, who were born and raised in Forest Hill, the show aims to introduce children to democratic concepts.

“The idea was brought to us by an educator by the name of Don Duchene,” said Jonas. “His whole modus operandi was to say that we’re not attracting people to vote because we talk to them at such a late stage in their life and that Elections Canada worries about people when they become of voting age.

“By that point most people have already come to the conclusion that I can’t do anything, I can’t make any change so there’s point in me voting. But the ripe age of seven to nine, you can change the world.”

To help teach kids about politics and governance, the show’s plot is centred around Moltonia’s election in its first season. Not only were kids able to play online games following the show’s storyline, they were also able to vote on what ending they would like to see for each show, and could even participate in the cartoon’s election.

“We should have adult voter turnouts like how the kids voted on these things,” said Jeremy, who now lives in Cedarvale. “We had over 100,000 votes from the first run of the first season.”

The fictional election saw Mayor Crag, the repressive mayor who outlaws flying and fire-breathing, go up against the show’s two main characters, Spirit and Imm.

[attach]5131[/attach]The two young dragons ran on a platform of complete freedom, with no school or laws of any kind. Both sides were balanced by the centrist-candidate Hudley, the kind-hearted owner of the local nail salon.

The Pillars of Freedom election was discussed on the TVOKids program The Space, as the hosts tried to get young viewers excited about civic engagement.

“Each of us supported one of the candidates in our own show,” said Karen Harun, one of three host/producers on The Space. “We created these characters that were campaign managers for the candidates.”

The winner of the TV election was announced on the same day the results from the provincial election came in and it was Hudley who won by a landslide.

“It really shows you, and is gratifying at the same time, that the kids know what’s right,” Jonas said.

Jeremy, who acts as a writer, director and voice actor on the show, said Pillars is a hit with his 7-year-old daughter and even credits it with her recent interest in provincial politics.

“When it was the election it was gratifying to see her say ‘Dad you’ve got to go out and vote, it’s time to vote, let’s go,’ ” he said.

The brothers’ Smiley Guy Studios, located at 444 Bathurst St., started 10 years ago when they began working on the Comedy Network series, Odd Job Jack. Since then, the studio has gone on to produce several critically acclaimed cartoons such as Sons of Butcher and The Dating Guy.

Jonas, the business yin to Jeremy’s creative yang, said for a producer, working on a children’s series can often be more rewarding than an adult cartoon — and not just because his niece can watch it.

“We’d have to extort adults to participate in the interactive experience generally because adults are more distracted than kids, but the kids organically flocked to the website,” he said. “Kids have submitted drawings of the characters that they had done and just sent into TVO. It’s just that level of enthusiasm and responsiveness that differentiates it from doing adult comedy.”

The second season of Pillars of Freedom, and Mayor Hudley’s first term in office, started on Oct. 21 and the Diamond brothers said they hope kids continue to respond to the show’s message.

“All dragons are created equal.”