Verbena girl stars in cartoon

Published 7:25 pm Thursday, July 2, 2009

Imagine being a kid and seeing yourself on TV. Now, imagine seeing yourself as a cartoon and interacting with other cartoon characters.

Five-year-old Justise Rose Aquino of Verbena didn’t have to imagine. She was selected to appear on an episode of PICME on the 24-hour preschool TV network Sprout.

PICME has an interactive Web page at that allows parents to upload a photo of their child and digitally superimpose his or her image onto an animated body using special software called Head-hunter. Winners are selected at random to star on the show.

“She’s very excited,” Justise’s mother, Lisa, said in a phone interview. “She likes to watch the videos.”

PICME is a five-minute show based on simple themes and repetition geared toward a preschooler’s attention span. It airs twice a day and features a different child’s image in each episode. The child is seen interacting with animal “co-stars” named Juno, Gerty, Banjo, Umi, Clarence and Neville.

Episodes may be viewed on the Sprout TV network as well as on the Internet.

“It’s been very popular,” said Cathleen Kiernan, spokesperson for Sprout. “Children are fascinated by the magic of TV, and when they see themselves it’s very exciting for them.”

The Aquinos, who moved here from Massachusetts in September 2008, are sensitive about the programming they watch because of their children. Justise, who will attend kindergarten at Clanton Elementary this fall, has a 1-year-old sister and an 8-year-old brother.

“We only watch channels that are appropriate for her,” Lisa Aquino said. “It’s done wonders for her. She knows a lot of her shapes, and she has learned all her colors by watching Sprout.”

Justise appeared nationally Tuesday on PICME in an episode called “Playing Games.” The episode teaches kids how to play games together and share in the experience.