Cal State Fullerton Alum on Creating Nickelodeon’s “Shimmer and Shine”

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Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz, creator and executive producer of Nickelodeon’s “Shimmer and Shine,” knows what appeals to the pre-K set. The Cal State Fullerton alum is the creative force behind the popular cartoon, in its second season, about two genies-in-training and their non-magical best friend. How do you go about creating a hit show for kids inundated with media options? It helps to live with your target audience.

Photo by Priscilla Iezzi

➤As an Irvine High School student, she became passionate about animation, inspired by the original “Toy Story.” After interning at Nickelodeon (with her now-husband Sean Charmatz, also an animator) in college, she narrowed her vision.

➤“In order to be a storyboard artist, you have to be good at making things up yourself, from scratch. I figured out that my skill set is more in deconstructing other people’s ideas in my mind and putting them back together. I wanted to be in charge and oversee everything and make creative decisions.”

➤After she was brought on at Nickelodeon, Esnaashari-Charmatz worked on “My Life as a Teenage Robot,” “Dora the Explorer,” and “Go, Diego, Go!” and then pitched “Shimmer and Shine.” The idea came to her easily, she says.

➤“Even as adults, we kind of like the stuff that we liked as kids. I love glitter. My husband’s like, ‘Don’t bring that stuff in the house; it gets everywhere.’ But I love sparkly things. I also love genies. I used to watch‘I Dream of Jeannie,’ and actually
we just had Barbara Eden guest star on the show, which was so cool.”

➤The Charmatz kids—Shaya, 7, and Samira, 5—also provided inspiration for the series. “The minute my son got to an age where he started laughing at cartoons, I was fascinated. I tried to dissect what he found funny. And my daughter has often pitched me story ideas. I’m so lucky to have kids who are fans of the show. Even though my son is getting to the age where he’s got to be cool, he still watches it.”

➤Two characters on the show are named after the kids. “When I told my daughter, she ran around telling all the kids in the neighborhood that she was going to be a princess on the show. I was like, ‘OK, be humble! Let’s go!’ And then when she saw the finished drawing of the character she started shaking and hyperventilating and whispered, ‘Is this me? I’m so beautiful.’ I just about died.”

➤“As a kid, I could never go into a gift shop and buy a key chain with my name on it. There was never a ‘Farnaz’—maybe a ‘Frank.’ So I hope that long after I’m gone, when people meet my kids, maybe they’ll go, ‘Oh, I used to watch a show
where they had those names.’ ”

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