Today I’m stepping a little outside my comfort zone by writing about a subject that I fear I will miss to capture its cultural impact. But worse things have happened in this world. Sitio Picapau Amarelo (Yellow Woodpecker Farm) is a classic of children’s literature in Brazil, originally written as early as 1920 by Monteiro Lobato, later transformed into a TV show in the 1950s, going through various iterations of casts, and most recently has been turned into cartoon characters. The stories take place in a picturesque farm and plots form around its main characters: The farm’s owner and a widow, Mrs. Benta; her grandkids, a girl and a boy; a maid; a talking rag doll; a corncob puppet; and a cadre of animals and other visitors. The series has always had an educational bent, more than just pure entertainment, and many generations of Brazilian kids have grown up on its lessons. Recently, Globo TV, Brazil’s biggest TV network, redesigned the complete Sitio Picapau Amarelo with new character illustrations by Bruno Okada and an identity system by Romulo Castilho.
This transformation is similar to some other well loved American cartoons who have been modernized for today’s aesthetics and the hope of more merchandise sales. From the Care Bears to Strawberry Shortcake. The transformation can sometimes feel radical, but necessary to survive within today’s aesthetic parameters and this new look for Sitio do Picapau Amarelo seems perfectly in tune with the Nickelodeon nouveau aesthetics with a bit of an edge found in some of Cartoon Network’s programming. The new characters are wide-eyed and sharp. The new merchandise is ready to be picked up from Target. The new visual language is vibrant, colorful, and fun and the quilted backgrounds help keep everything feeling home-y and farm-ey. Perhaps, as you can tell, I’m having a hard time properly explaining why I like this… but I’ll put it this way: As a parent, there is stuff your kids want to get or see or play with that just makes you cringe. Not this. This would be cool to have around the house.