Becca Topol, series developer and story editor, and Sascha Paladino, executive producer, talk to TV Kids about what sets Mira, Royal Detective apart and gives it its international appeal, as well as how its music can bring the whole family together.
Inspired by the cultures and customs of India, the Disney Junior animated series Mira, Royal Detective, grounded in authenticity and the empathy of its young protagonist, aims to inspire its viewers to broaden their perspectives while joining in on mysterious adventures and joyful dances.
Set in the magical land of Jalpur, the series introduces a girl named Mira, a brave and resourceful commoner who the queen appoints to the post of royal detective. Topol was approached by Disney Junior several years ago to develop the series that would become Mira, Royal Detective, a project that she was more than happy to take on. “Mira is such an aspirational role model for boys and girls,” she says. “I refer to her as small and mighty. She is so empathetic, she’s smart. But there’s one bigger thing that’s really the core inspiration for the character: the idea of her paying attention and noticing things in the world—sights, sounds, smells—and how that informs her. I feel that today, for all of us, for kids as well as adults, the idea of paying attention to the world around us—noticing things, noticing how people are feeling, seeing problems and then stepping in and helping—is very aspirational and we all need that message.”
The global community consciousness is a part of what makes Mira, Royal Detective a natural fit for audiences the world over. “Creating universal themes that any kid or adult watching with a kid can relate to,” was something that was considered early on, according to Paladino. “And the whole idea of we’re part of a community now, more than ever we’re part of a global community, and showing how we reach out and support those around us. How do we notice things, how do we take care of other people?”
Both Topol and Paladino are happy to be able to say that Mira, Royal Detective, with its strong, sleuthing female protagonist, appeals to boys as well as to girls. In addition to Mira’s best friend being Prince Neel, a gadget guy equipped with spy gear and a knack for making useful inventions, there are also her amusing sidekicks Mikku and Chikku.
“It’s important to me that the boys have a lot there too,” says Paladino, who believes that Mira is no less relatable to boys just because she’s a girl. He wants them to “see Mira as someone who’s like them, that gender isn’t something that defines her. It’s part of who she is, of course, but we have really fun, interesting boy characters as well.”
“I have three sons, so it’s really important for me to have them see characters on screen, female characters on screen who are strong leaders,” he adds. “It’s something, historically, we haven’t seen a lot of but it is really important—and to also see that boy characters are okay with that. That they don’t always have to be the ones in command or in control, and that’s kind of how it is with Mira and her friends. She’s definitely the leader. But her friend Prince Neel is a very important member of the team.”
Even parents can relate to Mira and her journey, according to Topol, who personally finds the young detective’s moxie aspirational. “Mira’s like who I wish I had been at the age of 12 or 11,” she says. “It’s giving adults the ability to see themselves as kids again and recognize the crazy things that we all do. Also, in creating strong adult characters like Sahil, for example, Mira’s dad, and the close father-daughter relationship, and her relationship with their aunt. You create different characters for everybody to relate to.”
And then there’s the music and the accompanying dance numbers. With original songs in each episode and the help of Bollywood dancer and choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan, Mira, Royal Detective aims to get its young viewers—and their parents—off the couch to bust some moves.
“[The songs] are all influenced in some way by South Asian music,” says Paladino. “We use as many live instruments as possible for authenticity and then Nakul choreographs moves for that dance with just himself and his assistant, and then he’ll videotape those moves. Then our storyboard artists will draw those moves into our storyboards and copy them in as detailed a fashion as possible so that the moves are as accurate as possible. To me, that’s something that parents and kids are really going to enjoy. My ultimate hope is that kids will love these dance moves so much that they’ll grab their parents and pull them up off the couch and say, Dance with me!”
Among the original songs is Mira’s signature song, “We’re on the Case,” which was a big discussion in the early stages of developing the series. “We wanted sort of a call-to-action, and there was another part of it that was introducing to kids, very simply, What does it mean to actually be on a case?” says Topol. “She’s got to have her magnifying glass, she’s got to have her notebook. These were big discussions we had. The other thing was the joy. Getting a new case for Mira is the best thing in the world, so she’s going to start dancing. It really expresses and exudes her spirit. Like, Oh my god, it’s a case! We’re going to start dancing!”
Throughout the production, Disney provided support to the series that not only enabled the authentic and enlivening musical components, but also an enviable voice cast that includes the likes of Freida Pinto, Kal Penn, Jameela Jamil and Utkarsh Ambudkar.
“Freida Pinto and I had a few discussions and she’s very invested in the empowerment of girls and women and works on issues like that,” says Topol. “She truly is the perfect person to play the queen because the queen is a role model for Mira, her mentor. Kal Penn (Mikku), hilarious, utterly hilarious. He brought so much humor, along with Utkarsh (Chikku) and the way that the two play off of each other. As a writer, there is nothing more thrilling than writing for these incredible actors who are so talented. It really raises the bar for me and makes me up my game.”
The household-name South Asian actors, who expressed to Paladino that they wished that they had had a program like Mira, Royal Detective growing up, also helped the show achieve its desired level of authenticity.
“Once they saw what our goals were for the show and, hopefully, that we were doing it in such a way that would advance those goals, they were really quick to jump on board and say, Hey I want to be a part of this,” says Paladino. “It’s been really exciting for us to feel like they’re true partners on this show. They’re not just coming into the studio and reading the lines we write and then leaving. They love talking about the show and giving us their thoughts. And we love it, we love them being creative collaborators on the show.”
This commitment to diving into South Asian culture with specificity and pairing that with universal themes is what makes the show tick, and what sets it apart from other quality kids’ programs on air.
“One of the things that I am really excited about with Mira is how we’ve been able to integrate all of these different things into one show,” says Paladino. “There’s the cultural aspect, there’s the music, there’s the dance, there’s this never-before full South Asian voice cast. The fact that we’ve been able to put all of these pieces together into one show is just really exciting. It feels like something that hasn’t been done before.”
Mira, Royal Detective premieres in the U.S. today (March 20) on Disney Channel and Disney Junior. Disney Channel India will debut the series on March 22. Following its premiere in the U.S. and India, the series will roll out worldwide in an estimated 160 countries on Disney Channel and Disney Junior platforms globally.