“The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder”: A Revival Which Lives Up to the Original

The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder

The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder tells the story of Penny Proud, a 14-year-old Black girl who navigates the 2020s with her ambitious mom, overprotective dad, loving grandmother, troublesome siblings, and loyal school friends.

The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder is a coming-of-age comedy series and animated sitcom by Bruce W. Smith and Ralph Farquhar which began airing on February 23 of this year. It is a revival of The Proud Family, an all-ages animated series that aired on the Disney Channel from 2001 to 2005, and marked the first original animated series on the Disney Channel.

As a warning, this recommendation discusses spoilers for the first four episodes of The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder

The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder
Oscar dressed up as Prince and Trudy in a flashback in episode 2

The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder centers on Penny Proud (Kyla Pratt), a 14-year-old teenage girl who lives in the town of Smithville with her mom Trudy (Paula Jai Parker), dad Oscar (Tommy Davidson), paternal grandmother Sugar Mama (Jo Marie Payton), her pet dog Puff (audio effects provided by Carlos Alazraqui), and her two younger siblings BeBe (Aiden Dodson) and CeCe (Bresha Webb).

The show also features Penny’s enthusiastic but selfish and untrustworthy best friend, Dijonay Jones (Karen Malina White), who likes to gossip. Her antics have often gotten Penny in trouble. Both hang out with Zoey Howzer (Soleil Moon Frye), a smart but timid, shy, and kind White girl, and an Afro-Latine girl, LaCienega Boulevardez (Alisa Reyes) who is beautiful, popular, and an excellent student. Although she is good friends with Dijonay, she is the frenemy of Penny. LaCienega is able to convince her parents, Felix (Carlos Mencia) and Sunset (Maria Canals-Barrera) that she is a sweet and upstanding girl when she is actually snobbish, arrogant, and selfish.

Other supporting characters include Oscar’s older brother Bobby Proud (Cedric the Entertainer), an extremely wealthy Black businessman named Wizard Kelly (Aries Spears), Felix’s father Papi (Alvaro Gutierrez) who Suga Mama has a crush on, the doctor for the Proud family named Dr. Payne (Kevin Michael Richardson), and the 9-year-old neighbor of the Proud family, Peabo (Cree Summer). There’s also the flamboyant gender non-conforming friend of Penny named Michael Collins (EJ Johnson) and former bullies Nubia, Olei, and Gina, who are named the Gross Sisters (voiced by Raquel Lee) who become interested in hip hop, start a rap group, and perform.

New characters in this revival series include Penny’s boyfriend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Brown (Asante Blackk), and the Leibowitz-Jenkins family. The latter is headed by Randall (Billy Porter) and Barry (Zachary Quinto). They have two children, a 14-year-old adopted girl named Maya Leibowitz-Jenkins (voiced by Keke Palmer) and her twin brother, Francis “KG” Leibowitz-Jenkins (“A Boogie” Dubose), who is adjusting to life in Smithville.

Apart from the new characters, there is one departure: Sticky Webb. Voiced by Orlando Brown in the original series, he only appears in the first episode when he moved to Japan where his father is getting a new job. Although some fans may have been disappointed in the fact that The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder destroys the dynamic between Dijonay and Sticky, as she continually had a crush on him, it allows for the new characters, Kareem, Randall, Barry, Maya, and KG to become more integrated into the story. In fact, KG becomes a rebound of sorts for Dijonay, who treats him like she treated Sticky.

The opening song of the series is very similar to the original, except this theme song is sung by Joyce Wrice rather than Solange Knowles and Destiny’s Child in The Proud Family. This has, understandably, irked some fans, but has also, sadly, led the creators of this series to receive death threats, serving yet another example of people taking things too far. While the new song is not my favorite opening, for an animated series it is definitely catchy and hearkens back to the original.

Compared to the original series, the animation is smoother and cleaner, the characters are more expressive, and the episodes are longer. While episodes in The Proud Family were 20-22 minutes long, in this series, they range from 27 to 30 minutes. This is in part because the series is airing exclusively on Disney+ and doesn’t need to accommodate commercials.

Even so, this revival series has some of the same dynamics as the original. Oscar is what makes the series an animated sitcom. Often disciplined by his mother, Suga Mama, his head is shown flying into outer space, thrown into the air comedically, while acting immature, childish, and even hyperactive. Through it all, he is still a well-meaning father to Penny, running a business that creates revolting snacks but somehow manages to stay in business despite it all.

The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder features some of the same themes as the original. Wizard Kelly is still a business mogul who runs for mayor, Bobby is still his ebullient self, even tricking out Trudy’s pet ambulance, and Trudy tells Oscar to pull his weight.

On the other hand, Oscar is afraid to see Penny grow up and tries to hold her back, but later listens and realizes that he should give her some independence. Even so, he happens to embarrass her when he tries to recruit Kareem for his basketball team in an attempt to get back at Wizard Kelly. He can be sweet and helpful at other times, telling Penny about Prince and showing her how to play a vinyl disk. In another episode, he is shown as being a gullible fool as he buys a toxic waste dump as the future home of his Snackland amusement park, something which his family ridicules him for, leaving him to sink into the toxic sludge.

In a hint at the fact that the series is a revival, Penny and her friends magically become teenagers overnight. Additionally, scenes from the original series are used when characters have flashbacks to past events, an ingenious way to tie the two series together.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNlrmBWY25Q]

In this series, Penny stays righteous and thinks that everyone is her friend, but admits that Maya is right when she calls her “superficial.” Both later become better friends by the show’s fourth episode. Unfortunately, it appears that this series is either disregarding or putting aside the wild adventure-comedy film, The Proud Family Movie, with a plot that seems like an episode of Kim Possible or even Totally Spies! which capped the original run of The Proud Family, as Penny is 16-years-old in the series.

In what I expect will be a 10 or 12 episode order, this revival series has a chance to buck what can be described as colorist themes in the original series. Some argued that Dijonay’s character in that series indicated that even when animated, the “dark skin girl is designated as the ghetto one” while others went as far as to call for the cancellation of the revival series for promoting racist and colorist caricatures of Black women who have darker skin, mainly citing Dijonay as the biggest exemplar of this issue. This revival series seems to hint that this will be countered. Already, Dijonay’s yellow hair was revealed as a wig, and Maya, who has skin as dark as Dijonay, is a strong, passionate girl who stands up for causes. Even so, the blue-black-skinned Gross Sisters are still shown as “ashy” and have a lot of attitude.

There are other hints that this revival series will be different. Farquhar has stated that the show will portray more than a singular “view of Blackness or a Black family” while Smith said it is blazing a path in animation, with elements of the Western, sci-fi, and horror genres. I am somewhat confident that this series will address this more and in a positive way, in a break from the past, even if those on online forums for Black women, like Lipstick Alley, are more skeptical of the series. In that way, the series can more of a “portal for viewers to get an idea of what the world is like or what the world thinks of them,” as one critic of the original series wrote in 2018.

Latine characters have a key role in this show, similar to other Disney series like Kim Possible, The Owl House, and the original series. LaCienega is part of an Afro-Latine family, which is still rare in television series, animated and not. Even so, there is the continuing joke that Suga Mama doesn’t understand what Papi is saying as he is speaking Spanish. Hopefully, in future episodes, she learns Spanish and this tired joke is not used anymore, so they can have a more genuine relationship.

Similar to how the original series focused on issues such as bullying, cheerleading, self-worth, and friendship, this series has episodes about the inhumanity of zoos, complete with a panda bear named Shuggie (voiced by CeeLo Green) who declares he is a “player” who doesn’t want to be saved, the insidious nature of social media influencers who have the ability to “cancel” people, playing basketball, standing up for what you believe in, and remaining true to yourself.

The episode about influencers is altogether different than the cringe-worthy commentary on so-called “cancel culture,” really “consequence culture” in an episode of the should-be-forgotten series, The Freak Brothers. The series instead shows Penny denouncing influencers like Makeup Boy (voiced by Bretman Rock) as posers and those who follow them as “sad.”

Her rise to power somewhat echoes the episode in the original series, “A Star Is Scorned,” where she becomes a star and isolates her friends for fame, believing it is all about her. In the episode in this series, she becomes an influencer, receiving endorsements and popularity. In the process, she “cancels” Makeup Boy after he disses her, and she realizes she can make people buy stuff they can’t afford, while people are afraid of getting cancelled by her.

Penny even ends up cancelling LaCienega, shocking her, is able to get rid of everyone in the school, and send away Suga Mama to boot camp. She is later brought down thanks to Maya who hatches a plan which exposes her after Oscar got money from Wizard Kelly, with her friends turning on her, as she loses followers and her influence almost in the blink of an eye.

As she walks away from school in shame, Makeup Boy, whose real name is Sebastian Boyle, is later grateful to her as he was seduced by the power and influence. The lesson at the end seems to be that your family is more important than your friends and will stand by you, as her mom and grandmother forgive Penny after she apologizes. It was somewhat strange to me that Penny’s friends threw her away like a used dishrag and never apologized to her for making her like a pariah. 

The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder
Barry, Randall, and Michael, the three LGBTQ characters who have appeared in the series so far

There is one major change from the original series in The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder: the casual queerness. Not only is Michael now openly gender-conforming and gay, but KG and Maya have two gay dads, Randall and Barry. It’s even possible there could be an enemies-to-lovers situation between Penny and Maya, and hopefully, there are “different portrayals of Blackness” and a depiction of the “vast spectrum of Blackness” while the show further explores sexuality and gender with the addition of new character, as Nic of Autostraddle pointed out.

The most recent episode, “Father Figures” focuses on this more than any episode that has aired so far. Maya and KG are teased by those at school after Dijonay tweets that Maya and KG have two dads, and there is an undercurrent of homophobia in the school. Penny rallies to their defense, attempting to joke about broken families, offending Maya, and leading KG to criticize them for making a joke about something that they know nothing about.

Penny later faces homophobia from her dad, who can’t explain why she can’t hang out around Maya and KG, later claiming he trying to “protect” her, like all the other dads in the neighborhood. despite Trudy, Puff, and Suga Mama strongly disagreeing with him. This comes to a head when he goes to a bank to get a loan and Randall, one of Maya’s dads, is a bank manager at Wizard Kelly Bank, and puts the loan away after Oscar reacts with shock to see Randall and Barry kissing.

Luckily, Penny is able to break through this homophobia by standing up to the Gross Sisters, defending Maya, giving a rambling speech. In the end, they all meet at the Leibowitz-Jenkins house, with Oscar apologizing to Randall for being homophobic and getting the loan after all. Everyone seems to come to their unintentional housewarming party, dancing to the disco music, and Oscar is overcome with emotion, beginning to see more of the world through Penny’s eyes.

My guess is that there will be more LGBTQ characters in the future, possibly even some among the show’s main cast. After all, the series will feature, in future episodes, guest stars like Lizzo, Jaden Smith (as college Myron), Lena Waithe (as college Maya), Al Roker, Lamorne Morris, Brenda Song (as Vanessa Vue), according to the official Disney+ Twitter account. Waithe was previously in a relationship with Alana Mayo, an executive producer of gen:LOCK. Other queer guest stars include Lil Nas X and Jane Lynch according to Out magazine.

Further LGBTQ characters have been hinted at by Farquhar who stated that a lot changed since the original show, saying that this revival series will take on more topical issues rather than having LGBTQ characters referred to in “coded language.” He also confirmed that Michael was gay in the original series but that they had to be underhanded in the way this is talked about. Smith added that the show has more than “just one gay person… representing the entire LGBTQ+ spectrum.”

The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder has the promise of breaking down barriers through its inclusion of multicultural characters and families, especially those which are part of the LGBTQ, Latine, and Black communities. I fully believe it will address racial issues and other topics, like the original series. No matter how many episodes are remaining until its first season comes to an end, the series will undoubtedly have plotlines that focus on the pull between family togetherness and family conflict, protesting, rumors, popularity, dating, and jealousy.

It is likely there will be episodes on gender equality, women’s rights, medicine, vaccines, and animal exploitation, like in the original series. At the same time, it is not known whether there will be a focus on veterinary services, pet care, file sharing, music downloading, homelessness, Black history, Black wealth, or show business, all of which were covered in the original series as well.

Those working on The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder are a talented group of people. Latoya Raveneau, who directed a few episodes, was the showrunner of the animated short series Rise Up, Sing Out, and a storyboarder for Final Space. Tara N. Whitaker, who directed one episode, previously was a prop designer for series such as Kid Cosmic, Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure, The Owl House, and Wonder Over Yonder, and character designer for Middle School Moguls. The series art director, Eastwood Wong, had worked on animated series like Carmen SandiegoStar vs. the Forces of Evil, and Steven Universe.

Other staff members are new to the animation industry, like show writers Wolf-Rudiger Bloss, Ashley Soto Paniagua, Leo J. Lawrence, and KyLee Evans. Lawrence and Evans previously worked on live-action series before this one, while Paniagua had written for Vida and Fast & Furious Spy Racers. Some worked on the original series, like writer Doreen Spicer, and co-executive producer, Calvin Brown Jr. Breana Williams, the production coordinator, previously worked on Mira: Royal Detective and is currently working on an indie animated series LimeLight as a storyboard revisionist. There are various other talented storyboarders and other employees working on the show as well.

Although there are talented individuals working on the show, it remains to be seen how much Disney can further social equality. The studio’s linked with a lot of prejudice in the past and many productions continue to draw “criticism regarding diversity, both onscreen and behind the scenes. After all, Disney CEO Bob Chapek put out a weak statement before the passage of “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida which bans the teaching of LGBTQ topics, says schools should not encourage sexual orientation or gender identity to be discussed, and allows parents to sue schools for having such discussions. Chapek later scrambled to act like he cared, after the law had already passed through both houses of the Florida legislature and the Florida governor, who has been a big proponent of the bill, falsely claimed it wouldn’t harm LGBTQ people.

Putting aside the problematic nature of Disney for a second, and focusing on the show, I can say with full confidence that I recommend The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder. Although I wasn’t completely clicking or vibing with the show at first, by the fourth episode it has really pulled me in.

The series is currently streaming on Disney+. Episode 5 will debut on the Wednesday of this week, March 16, 2022.

And while you are at it, you can get The Proud Family Movie from your local library, buy a DVD of the original series and film on Amazon or elsewhere, or simply stream both offerings on the Disney+ streaming service.

Author: Burkely Hermann

Burkely is an indexer of declassified documents by day and a fan fic writer by night. He recently earned a MLIS with a concentration in Digital Curation from the University of Maryland. He currently voraciously watches animated series and reads too many webcomics to count on Webtoon. He loves swimming, hiking, and searching his family roots in his spare time.

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