TCA: Disney Channel Seeks More Diverse World

Made-for-TV movie The Cheetah Girls One World was filmed on location in India.
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Beverly Hills -- Coming off the success of Camp Rock and six Emmy Award nominations in the children's categories, Disney Channel trotted out the cast of its next movie, The Cheetah Girls One World, at the 2008 Television Critics Association press tour here Thursday.

The new installment of the series of made-for-TV movies takes place in India, where the namesake actresses star in a Bollywood film.

One critic commented that the panel -- which included Indian actors, as well as American actors of Indian descent -- was the most diverse she had seen during the TCA.

Disney Channel president Gary Marsh took the opportunity to explain his network's strategy of reaching out to a more diverse audience by changing the dynamics of who appears on their programming.

"I don't want to reveal who it is about, but there is a project [in the works] where there is a family in it, and I decided that just because of the rhythm of where we were, it made sense to cast this as an African-American family," Marsh said. "The producer said to me, 'But I didn't write it for an African-American family.' I said, 'Here's the beauty of it. You don't have to change a word.' It's making an affirmative effort to change the way television looks."

In the case of Cheetah Girls, the producers decided that the third installment should be set in India while they were filming the second movie in Barcelona, Spain. Not only that, but they wanted to film the movie on location to ensure that it was as authentic as possible.

"As it happened, Disney Channel has a huge presence in India," executive producer Debra Martin Chase said, "so it kind of worked both creatively and from a business standpoint."

Marsh hopes that the network’s shows will not only reflect the diversity of the people in the world, but hopefully change perceptions, as well.

"I am hoping, hope of hopes, that this generation of kids who were raised on [Disney programming] have that same sense of a color-blind world as they grow up," he said.

For the latest news and video from the TCA press tour, click here.

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