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Santa Ynez Chumash tribal member helms Spirit Rangers, a new animated Netflix series 

Getting "slimed" is a rite of passage for newbies at Nickelodeon Studios, former intern Karissa Valencia revealed.

Like many millennials, Valencia—who grew up on the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians' reservation—remembers seeing people getting drenched in Nickelodeon's iconic green ooze on Slime Time Live as a kid.

"They did slime the interns. I just opted out. I was like, 'I'm OK,'" said Valencia, who managed to avoid the slime hazing part of her "Nick-ternship" at the studio. "My '90s heart was so happy just being there. ... It was a huge deal, I watched everything under the sun on Nickelodeon."

click to enlarge FAMILY VALUES Spirit Rangers follows three junior park rangers, Kodi, Summer, and Eddy, seen here embracing their mother, the head ranger at Xus National Park, a fictionalized national park inspired by various parks in California. - IMAGE COURTESY OF NETFLIX
  • Image Courtesy Of Netflix
  • FAMILY VALUES Spirit Rangers follows three junior park rangers, Kodi, Summer, and Eddy, seen here embracing their mother, the head ranger at Xus National Park, a fictionalized national park inspired by various parks in California.

Valencia said it felt surreal to be in the same office space as the late Spongebob Squarepants creator Stephen Hillenburg and other animation legends. Before the LA-based internship, Valencia was a grad student at Syracuse University in New York, where she studied television, radio, and film with the intention of becoming a screenwriter for animated projects.

click to enlarge BEHIND THE SCENES Santa Ynez Chumash tribal member Karissa Valencia is the creator, showrunner, and executive producer of Spirit Rangers, a new preschool series that recently premiered on Netflix. - COURTESY PHOTO BY ARAYA DOHENY
  • Courtesy Photo By Araya Doheny
  • BEHIND THE SCENES Santa Ynez Chumash tribal member Karissa Valencia is the creator, showrunner, and executive producer of Spirit Rangers, a new preschool series that recently premiered on Netflix.

"I've always loved animation. I feel like animation is just a place where you can be anything and do anything, and that really excites me as a storyteller," Valencia said. "It was a space I always wanted to land in at some point."

Valencia's writing credits now include several episodes of Disney's Vampirina, a children's show about an 8-year-old vampire and her family's bed and breakfast for ghouls and goblins. Vampirina was created by Chris Nee, who was the first person to get a glimpse of Valencia's two-page treatment for a show of her own, Spirit Rangers.

Nee was seeking content for a Netflix project at the time, and Valencia's pitch for a preschool series about three Native American junior park rangers fit the bill. Valencia and Nee serve as executive producers on Spirit Rangers, which debuted on Netflix on Indigenous Peoples' Day, observed on Oct. 10 this year.

Valencia described the show—which marks the writer's first outing as creator and showrunner—as a love letter to Indigenous youth and a celebration of the rich heritage of Native American storytelling, with elements inspired by tribal stories she grew up hearing.

The show follows three siblings, Kodi, Summer, and Eddy Skycedar, who share a unique ability—they're able to transform into "spirit rangers," which allows them to take on the perspectives of animals while seeking to protect the land and spirits of the national park their family calls home.

An avid Sailor Moon fan growing up, Valencia said that the transformation sequences in Spirit Rangers were partly inspired by similar scenes found in the popular '90s anime series. Another childhood fave of Valencia's was Rugrats, which shares a common cast member with Spirit Rangers.

"I'm so happy to say we have Cree Summer on the show. She voiced Susie in Rugrats and now she's voicing Lizard for us," Valencia said of the performer, who's lent her voice to Tiny Toon Adventures, Batman Beyond, and countless other kids programs in the past. "She's like a voiceover powerhouse, she's done everything. ... It's been really cool to have my animation heroes now be working on Spirit Rangers."

Valencia currently lives in LA but returns to the Santa Ynez Valley often to visit her father and other family members.

click to enlarge TERRIFIC TRIO Kodi, Summer, and Eddy take on new perspectives as a grizzly bear cub, a red-tailed hawk, and a turtle, respectively, to help protect a national park, in the new fantasy-adventure preschool series, Spirit Rangers. - IMAGE COURTESY OF NETFLIX
  • Image Courtesy Of Netflix
  • TERRIFIC TRIO Kodi, Summer, and Eddy take on new perspectives as a grizzly bear cub, a red-tailed hawk, and a turtle, respectively, to help protect a national park, in the new fantasy-adventure preschool series, Spirit Rangers.

"I do have family on the reservation still, which is always fun to visit," Valencia said. "One of my favorite times to go back is to see Grass Mountain when those poppies are in bloom. It's just so beautiful; I love to see that."

One of Valencia's favorite bookstores is located in the valley as well, and she hopes to see some upcoming picture books based on Spirit Rangers and published by Random House on its shelves in the future.

"I love the Book Loft in Solvang," Valencia said. "I'm hoping some Spirit Rangers books will get there someday." Δ

Calendar Editor Caleb Wiseblood wants to know what you're streaming. Send comments to [email protected].

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