The creation of West Seattle author Carmela D'Amico, Ella the Elephant will make her American debut on the Disney Channel Feb. 17 in an animated series.
Ella the Elephant and positive philosophy
Local author's character will debut on the Disney Channel Feb. 17
By Emile Monte
10 years ago, West Seattle author Carmela D’Amico was not yet the published novelist she aspired to be and the idea of a 400+ page novel was still too daunting a prospect considering her just 20+ years of life experience. She instead became reacquainted with children’s literature as she read to her infant daughter, Olivia, only to find that many of those stories were “fluff”—more entertainment than education. Married at the time to aspiring children’s illustrator, Steven D’Amico, she decided to write the kind of story she’d want her own daughter to read. That meant relatable characters and conflicts, intelligent moral guidance, and a whimsical, magical environment. She used her own childhood fancies and experience as inspiration.
For instance, the elephants. D’Amico always felt an affinity for elephants—their matriarchal social structure and powerful, yet, calm presence—, and they even played a part in her very first 15 minutes of fame. A shy, serious child, six-year-old D’Amico was assigned for homework the task of coming up with her own joke to tell in front of the class. Intimidated at the prospect, she promptly forgot about the assignment as soon as she came home from school and instead tuned into an episode of The Brady Bunch. Bobby Brady, exhausted after a painting job, sighed, “Boy, I’m pooped.” Six-year-old D’Amico thought it was hilarious and, when asked to recite her joke to the class the next day, she was inspired: “What do you do when you get swallowed by an elephant? …You run around and around until you get pooped.”
Her elephant joke made it all the way to the Johnny Carson show.
What emerged from the adult D’Amico’s imagination was an idealized reflection of her own childhood: a timid little elephant girl, Ella, goes to a new school and is bullied. With a little help from her magic hat, though, she manages to embody the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In three further books, Ella must learn self-reliance, responsibility, and that blessings sometimes come in disguise, all while delivering a cake, taking part in a talent show, and sailing.
Now, the award-winning book series has been animated, which is really a perfect solution for D’Amico’s visual-focused process of writing. The animated series will debut in the U.S. on Monday, February 17th on Disney Channel (7:00 a.m. ET/PT) and Disney Junior (1:00 p.m. ET/PT). The series is produced by DHX Media. D’Amico consults with a talented team of writers so that episodes maintain the integrity of the characters and overall message.
No more Ella the Elephant books are in the works, but the series remains D’Amico’s first step toward positive expression of her own traumatic childhood experiences of being bullied and misunderstood and toward advocating for bringing mindfulness and self-awareness into the public school curriculum. In the future her audience may also look forward to both a Young Adult novel and a memoir.
You can see the opening of the show in the video above.