Updated: Jun 10, 2021
With so much family-focused content available to parents today, it can be hard to find the best children’s shows to build self-esteem in your little ones. Fortunately, a new creator has emerged in Canadian children’s programming. With a focus on building healthy self-esteem through musical teaching, Merlz and Pearlz offers a rockin’ take on positivity, self-respect, and self-love. Here, creator Annick Obonsawin explains just what her music videos, vlogs, and clips are all about, and what the titular characters bring to the universe of children’s entertainment.
You’ve been in the children’s entertainment industry for over 25 years. What made Merlz and Pearlz the next best step for you?
I had decided to take a break from acting on camera but continued with voice work. I wanted to spread my wings creatively but wasn’t sure where to turn. This led to me attending and graduating from Centennial College’s Children’s Entertainment program. While attending school, I sold my first show, Can You Imagine That! with TVO Kids. My education and experience working behind the scenes as a creator introduced me to a side of the industry I wanted to pursue. I knew my next project would be a twist on conventional children’s programming. Having a musical background, I knew I wanted to include rock music. However, I wasn’t certain how large a role self-esteem would play until I began researching and applying what I learned in school.
Once I decided to make self-esteem the focus of Merlz and Pearlz, I wanted our music and programming to get kids excited and proud of who they are. To give them tools when confronted with personal struggles. I wanted to have an honest and open look at self-esteem from the uppers to the bummers. Technology and social media platforms such as YouTube have given creators a voice and place to inspire people all over the world. These platforms are the right fit for Merlz and Pearlz.
Your characters, Merlz and Pearlz, are all about self-esteem in children. Why did you want to teach children about building healthy self-esteem?
A healthy self-esteem will encourage children to explore their full potential. I believe a healthy self-esteem is the foundation that shapes us as we grow. Self-esteem influences the outcomes of opportunities, decisions, relationships and, when the time comes, our professional lives. Our self-esteem is the reflection of how we feel about ourselves, and it affects every aspect of our lives. As children grow into tweens, teenagers, and finally adults, I want them to have a strong sense of self, along with positive morals and values they can wear proudly.
Mental health is a complex topic, but one Merlz and Pearlz aren’t afraid of discussing. How does the show explore this subject matter while remaining fun and engaging?
Self-esteem and mental health are linked. I believe the sooner children learn and come to understand their big thoughts and feelings, the sooner they will develop the tools to manage them in a healthy and productive manner. Both characters struggle at times with anxiety, sadness, fear, and anger—as we all do. With the help of music, puppets, humor, and special guests, children are encouraged to honor their big thoughts and feelings, and share them with someone they love and trust.
Merlz and Pearlz teach a lot through song and dance. Why is teaching through music important? How do you think musical learning and physical activity help children develop better self-esteem?
Music is universally cherished, but kids connect to music on another level. It’s a language to them. I want the lyrics to act almost as affirmations—instilling inspiration, possibility, and authenticity. Music has been a huge part of my life. It has the power to heal, transform, and educate. And dance allows kids to move freely, encouraging self-expression.
Tell us about Planet Awesome. Who lives there? What does it have to do with kids and self-esteem?
Planet Awesome is a planet in our galaxy, a.k.a. Merlz and Pearlz’s home planet. The small planet is known for its bright colors, steampunk style, and kind, creative residents. Planet Awesome is home to creatures of all species. There are fairies like Pearlz, and merlzypoos like Merlz!
As unique as Planet Awesome is, there is one thing every creature shares in common: the mission to spread the word about self-esteem! Individuality and self-expression are strongly encouraged, and even celebrated. Growing up on Planet Awesome inspired Merlz and Pearlz to travel the galaxy for that very same mission. The duo spread the message of self-esteem by doing what they do best: rocking out!
What made you choose a steampunk aesthetic for Merlz and Pearlz?
I’ve been fascinated with steampunk aesthetics for a very long time. It’s a fun, innovative, and inspiring genre of science fiction. It’s definitely a theme in the show—we just so happened to splash lots of bright colors into the mix. I wanted to create a unique, creative, and safe space for our viewers. With Merlz and Pearlz originating from the steampunk Planet Awesome and living on a ship, it reinforces the notion that it doesn’t matter what planet you’re from—we’re all learning together.
Find out more about our intergalactic heroes Merlz and Pearlz at merlzandpearlz.com.
Learn how you and your little ones can become Self-Esteem Warriors by checking out our YouTube channel.