A new PBS children’s show will feature an 11-year-old with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
“Mack & Moxy” is a mix of live action puppets, 3D animation and celebrity role models. There are plenty of fun adventures, catchy music and humor mixed into each segment. The series, intended for children ages 3 to 7, is the first kid’s show about causes. Each episode features two 14-minute segments exploring a different cause.
The segment, called “A Spectrum of Possibilities,” helps children learn acceptance and inclusion of people on the spectrum. Charlie Owens, who is on the spectrum, lives in the St. Louis area. In the segment, Owens plays Trooper Charlie. Easter Seals, a nonprofit that supports children and adults on the spectrum, recommended Owens for the program.
Charlie Owens is the son of Clayton city manager Craig Owens and his wife, Elizabeth Owens. Charlie has a twin brother, Max, who also has autism. Both kids are in the fifth grade in Clayton schools, just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. Craig said it has been a “mind-blowing experience” for Charlie and added, “when he's asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he has always said ‘I want to be a movie maker.’”
About Mack & Moxy
Mack and Moxy live in Helpeeland. Mack is a blue moose-like character whose gentle yet enthusiastic charm makes him instant best friends with everyone he meets, especially the children who watch the show. His odd sense of humor and off-the-wall suggestions is endearing to children. When out on a job with Moxy, Mack often uses his antlers for “Instant Mooseaging” communication with Helpeeland Headquarters; this interesting mode of communication speaks to children on the spectrum, who have trouble communicating with others.
Moxy is a perky pink raccoon. This character is a conscientious communicator and has a positive approach to problem solving, which also appeals to children on the spectrum.
In each segment, Mack and Moxy embark on a new adventure. Together, with the help of a guest Trooper, they set out to rescue a Great Helpee. The Trooper is a child that represents a non-profit organization and their cause. Each Trooper helps Mack and Moxy rescue the Great Helpee, a magical creature that brings happiness to the world, while sharing knowledge about the cause.
Along the way, the team meets a new Friend in Need. The Friend in Need introduces Mack, Moxy and the viewers at home to a new important issue. Together, Mack, Moxy and the rest of the team help kids learn about various social, health, and community causes relevant to children and adults today. In the episode about autism, entitled A Spectrum of Possibilities, the Friend in Need is a bird-like creature who is on the spectrum.
Kids appear as themselves for the first few minutes of an episode before transforming into an animated “Trooper” character who assists the Moxy and Mack. Celebrities appear as “Admirables” while Hank Azaria provides the voice of the character Shellfish Sheldon, the nemesis of Mack and Moxy.
The Admirable, often played by a celebrity, gives advice and guidance via Instant Moosaging while also providing insight, wit and wisdom for the viewer. The Admirable summarizes and highlights the information in each segment.
Mack & Moxy has already won a “Parents Choice Award.”
Creator and Sponsors
Brahm Wenger is the creator and executive producer of Mack & Moxy. Wegner has composed music for several notable movie franchises. Brahm has written music for over 40 films and 80, and scored the entire Air Bud and Air Buddies series for Walt Disney Pictures. In association with American Public Television and Georgia Public Broadcasting, Mack & Moxy debuted on many PBS stations on April 1, 2016.
“Mack & Moxy is the first kids’ show to focus exclusively on introducing children to important causes like hunger awareness, autism or emergency preparation,” said Wenger. “The characters Mack and Moxy are fun, enthusiastic heroes eager to help and learn, just like our kids today.”
Non-profit partners for season one of Mack & Moxy includes:
- American Heart Association
- American Red Cross
- Citizen Schools
- Easter Seals
- Feeding America
- National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
- National Park Foundation
- Orange County Sheriff’s Department
- Save the Children
- The President’s Council on Fitness Sports & Nutrition
- World Wildlife Fund
Other episode titles and topics include:
- A Friend Who Reads is a Friend Indeed – Early childhood education
- Feeding Rainbow – Hunger awareness
- A TyGrrr’s Tale – Saving the tiger
- Always Be Prepared – Emergency preparation
- A Bop-Topuss’s Garden – Eating healthy
- Get Up, Get Going! – Information on exercise provided by Let’s Move!
- S.T.E.M. Strong – Science, technology, engineering and math education
- Buckle Up for Safety – Car seat safety
- Ready, Set, Hike! – Information about the National Parks
- Help is on the Way! – By the Orange County Sherriff’s Department
- Play it Again Mack – The importance of play
A Spectrum of Possibilities
“A Spectrum of Possibilities” features Hank Azaria, best known for animated television show, “The Simpsons.” Singer Eva LaRue, actor James Murray and puppeteers Carla Rudy and Ray Castro lend their talents to the show. Celebrities for other segments include Rachael Ray and Josh Duhamel.
Mack & Moxy is the sixth episode of the first season and scheduled to air in June and July 2016.
“One of our writers wanted to ensure an episode in season one focused on autism inclusion because his child is on the spectrum,” said Kellee McQuinn, co-executive producer for the show, in an interview with The Mighty. “Everyone has been so passionate about this particular episode and we all understood the sensitivities of having a child with Autism star in a national television show. Charlie’s not an actor; and together we worked to make sure he was comfortable on the set and well prepared before it came time to taping and recording his episode.”