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April 24, 2024
Food Program

Muffins and Potatoes, the Obamas’ food show?

In 2018, Netflix’s successful signing of the Obamas took the streaming platform by storm. Obama and his wife Michelle will work as producers for Netflix, collaborating with the streaming service on a range of films, episodes, TV shows and documentaries.This isn’t just a stunt for Netflix. After signing the deal, the Obamas founded Higher Ground Production, a production company that has been producing successful projects. In 2019, the documentary “American Factory” won many documentary awards, including the Academy Awards, and the latest film “Disabled Camp” was nominated for Best documentary at this year’s Academy Awards.

This time, the Obamas are once again living up to the hype with their foray into television.

Muffins and Potatoes, the children’s food show starring Michelle Obama, debuted on Netflix on March 16 and has a 95 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an impressive 7.6 on IMDb.

If you’re curious about what makes a good food show? Muffins and Potato may have the answer.

“Muffins and Potato” breaks away from the traditional reality show format. Despite Michelle’s presence, the real protagonists are Waffles, a half-waffle, half-snowman puppet, and Mochi, a potato who can only talk in an incomprehensible voice. The story of Muffin and Potato begins with an expedition. Both Waffles and Mochi dream of being chefs, but they come from the “land of frozen foods,” and ice cubes are the only food they can make. So they decided to travel far and find work at Michelle’s grocery store. To complete one task after another, they drive around the world in a magic talking car, searching for food secrets with the help of other foodies.

For children, Muffins and Potato is a simple adventure story. It does not break the integrity of the story because of the introduction of food. Instead, the content of popular science is embedded in the story in the form of adventure after adventure. When Waffles and Mochi have questions, the Magic car turns into a food encyclopedia. It scans the food to find the location and gourmet for Waffles and Mochi, and gives a brief introduction to the next characters on the car’s screen.

In addition to the magic car, a grocery store locker that opens its mouth, a mop that eats upside down, and a bee next to Michelle are all presented in anthropomorphic forms to interact with Waffles and Mochi. This design is completely in line with the taste of children, that is, every object in the fairy tale has a life setting, which also enrichis the relationship between the characters, and makes the grocery store a perfect miniature world.

As Michelle says, Muffins and Potatoes is a food show that adults can enjoy without the kids around. On IMDb, a 39-year-old man says that even he can enjoy “Muffins and Potatoes” without children and recommends more adults watch it.

Muffins and Potatoes is popular precisely because it ensures children’s understanding without giving up on the density of knowledge required by adult audiences. For example, the types and production of herbs in the film are also a blind spot for many adults. Taking the process of salt mining in Peru for hundreds of years as an example, the production of special food around the world can also continue to stimulate the audience’s interest in watching and the psychology of curiosity.

At the same time, the gourmets that Waffles and Mochi visit in each episode are well-known celebrity chefs, and every audience interested in food will be fattened by them. Muffins and Potato also has crossover eggs for Netflix viewers. The ninth episode’s mushroom theme, for example, included a reference to mushrooms from the Netflix sci-fi thriller “Stranger Things,” and the finale featured a season-ending meal from Waffles and Mochi that paid homage to the cuisine of the popular food show “Chef’s Table.”

At a time when food shows are becoming increasingly homogenized, Muffins and Potato is taking the edge off. Instead of the high-saturation, high-sharp, warm color style of food shows to whet viewers’ appetites, the images are shot in the high-pitched style of most sitcoms or romantic movies. The light is soft and symmetrical, each frame is very bright, and there is a fresh feeling in the face. The whole picture and scenery style is low saturation macaron color, fresh and sweet, like a fairy tale world in the trivial life.

The art team behind Muffin & Potato used mixed media techniques to create the interior of the grocery store with a combination of live-action and live special effects techniques, clay animations of earth models were sprinkled throughout Waffles and Mochi’s travels, and the display on the Magic car was in the visual style of classic ’70s children’s TV shows.

Waffles and Mochi animated characters were created by Ancient Order of the Wooden Skull studio, which designed Waffles as a furry string carrying doll, allowing Waffles to move freely through the miniature landscape of the physical grocery store. Different from post-production animation, Muppet Waffles have a stronger sense of touch and can communicate with guests in real time, avoiding the stiff feeling of interaction between real people and animated characters.

It is worth mentioning that each episode of Muffin and Potato has its own animation that fits the theme of the current issue. In the first issue of the theme of tomatoes, in order to further explore whether tomatoes belong to vegetables or fruits, an animated tomato figure, from a subjective perspective, through the singing of the musical to deduce people’s misunderstanding of tomatoes.

For the salt theme of the second issue, the program created several taste figures, including “sweet,” “bitter,” “sour,” and “salty.” Each time Waffles added spices to a dish, the corresponding taste figures could sense it. In this way, the simple process of making delicious food becomes vivid and interesting, and the taste properties represented by “salt” are further emphasized, which can be felt by children outside the screen.

It is no exaggeration to say that “edutainment” is no longer enough to describe “Muffin and Potato”. The program design concept of “Muffin and potato” has far exceeded the scope of a children’s program or even a food program.

In this culinary adventure, Waffles and Mochi visit restaurants for the hearing-impaired and Magic Car introduces African countries that are still suffering from severe water and water shortages. Most memorably, Waffles and Mochi learn about rice plantations during slavery in Savannah, Georgia, while Mochi is on a journey to find her ancestors.

This time’s guest, Michael Twitty, author of The Cooking Gene and an expert on African and American ways of eating, leads Waffles and Mochi on the connection between rice farming and slavery in the United States. However, he does not express his feelings and positions at length, but tells the whole story of history with restraint and flatness.

Muffins and Potato contains a large number of historical and social issues worth thinking about. However, the program team does not try to indoctrinate them in the form of lectures. Instead, they experience and feel them naturally as Waffles and Mochi. Any program should learn from the fact that it deals with every heavy moment in a light and honest way and tells it in an eloquent way.

Obama has been an advocate for healthy eating since she came onto the American scene in 2008. So Muffins and Potatoes isn’t just a food show, it’s an idea export. In a country plagued by obesity and junk food, it is important to show children how to understand food itself.

“Muffins and Potatoes” is no longer Western-centric, but travels to all corners of the world. Waffles and Mochi make rice balls with families in Japan, attend kimchi conferences in Korea, and deliver their kimchi to those in need. At the same time, the program will also interview children from different countries on the same issue every episode, echoing the setting of the world to enjoy food together.

The Muffin & Yam team has also worked with brands such as Walmart to deliver 1 million healthy food items to food-insecure families across the United States. The boxes were designed based on the Muffin & Yam theme, and the ingredients and recipes were derived entirely from the show. Meanwhile, on the Muffin & Potato website, children can earn the same Waffles and Mochi badges by cooking with their families.

The concept of healthy diet is no longer a gold-plating method for the program, nor is it just an online appeal, but has been implemented in every aspect of real life. The adherence of Muffin and Potato to the original intention of the program is worth learning and reference for more programs.

It can be said that the themes of “food” and “children” do not limit the pattern of Muffins and Potatoes, but Muffins and Potatoes gives them a new height.

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