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New Animated Children’s TV Series Hopes to Raise Environmental Awareness in Armenia

An animated TV series for children called “Berd Bears” launched at Yerevan’s Moscow Cinema today. An initiative by Homeland Handicrafts, the Berd Women’s Resource Center and KassArt Studio, the TV series aims to raise environmental awareness among not only children but also adults.

The idea behind the Berd Bears originated from Homeland Handicrafts, the founder of which, Timothy Straight, was encouraged to visit Berd — a village in the northeastern Armenian marz (province) of Tavush just 9 kms from the Azerbaijani border — by local Peace Corps Volunteer John Hart in March of this year. Once Mr. Straight saw an example of a bear knitted by local women, the idea for producing more teddy bears for sale was born.

According to an earlier blog post on the Homeland Handicrafts website, “For us, the joy is not only the fact that these are fabulous bears, but that we are providing work to several women in Berd who have not earned a penny of their own in ten years.”

Prompted by the success of the Berd Bear initiative, Mr. Straight then approached Vrej Kassouny of KassArt Studio with an idea to launch an animated TV series.

The cast of the series includes Archo the Bear (voice by Arsen Grigoryan), Arsho the Bear (played by popular Armenian actress Irina Danielyan), Kar-Kar the Crow (the “evil villain” played by Vigen Stepanyan), Meghu the Bee (by well-known Armenian singer Aramo) and Titer the Butterfly (also played by Irina Danielyan). Archo the Bear has one ear bigger than the other, one eye bigger than the other and the stomach that’s off to the side, but what’s important, as Mr. Kassouny pointed out, is the focus on inner beauty rather than external beauty.

Introducing the concept at the launch today, Mr. Straight described how growing up, he would watch programming that taught children not to pollute, to conserve water and electricity and generally keep the environment clean. It is with this in mind that the creators hope to make the “Berd Bears” TV series available to Armenian audiences.

Asked whether he thinks that Yerevan or Armenia is so polluted that drove him to suggest such a TV series, Mr. Straight responded in the negative, saying that it is a lack of environmental awareness that exists in Armenia rather than any apparent pollution.

However, to illustrate his concern, Mr. Straight recounted an episode of a family who got out of a car in a church parking lot in Noravank. The young boy, with an empty cola bottle in his hand, asked his mother what he should do with it. His mother simply said, “Throw it on the ground.” And so it is, as one attendee pointed out, that the “Berd Bears” TV series is not only for children, but also for adults.

Mr. Kassouny, in turn, when asked whether the team had approached local TV stations to air the series, said there has been “great interest” but nothing concrete has come through yet. Today’s launch included a demo of what’s in store for television audiences — if the series is picked up and receives financial backing.

Mr. Straight noted that they will be contacting TV stations, mobile (telecommunications) companies and embassies for support. The team expects to wrap up pre-production by the end of this year and begin fundraising soon. If all goes well, they hope to have the series ready by early spring of next year.