Bodybuilder. Movie star. Governor. And now, animated preschool teacher in Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten. From Genius Brands International and created by the late, great comics icon, Superhero Kindergarten features the voice and likeness of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Captain Courage, guiding powerful tots as they develop their own superpowers and learn lessons about camaraderie, kindness and protecting the environment. Schwarzenegger talks to TV Kids about the new series.
TV KIDS: How did Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten come about? Where did the idea come from?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I think it started a long time ago, when we were talking about doing something together. This must be five, six, seven years ago. [Stan Lee] asked me, What is your ultimate dream, what would you like to do? He would always ask really out-there questions! I said, I always wanted to do sequels to Kindergarten Cop and Twins. He said, Kindergarten Cop, why is that? I said, I always enjoyed not only doing movies for kids but working with kids. He would stare into emptiness, thinking, like he saw something that we didn’t see. He said, Let me get back to you on that. Then he’d call us back and say, I have an idea. He also told Andy Heyward [chairman and CEO of Genius Brands International]. He had an idea of [me] playing a superhero who is retired and now teaching toddlers and young kids who have superpowers how not to abuse those superpowers and instead channel them into something positive. That’s where my job comes in as the kindergarten teacher, teaching those kids lessons about discipline, environmental issues, bullying, being inclusive, setting goals and doing something good for the world and the community. They are unruly kids. They have tremendous powers. I’m supposed to bring order to the whole thing. This is how he explained it to us, and I said, That’s brilliant! It puts a whole other spin on Kindergarten Cop that makes it refreshing and new. They were interested in doing it as an animated kids’ show. I’ve never really done anything specifically for a young audience. This gave me a good chance to do that. I’m looking forward to doing the voiceover for it and participating in the storytelling.
TV KIDS: How did you work with the creative team on the look of your animated self, Captain Courage?
SCHWARZENEGGER: They have brilliant animators. There’s not much to correct there. The only thing to discuss is the clothes he will wear, the look he should have, the haircut. You show them certain things from Kindergarten Cop that show the frustration in the face so they can draw that well. And I let them know the way I see it. But there’s not much I can influence because they are really, really good.
TV KIDS: What was it like working with Stan Lee?
SCHWARZENEGGER: He was a very special and talented man. I don’t think any of us understood how those images came about in his head. He just saw things very clearly and could describe them very clearly. He was just a genius. He lived in all these different worlds. He could put himself into that world and talk as if he was there, and you would be just blown away by the stories he came up with. And the characters he created—that’s what I always liked about him. That’s why we were drawn to each other. Whatever I do, I want it to be as popular in South Africa as it is in Switzerland or Australia or China or the Middle East. Things like bodybuilding—no country says, We’re not into bodybuilding. It’s a universal thing. It’s not for the rich or the poor; it’s for everybody. It’s the same with environmental issues. It’s universal. Everything in my movies was universal. The Terminator posters were used for inspiration, no matter where you were. That is what is so appealing about Stan’s stuff. His characters are admired in every country. They aren’t characters you admired in the ’60s and not in the ’70s. You admired them in the ’70s and now in 2019.
TV KIDS: Tell us more about the key messages in the show.
SCHWARZENEGGER: The anti-bullying message, the environmental message, the importance of exercise and nutrition, be inclusive, don’t be prejudiced, respect everyone no matter their gender, everyone is equal. The key thing is not to make it a message TV show. Because as soon as people detect that, it rubs them the wrong way. With Saturday Night Fever, no one pushed the idea that it was to promote dancing. It was just a great story with sexy people and they were extraordinary dancers and you just wanted to watch them because they were really good. After the movie came out, thousands of discotheques were built all over the world. Even in my own little home village where I grew up with 800 people, they started having a discotheque. That’s the kind of influence that movies or TV shows can have, without really preaching. That’s the key thing here. Make this an entertaining show, but at the same time, let messages come through that are very inspirational to young kids as they watch those young heroes.