When creating his new animated show CHUMS, Dennis Jackson says he wanted to get away from the trend of featuring modern stories and characters.
“I always thought it would be good to go back before contact and do a cute little story for preschool kids around that time,” he said, adding that preserving culture in stories was key.
“For me and my son, we’re urban Indigenous creators but we have not lost our roots and we want to show that in the stories that we write.”
Dennis Jackson is a member of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and created CHUMS with his son, Eric Jackson, and a crew from Zoot Pictures in Winnipeg.
Dennis and Eric are writers on the show with Dennis directing and Eric producing. Dennis has been in the animation industry for many years with shows such as Wapos Bay and Guardians Evolution.
Eric Jackson described CHUMS as a 3D animation series geared toward ages three to six.
“It’s to encourage the discovery of traditional Indigenous relationships, emotional regulation and get kids to really understand the animals and environments around us,” he said.
“We’re trying to explore a lot of the native species of animals that are up here as well as the folklore that has either been passed down from my grandma to me or within the community.”
The show will follow a group of animals, along with a girl named Flies With Eagles, who help other animals in unexpected situations.
“They explore within the story how to go about helping them as well as Indigenous backstory and lore that would come with the animal,” Eric said.
The production of the show will take place in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The show has an all-Indigenous voice cast and creative team and the show will feature the Cree and Ojibway languages alongside English.
Eric said preserving culture is important and he wants his children to be a part of reclaiming the culture that was lost.
“My grandma was a residential school survivor and after that there was definitely that gap between embracing the culture and reclaiming it,” he said.
“I do it for my kids; I do it for all of the kids out there who want representation. They want something that’s relatable to them that they can go out and play pretend with and feel a connection with their culture in some manner or way and [gain] a new interest in rediscovering it.”
CHUMS will air on APTN, CityTV Saskatchewan and the APTN streaming service Lumi in late 2023 or early 2024.