Manny's back and things are getting pretty hot in Sheetrock Hills, the titular cartoon character's hometown. Is it because residents are feeling the heat of global warming, leading to the release of this DVD titled Manny's Green Team? Is it because Manny's Green Team only has two episodes and two tiny special feature that remotely relate to 'going green'? Is it that delightfully saucy way Manny's hardware connection, Kelly, cocks her hip when describing solar energy? Or is it just because the AC broke at the school gymnasium?
No one in my family cares, as we've become pretty attached to the Hispanic handyman, as voiced by That '70s Show's Wilmer Valderrama. The Disney cartoon for preschoolers is as benign as they come, featuring Manny's cool, relaxed demeanor and a toolbox full of cute talking herramientas (tools, for you Anglos reading this). Of course the main thrust of Handy Manny is teaching kids right from wrong, dealing with problems and fears, and most importantly thinking creatively. But there's that whole multicultural thing, an aspect deployed with no particular fanfare; Manny's Mexican/Puerto Rican (according to wikipedia) and it's just a fact, not a gimmick on which to hang the show. The main benefit of this, apropos the seamless racial integration of Sheetrock Hills, is that Manny, his tools, and various others are constantly dropping Spanish language phrases (accompanied by instant translation) to help viewers become accustomed to the lingo.
Along with Manny's cheerful, wide-eyed can-do spirit there are his two signature songs about working together, (see this review for Manny's Pet Roundup to get the lyrics) there are his seven goofy tools, full of kids' foibles and cleverness, near Sanrio levels of cuteness, and burgeoning sexual tension between Manny and Kelly - subliminally placed for adults. I'm even coming to appreciate know-it-all Mr. Lopart, the blowhard nebbish who constantly screws things up, yet refuses any help.
For the record, Manny's Green Team includes these episodes:
Saving The Turtles: Manny and team build a bike path, but leave room for an endangered species.
So, maybe the 'green' ethos isn't in total abundance, but studios have to come up with some kind of theme on which to hang a DVD collection, and starting kids on the road to conservation early is a good idea in my book. (That way when our children are fighting wars over drinkable water, they can look back to Manny for inspiration.) But seriously, I don't want to start a rant about ecology, but let's all just take a hint from Manny and think of our resources as money in the bank - the more we save, the more interest we earn for our kids to live on. Go, Manny, go!