Growing up on shows like Fat Albert, musical multi-hyphenate Raphael Saadiq knows the value of representation in children’s television. “If I turned on my TV and found somebody Black,” he says, “those people were superheroes — even though they weren’t flying through the sky.”
Today, the three-time Grammy winning producer, songwriter and instrumentalist is working as executive producer of Disney’s animated Marvel series, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. The series marks Marvel’s first Black teenage girl superhero (actress Diamond White is voicing Moon Girl) and will feature guest voices from Alison Brie, Andy Cohen, Daveed Diggs, Maya Hawke, Jennifer Hudson, Method Man, Cobie Smulders, Wesley Snipes and more.
“In the comic book world, this is huge,” Saadiq tells Billboard. “To be able to see a Black teenage genius girl doing amazing things, working out problems, explaining to people how not to get caught up in a box without being preachy.”
When it comes to the lyrical messaging of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Saadiq is hitting on topics like loving your hair, overcoming insecurities and being yourself, by way of a fusion of genres that the music legend grew up around. “I had everything from Motown to Neil Young and Steely Dan,” recalls the Oakland native of his own childhood. “Latin music in my neighborhood from Pete Escovedo, so many different layers and soundtracks blaring out of cars in my neighborhood. Music is the backdrop to [children’s] lives. For me, it’s a contribution that I want to give back to the community of kids and their parents.”
Based in New York City, the show is centered on Lunella Lafayette (a.k.a. Moon Girl), who accidentally brings her 10-ton T-Rex, Devil Dinosaur to the city. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur explores universal themes of family and community, while centering the experiences of a Black family living on the Lower East Side. The series arrives to Disney+ today (Feb. 15).