“Carmen Sandiego” is an animated spy thriller with just a dash of political intrigue; and here’s a hint: it really works.
The show, produced by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is based on the popular video game series with the same name. The video game series spanned an expansive line of educational programs for children and after a successful TV series in the 90s, Ms. Sandiego could be found anywhere in the world.
Unlike most series about the high-tailing thief extraordinaire, this series delves into Sandiego’s backstory. Even from a young age, Carmen’s “worldliness” is demonstrated by the only possession she has when she is found as an orphan: a set of Russian Matryoshka dolls, even though her skin color and features would place her lineage in the Latin part of the world. For a majority of her life up until the show begins on new adventures, Sandiego’s history is a complete mystery to her. She has no memory of before being found by her adoptive family. This becomes a major driving point towards Sandiego’s personal quests.
Carmen Sandiego’s career as a thief begins early when she is adopted by an international guild of thieves, unbeknownst to her. She is raised to believe she is going to be a “thief for good,” whatever that means exactly. Carmen, being an impressionable young child, believes this obvious lie, and is trained with all the skills necessary to be a master thief. Once this charade is revealed, she goes AWOL. She then dedicates her life to stopping the evil organization’s plots.
The show’s primary selling point is the educational aspect. It tries its best to tell a good story while also maintaining the geographical education the original franchise was based on. Every place that Sandiego goes is explained with many details about the culture and local people at the beginning of the episode with an entertaining montage. Throughout the episode, the characters also give helpful facts about landmarks and geographical features. It makes great strides towards being sensitive to the cultures they present. In one episode, Carmen Sandiego is tasked with stopping a plot to destroy Uluru, more commonly known to English speakers as Ayers Rock. This natural landmark is a sacred religious site for the Aboriginal people of Australia and is quite a nice touch for the show to demonstrate a cultural sensitivity not seen much in media and literature relating to the Australian landmark.
Overall, “Carmen Sandiego” is just fun. The humor is clever and makes every effort to be educational as well. It is a refreshing taste of what a remake should be: a little bit of old, a little bit of new, and not hung up on what it should be, but what it can be. “Carmen Sandiego” makes an effort to educate its audience without being demeaning. It’s attention to teaching viewers about the world and world cultures is not lost on blind eyes. “Carmen Sandiego” receives a much-deserved A-plus rating.