Taking their love for their Mexican culture and cartoons, husband-wife animation team Jorge R. Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua have created a superhero for the new Latino generation. His name is Manny Rivera and in his new show, “El: Tigre: The Adventure of Manny Rivera,” which premieres on Nickelodeon March 3 at 12 p.m., makes history by being the first Latin-themed cartoon created by Latinos themselves.
Voiced by Puerto Rican/Mexican actress Alanna Ubach (“Legally Blonde,” “Meet the Fockers”), Manny is 13-year-old kid torn between fighting the good fight alongside his superhero father White Pantera or laying the villain with his grandpapi Puma Loco.
With a quick spin of his belt buckle and the powers he received from his father’s magical bronze boots, Manny is able to transform into El Tigre and search for his true calling. Speaking with me via phone, Ubach, 31, talked about her new role as an energetic little boy, Mexican stereotypes, and reaching out to children everywhere with a message of family values.
What is it like to see an animated little boy speaking and your voice coming out of him?
It’s completely and totally wild. I’ve never played anyone like this before. I am so excited. The fact that a 13-year-old boy’s voice is coming out of my mouth is just beyond absurd to me and very exciting at the same time.
I know that Sandra and Jorge were trying to look for a little boy at first to give a voice to Manny, but they were worried that somewhere down the road the boy would hit puberty and his voice would change.
I didn’t think about that! It’s funny because I do go out (for voice auditions) for little boys. I have such a low voice, I’m always being considered for little boy roles. It’s hilarious. I’m a 31-yearold woman so go figure. You never know where fate may take you.
What other little boy characters have you voiced?
Well, Skate Lad was a character that I did for the show “Teamo Supremo” on Disney. He was about seven years old. When I went in to audition for (Jorge) he told me to think of Skate Lad, but a couple years older.
How does it feel to be a part of a history-making television show? This is the only Latino-themed cartoon written by Latinos every to hit television.
I’m very proud to be playing a Hispanic role. This is something that will hopefully make cartoon history.
Now, “El Tigre” does have some stereotypes when it comes to portraying Mexicans. Talk to me about that.
It’s wonderful to incorporate all the wonderful things we look up to in a superhero and slide them into a 13-year-old child. Especially, this boy who is Latin and who is a minority. He is like the hero of minorities. He has all these wonderful superpowers and he is ready to seize the day. It is really just a lot of fun.
Yes, the cartoon is very sweet and very safe when it presents the stereotypes but are you at all worried that people might get offended by some of these references? Remember Speedy Gonzales?
I don’t think so. At the end of the day the foundation is heart and it’s really about love and (Manny’s) relationship with his father and his grandfather. Because it has so much content in it, it would really be ridiculous for people to look at it at face value and think that it’s making fun of anyone. Anyone that is insulted by this really isn’t paying close attention to the cartoon.
Do you have any kids?
No, I don’t. I have a Pomeranian.
Neither do Sandra and Jorge. They told me that they consider Manny their first kid. Do you look at your characters as part of your family as well?
Oh sure. You have to. If you’re going to see this character every single week you have to channel the little boy in a way. I have a lot of little cousins who are really looking forward to seeing the show. (Manny’s) voice is really a combination of two of my cousins. It’s a combination of a lot of little boys I knew growing up as well. It’s a lot of fun to cook something up like that and bring it to life.
What message do you hope young kids, Latino or not, get from this new cartoon?
I hope it teaches them about values and I hope they have a lot of fun watching it. I hope it makes them feel good every Saturday morning. It’s definitely a cereal cartoon and I just can’t wait for all the kids in America – Hispanic, non-Hispanic, Chinese, Japanese – to sit down in their PJs, eat their cereal and enjoy “Manny Rivera.”