One of the original “One Saturday Morning” cartoons on Disney/ABC’s Saturday morning lineup, “Pepper Ann” featured the titular character, an imaginative, spirited twelve year old who marched to the beat of her own drummer and got herself (and her friends) into plenty of missteps and adventures. Pepper Ann was voiced by character actress Kathleen Wilhoite and was an unusual female protagonist. She was tall and lanky, with a shock of red hair and glasses – definitely not the prototypical heroine aimed at young women. Her friends were equally unusual – the highstrung overachiever Nicky Little (voiced by Clea Lewis, best known as Audrey on “Ellen”) and the laid back artist Milo Kamalani (voiced by Danny Cooksey, best known as Budnick on “Salute Your Shorts”). The show ran from 1997 to 2001 and was frequently praised for its frank humorous discussions about issues facing young teens (particularly teenage girls), including bullying, puberty, and divorced parents.
I was 14 when this show started and I remember wholeheartedly identifying with the awkward, gravelly-voiced Pepper Ann, despite being slightly too old for cartoons. It was awesome, as a geek girl, to see a geek girl being portrayed in a positive and realistic way. Pepper Ann was cool because she stayed true to herself and the series showed the women in Pepper Ann’s life (her mom, her Aunt Lydia, her sister Moose, and Nicky) were strong, independent and quirky, just like she was. I loved that she wore glasses and Chuck Taylor-style sneakers, just like I did and I watched the entire series, even when I was in high school and definitely too old for cartoons. It also had a kick ass theme song!
Disney has not released the series on DVD and, by all accounts, has no plans to, which is pretty disappointing. If you’re jonesing for your “Pepper Ann” fix, you can watch a selection of episodes on YouTube.