Women and Deaf-led, “Here Comes Mavo!” is designed to advance Deaf-led storytelling, increase diversity and engagement in entertainment, and make sign language in animation a prolific worldwide reality. “Mavo!” features customized motion capture technology, creating authentic 3D movement and expressions of visual signed language.

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2022 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — Gallaudet University’s Motion Light Lab and Pigmental Studios announced today they are launching “Here Comes Mavo!”, the first animated children’s television series featuring a Deaf lead character and 3D avatars who use sign language. This ground-breaking series is designed to advance Deaf-led storytelling, increase diversity and engagement in entertainment, and make sign language in animation a prolific worldwide reality.

Gallaudet and Pigmental have created “Here Comes Mavo!” to be the definitive destination for both deaf and hearing children to learn and use sign language while being educated in socio-emotional concepts and, as importantly, entertained. With plans in discussion for global distribution and the inclusion of different sign languages, “Here Comes Mavo!” will feature 52 eleven-minute episodes including “Embarrassed,” “Confused” and “Curious”, all centered on the magical land of the Baobab Universe. It is here, in her hometown, where Mavo, a curious eight-year-old Deaf girl, stumbles into the roots of a tree, learning how to cope with her emotions and finding ways to communicate her feelings with the other characters in this adventurous world.

“Mavo!” was created to address the lack of aspirational Deaf and signing characters in children’s media. The series has four primary goals: increase appreciation and awareness of Deaf cultures, Deaf communities, the Deaf experience and Deaf ways of being; introduce viewers to signed language; encourage viewers to use and value visual communication; and support viewers’ social-emotional learning (SEL). In addition to allowing deaf children to see themselves authentically and positively represented in powerful roles in media, “Mavo!” also supports hearing children to explore and grow their knowledge about different languages and cultures.

Customized Motion Capture Technology Creates 3D Avatars Who Are Fluent in Sign Language

One of the distinguishing elements at the center of “Here Comes Mavo!” is a customized motion capture technology solution developed by Gallaudet University’s Motion Light Lab. This state-of-the-art motion capture technology – a multi-camera system with faceware technology — has been specifically designed to capture the unique essence and nuances of sign language, including finger and body movements and facial expressions, and to depict the complexity of movement, flow, and grammatical structures of sign language. The 3D signing characters in Mavo’s world are the first-ever avatars in a dedicated children’s series to be fluent in American Sign Language (ASL).

The lead character in “Here Comes Mavo!” was inspired by Melissa Malzkuhn, founder and director of the Motion Light Lab at Gallaudet University. Malzkuhn is a leading technologist and educator who is Deaf, a past Obama Fellow, a current Ashoka fellow, and one of the developers behind The ASL App, a leading app for learning sign language. In 2013, with an all-Deaf team, she created and launched “The Baobab“, the world’s first bilingual ASL and English storybook and the origin for the character of Mavo. More recently, Malzkuhn cofounded CREST Network, a global network to promote research and equity in sign language technologies.

The television series was created by Marina Martins, CEO and Creative Director of Pigmental Studios, working in close collaboration with Malzkuhn. An accomplished storyteller, Martins founded Pigmental Studios in 2014 as a global animation studio focused on immersive and collaborative storytelling. With studios in Washington, D.C., on the Gallaudet University campus, and Los Angeles and Ireland, Pigmental is an independent global entertainment company with dedicated financing for animated theatrical feature films and television series. For five years, Martins has been teaching a Storytelling in Animation class which focuses on teaching deaf students to tell their stories in an industry level format, engaging them in all aspects of the studio.

“In a time where diversity and inclusion are vital how is it possible that there is not a single dedicated animated television show, catering to the deaf community and sign language users?” asked Malzkuhn. “This is exactly why we have created “Mavo!”, not only to deliver powerful authentic and culturally relevant programming for deaf children who have been vastly left out of this educational experience, but also to revolutionize the future of storytelling and animation.”

“We are very excited to be collaborating with Gallaudet University to launch this ground-breaking new children’s series,” said Martins. “This is so much more than a TV show, this is about closing a significant gap in the entertainment world and delivering on the critical need for storytelling by and for the deaf community. Mavo without question will bring a much-needed leap forward of greater linguistic and cultural diversity to our industry and inform the development of inclusive storytelling forever.”

“Here Comes Mavo!” has a strong curriculum foundation. It was developed with several experts in early childhood development, neuroscience, and bilingual learning, including leaders from two prominent research laboratories at Gallaudet University — the Science of Learning Center on Visual Language and Visual Learning and the Gesture Literacy Knowledge Studio.

One of the goals of “Here Comes Mavo!”, added Malzkuhn, “is to develop a strong pipeline of deaf talents in storytelling and animation. With “Mavo!”, we definitely want to expand the opportunities for deaf students and young deaf creatives in the entertainment industry.”

Martins adds, “Pigmental’s goal is to provide a professional development, transitional working experience for students, and importantly, to provide the financial and training resources for the creation of authentic Deaf-led content to a worldwide audience.”

Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of Deaf, hard of hearing and Deafblind individuals through American Sign Language and English. The university enrolls over 1,600 students in more than 40 undergraduate majors and many master’s and doctoral programs. It also conducts research in various fields, including accessible technology, Deaf history and culture, Black Deaf history and culture, brain imaging, educational neuroscience, education, linguistics, and psychology.

Motion Light Lab (“ML2”) is an award-winning research and development lab at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. ML2 is part of the National Science Foundation/Gallaudet University Science of Learning Center on Visual Language and Visual Learning. ML2 engages in a wide range of research-driven projects, creative R&D, including the development and distribution of bilingual storybook apps, the provision of training to support literacy development for deaf children, and the creation of advanced 3D avatars with sign language fluency through motion capture technology. ML2’s efforts intersect creative literature and digital technology that integrate with VL2 science to create new knowledge, immersive learning experiences, and benefit society.

Pigmental Studios brings mindfully crafted stories to life through animation and authentic, cultural collaborative storytelling. A different type of animation studio, Pigmental Studios develops high value, internally owned properties that delight global and underserved audiences across many vehicles, including feature films, television, and gaming. Led by CEO and Creative Director Marina Martins, Pigmental Studios delivers groundbreaking and immersive narratives in cooperation with award-winning writers, artists, and technologists. Currently headquartered in Washington, DC, Pigmental Studios also operates globally, including Los Angeles, CA, Vancouver, Canada, and London, UK, with recent expansion into Navan, Ireland. Find out which stories we are working on by visiting pigmentalstudios.com.

Media Contacts:

Gallaudet University
Robert Weinstock

The Durkin Agency
Alana Cowan

Media Contact

Karen Durkin, The Durkin Agency, 1 3864514850, karen.durkin@thedurkinagency.com

SOURCE Gallaudet University