Preschool Show 'Miss Persona' Tackles Kids' Fears in Coronavirus PSA

Corus Entertainment

The Emmy-nominated series made a three-minute YouTube video to explain and reassure its audience about the viral outbreak before hastily shutting down production.

Before production on Nelvana's Emmy-nominated preschool series Miss Persona shut down last week in Toronto as a precaution amid the coronavirus pandemic, the live-action show's creators and crew produced a public service announcement to help kids understand the COVID-19 virus and ease any fear or sadness they have.

"It was very therapeutic for us because we were scared that production was shutting down and we were anxious. We're all trying to make sense of the world and this is one way that we can make sense of it for our audience," series showrunner and director Brandon Lane on Friday told The Hollywood Reporter.

The three-minute YouTube video explains the pandemic and urges children to help by practicing safe hygiene and then play and read and even dance at home as they and their families self-isolate and social distance. "It's very much a brand of our show that there's a silver lining in some dark moments, and we definitely wanted to leave on a note of lightness and playfulness," added series host, producer and creator Kimberly Persona.

"Are you feeling worried or sad that school has been canceled? I believe everything will be just fine," Miss Persona at one point says in the PSA, with her best friend, Brandon Bear, a shy teddy bear, cuddling in her arms. Her reassurance follows news that Brandon's teddy bear kindergarten has been canceled due to a "really strong germ called a virus" that is spreading to other people "and making some people sick."

Lane, who is also a development producer at Nelvana, said the pandemic itself has to be addressed because kids pick up on their parents' stress and anxiety at home, especially when everyone's routine has been disrupted. "We were getting a lot of comments from parents about how their kids are scared and they didn't know how to address them because it is a scary topic," he explained.

Aimed at preschoolers sent home from school and unable to visit grandparents or have playdates, the kids are told in the PSA to follow health precautions to remain strong and at ease. "The doctors say if we all help out and follow the rules, teddy bear kindergarten will open again soon and everything will go back to normal. We just have to be patient and stay calm," Persona says.

Using dress-up, Brandon Bear at one point imagines himself a hero and along with Miss Persona shows kids how to wash their hands and cover their mouths when coughing or sneeze into a tissue or elbow. The duo then recommend kids do arts and crafts, read books and even dance to stay active as they hunker down at home.

Lane said the messaging of the PSA — to reassure children about the pandemic and to guide them to solutions and playfulness — was very deliberate to ease their fears. "We know that kids are anxious and we wanted to be a bit of comfort, and to get to that comfort we needed to address the anxiety and have a hopeful message at the end because the character itself (Miss Persona) is comforting in all times," he explained.