The Proud Family creator Bruce W. Smith reteamed with Moesha co-creator Ralph Farquhar, who worked on the original 2001-2005 Disney Channel series, to create a more mature version for Disney+ -- a show teens would watch. "We’re not on the (Disney) Channel anymore. We’re on the streaming service. And one of the first discussions we had were parameters," says Farquhar. "Look, we got this opportunity. We’re on this new platform. Are we going to still do the same show tonally? We were always in that direction in terms dealing with subject matter that wasn’t normally handled in family-oriented shows. We wanted to go more in that direction." Smith adds: "We had to complete… Essentially is that we had to continue to reinforce that to them, that they told us that, because we started getting notes through the lens of like a normal Disney Channel show. We were like, 'We are not that show anymore.' The fight was constant and real, but, listen, the material that was coming out of the writers room was undeniable. You couldn’t deny that in order to talk about this subject, you’ve got to talk about it in a way that only The Proud Family can talk about it. That was a credit to the writers room and Ralph and those guys, because it’s like that what’s really led the way for us to really stay the path and let’s be true to the stories that we want to tell. Let’s be true to what we know our audience is going to expect from us." As Farquhar notes, The Proud Family revival kept in mind the LGBTQ community. "Look, it’s a couple things," says Farquhar. "That we identified where the change had taken… the most change that we could tell, which is the notion of the LGBTQ community and how we’re incorporating everyone into our daily lives now. That was not acknowledging who people are, respecting their rights. That wasn’t happening too much in 2001 when we first began. And the other part was social media. That just didn’t… This whole notion of influencers, and we call it Holla’gram and Twiddle is our version of social media. That didn’t exist back when we first began to the extent it does now. Those were some of the major changes we made initially moving forward."
Farquhar on adding EJ Johnson to voice gender fluid Michael: "The first character we talked about was Michael, and we said we can’t do Michael like we did back then," he says. "I don’t know how we got away with it back then. It wasn’t a very good representation, largely because of our own ignorance, and also because there was no real interest from the network in terms of exploring a character from the LGBTQ community so it started with us wanting to have authentic representation in terms of the voice. I’ve personally known EJ Johnson since he was a kid, and I thought he would be perfect. So, he jumped at the chance to voice Michael and bring him to life. And as far as visual representation, (animator and character designer) Bruce W. Smith and his team really leaned into who Michael is; that character design is stunning, and has been our most popular redesign of a character, so that was important for us."
Smith and Farquhar still don't know why Disney Channel canceled The Proud Family in 2005: “From the moment we stopped doing the original version, we had been campaigning to bring it back,” says Farquhar. “We weren’t quite sure why we ever even stopped.” Kyla Pratt says overzealous fans have frequently reached out to her in real life. “People were talking to me literally every other day of my life, trying to get the show back on,” she says. Farquhar and Smith say they noticed a new outpouring from Proud fans after Disney+ began streaming the original series on Jan. 1, 2020. Soon after, Disney approached the men about a revival, and then publicly announced it on Feb. 27, 2020.
Smith on losing characters from the original series: “We always wanted to expand out the world,” says Smith. “In doing that, sometimes you have to revisit where characters are going and how we can bring in new characters. For us, expanding the world sometimes means you lose characters, but you also gain more characters that help grow the show in a direction we feel is necessary for this new version. That’s where a lot of our decisions lie.”
Kyla Pratt says she expected the reboot to be good: “I think knowing the situations that we had, and the storylines that we had, and the people that we have working on the project, I never felt that way. I felt like they were about to kill it in every single way,” she says, adding: “Just to be able to be a part of it and have so many people come back, and so easily. And to have so many people that are in this entertainment industry now that wanted to be a part of it, even if it was just the guest star, is an amazing feeling. It just shows you how important this was to people who came up when we came up.”