Kai-lan Everywhere

February 22, 2010

I had my doubts about this kid's show early on, but I am liking it more now every day. In case you don't hang around preschoolers often, or watch the Nick Jr. channels, Ni Hao, Kai-lan is a TV show akin to Dora the Explorer. Kai-lan is a Chinese American girl who speaks English and once in a while, Mandarin.

Her friends are a bunch of animals like Rintoo the tiger and Tolee the koala. At first, I wasn't sure the show was going to succeed, but it's kind of exploded. I started noticing this around last fall when we went to Target and saw that Kai-lan had her own small section of products in the toy aisle, next to Dora. I mean, Dora is huge, but Kai-lan is gaining speed on her. There are plush dolls, plastic toys, DVDs, coloring books... basically everything you can imagine that's marketable to a 2-5 year old.

It's nice to see a show with a Chinese American character as the main star really take off. There are some cultural elements to the show, such as when she takes a trip to China to visit "Gu Nainai" or the Lunar New Year episode, or the mid-Autumn moon festival one. (In the trip to China, Kai-lan and her friends get to visit and hold a baby panda! Totally unrealistic, but it's TV after all). Other episodes are just about being nice to friends, sharing and expressing your emotions. (One of my son's favorite phrases right now: "I'm saaaaad." Which I am positive he learned from watching Kai-lan). I wasn't sure if this show would be successful, but I meet kids all the time who say (or their parents say) they like the show. Their kids won't be fluent in Mandarin, but that's not the point. They'll be able to pick up some phrases. *This post has been modified because for some reason, half it got erased, and I had to recreate the latter half from memory. And my memory isn't that good.


Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications.