March 16, 2020
In late 2018, Disney Junior announced that it had begun production on Mira, Royal Detective, an animated mystery series for preschoolers with an all-Indian cast, set to release in 2020. I remember thinking, “Yes — a desi Dora.” I immediately tweeted the news with the comment, “nonparent, nonpreschooler, reporting for duty. must i really wait until 2020?”
Before knowing much about the show, it was (and is) hard to avoid feeling the political urgency of Mira, Royal Detective. We have a president who says black and brown folks are bad people and schools where Muslim and Sikh children are regularly bullied. When Dora the Explorer debuted in 2000, over 20 years ago, the creators of Dora expressed a similar sense of purpose. In an interview with NPR, co-creator Eric Weiner said, “At the time, Pat Buchanan was running for president, spewing all this hatred about, ‘we don't want Spanish speakers in our country.’ So this idea of not building barriers gave extra meaning and heart and urgency to the mission of the show.” The multi-billion-dollar Nickelodeon franchise with a pan-Latin Spanish-speaking heroine was (and is) a clear and wild success.
South Asians today make up 2% of the United States population and are the fastest-growing minority in the country. By comparison, when Dora the Explorer premiered in 2000, Hispanics made up 12.5% of the U.S. population. Both Mira and Dora are targeting all preschoolers of course but the representative markets are vastly different in size. The key difference in 2020 is that markets are now larger and more international, from the outset: Mira, Royal Detective is premiering not just in the U.S. but also in India before eventually being distributed to over 100 countries. The show is in English but will also be dubbed in Hindi, Telugu, and Tamil. Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019 made it the new owner of media conglomerate Star India, whose assets include Disney Channel India and Hotstar, which have a combined viewership of 700 million people, or over twice the size of the entire U.S. population.