Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...
AN ANTI-BARBIE FOR THE 'TWEEN SET
HER PARENTS ARE DIVORCED (BUMMER), her face is prone to zits, and she's terrified of being labeled a dork by her seventh-grade friends. In short: "My life is trash!" wails the animated, acerbic star of Disney's Pepper Ann, part of ABC's top-rated Saturday-morning cartoon block. The rookie series is especially popular with " 'tweeners"—the too-old-for-Barney, too-young-for-Leonardo set. Sue Rose, Pepper Ann's creator, explains the kid's dilemma: "Around 12, something causes girls to be more self-conscious, introverted and insecure. I feel I'm in touch with those feelings," says Rose, 44, who can still vividly recall her own angst at that age.
Not coincidentally, then, the curly-haired, bespectacled Pepper Ann also bears a striking resemblance to her creator, an art-school student turned J. Walter Thompson account exec who quit the ad game in 1986 to take up her first love, cartooning. She draws upon her own childhood in Hudson, N.Y., to tell the story of her animated alter ego and her adventures with her first bra, her first kiss and her divorced mom's first date.
Rose's own mom, a women's clothing-store owner, and dad, a sportswear manufacturer, have been wed 50 years. But for the series, "I wanted to show single-parent families as valid and loving," says Rose, who—single herself and living in L.A.—says she might have kids someday. In the meantime, she keeps tapping into 'tween-set anxieties. "We're not telling kids how to live," says Rose. "But by talking about certain things, we're telling them they aren't alone."