Here’s a girl who can talk to the animals--or at least to an elusive humpback whale. She’s the mysterious Ocean Girl, discovered off the Great Barrier Reef by a family who recently relocated to Australia.
The new fantasy-adventure series, acquired by the Disney Channel, is produced and shot in Australia. Set underwater, in tropical rain forests, around waterfalls, lagoons and the coral reef, “Ocean Girl” focuses on Neri (Marzena Godecki) and two boys, Jason (David Hoflin) and Brett (Jeffrey Walker), who discover her.
Neri can swim amazingly fast and communicate telepathically with her best friend, a 40-ton humpback whale she calls Charley. The boy’s recently divorced marine biologist mother, Dr. Dianne Bates (Kerry Armstrong), has moved her family to ORCA, a futuristic underwater research colony in the Great Barrier Reef. Dr. Bates and her scientist partner, Dr. Winston Seth (Alex Pinder), set out to study the brain patterns of the humpback whale, choosing Charley as their subject.
After the boys befriend Neri (and keep her a secret from their mother), she shows them the beauty of the environment.
“We were very excited about it when we heard about it,” says Doug Zwick, vice president of program acquisitions, who dubs the show “90H20.” “It’s very exciting visually and creates a successful different world.”
Heavy Australian accents don’t deter from the show, Disney programmers say. “It was actually produced by an American, Jonathan Shiff, who brings a real American sense to the show,” emphasizes Zwick. Moreover, he adds, “You get so caught up in the unique reality they’ve created.”
The show, while first a fantasy, is “grounded in a ‘90s sensibility for kids, without using robots, which are all over the place now. It’s a good continuing story,” Zwick says. There is, he notes, “a good female protagonist, who’s not just tagging along with the boys, but is often the leader. It’s a story for both boys and girls.”
The show’s title star, 16-year-old Marzena, believes kids will respond to the beautiful locations. “They’ll like how the girl and the whale are linked and the underwater city. There are a lot of positive messages about the environment and messages about believing in yourself,” she says during a phone break on the show’s Australian film shoot.
“For kids who haven’t seen the reefs and the rain forests, we show them what there is to lose and what a shame it would be if that happened,” Marzena says. “The barrier reefs are just incredible.”
Zwick says Disney was so confident in the series that it added a request for an additional 13 episodes to the previous 13.
“Ocean Girl” airs Mondays at 7:30 p.m. on the Disney Channel. For ages 6 and up.
More Family Shows
Sunday’s part 2 of By Way of the Stars (Sunday 2 p.m. Disney) continues to follow the adventures of young Lukas and Baroness Ursula as they travel from Prussia to throughout North America looking for their families. The four-part miniseries concludes at the end of the month. For ages 6 and up.
Disney has also acquired Fox’s The Sinbad Show (Monday at 7 p.m.), about a bachelor who takes in two foster children, starring comedian Sinbad; the animated Marsupliami (Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 a.m.), about a mischievous jungle creature; HBO’s The Baby-Sitters Club (Thursdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at noon), which follows the adventures of a group of eighth-grade girls, and The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which catches up with the lovable bear at Hundred Acre Wood (weekdays at 8 a.m.) For ages 4 and up.