Editor’s Note: Babble and Disney Junior are a part of the Walt Disney Company.
I can still remember the night before my first day of 3rd grade like it was yesterday. My family had moved to a different town over the summer, and I was about to attend a new school for the first time. I didn’t know anyone there, and I had all the typical kid worries about fitting in and not sticking out.
What if no one likes me here? I thought. What if I can’t make friends?
Of course, I made it through just fine. And with more than a decade of parenthood under my belt now, I’ve helped my own kids through new schools and first day jitters, too. I’ve also reassured my 7-year-old son, who was born with a limb difference, that people are going to see past what’s on the outside and realize he’s no different than them on the inside, after all.
Thanks to Disney Junior, there’s now a new kids’ show on TV that aims to send that message, too. It’s called Vampirina, and it tells the story of a young vampire named Vampirina Hauntley (AKA “Vee”), who’s recently moved from Transylvania to Pennsylvania. (How cute is that?!) Along the way, she faces the many joys of being the new kid in town, from making friends to attending a new school in the human world when you’re just a little bit different.
Vee has blue skin, pointy teeth, and little ponytails that resemble bat wings — but don’t worry, she’s not scary at all. In fact, she’s downright adorable, and and relatable in all the same ways that most Disney Junior characters are.
And if you have a little girl, I’m going to go ahead and warn you right now: She’s going to LOVE Vee. She’s also going to totally want a replica of Vee’s black and pink cobwebbed pinafore, because they are just too cute.
Vee’s parents — Boris and Oxana Hauntley — are vampires, too. And while they both sport blue skin and pointy teeth just like Vee, they’re also warm and encouraging, while trying to navigate the unfamiliar human world themselves. Boris is adorably dorky and Oxana is stylish and chic (while also aspiring to run a “Scare B&B” one day — LOL.) But here’s why parents will really love Boris and Oxana: They’re voiced by James Van Der Beek (AKA Dawson Leery, your 8th-grade crush) and Lauren Graham (Yes — THAT Lauren Graham!).
Vee is also joined by a hilarious gargoyle sidekick and a playful ghost, who offer moral support and companionship as she bravely puts herself out there and tries to fit in and make friends.
“Humans are a teensy bit terrified of things they’ve never seen before,” Vee’s dad tells her one day, when she shares some fears about not fitting in in Pennsylvania. (Ain’t that the truth.)
Heartfelt messages like that one pop up throughout each episode, offering encouragement to kids as well as gentle reminders to parents that it’s important to teach kids to practice kindness and embrace diversity. Vampirina offers us all some great starting points for taking conversations about inclusion to the next level once the episode has ended.
As a parent, I’ve enjoyed watching many Disney Junior shows alongside my kid but I found Vampirina particularly entertaining — and touching. I watched the first two episodes with my own to kids, who were both engrossed in the storyline from the get-go, and I loved all the little details that carry the vampire theme through the Hauntley’s house. The kitchen fridge is coffin-shaped (complete with sticky reminders!), as are the moldings on the cabinets. Vee’s toys are adorably monster-themed (her Barbie-like dolls even have a “Scream House”). And the family stays connected via the “World Wide Cobweb.”
Trust me: For parents who watch the same episodes of beloved television shows over and over (and over), this is one that you won’t actually get sick of. (Yes, even when you’ve watched it 10-plus times with your kids. Ask me how I know.)
Although the series begins with Vampirina expressing her fears about fitting in with her classmates, she learns along the way that it’s ultimately more valuable to celebrate the qualities that make each individual unique.
And that is a message I want my kids to hear loud and clear.
As part of the Disney|ABC Television Group’s “Choose Kindness” initiative, which coincides with October’s National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, Disney Junior is encouraging children to show kindness at home, in school, and within their community via a recurring on-air interstitial featuring Vampirina, as well as kindness-themed activity sheets that will be made available to schools, parents, and caregivers right here.
You can catch Vampirina on Disney Junior beginning Sunday, October 1.