Craig & Tiffany: A Filipina-American in the Creek

Published July 16, 2021, 6:37 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

Tiffany Ford, Supervising Director of ‘Craig of the Creek,’ a gem of an animated series.

Craig of the Creek on HBO Go & Cartoon Network is an animated series that truly deserves a wider audience. It’s strong on diversity, life’s lessons, and with great takeaways for children and parents alike. Over its three seasons, it has picked up Daytime Emmy’s, NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Common Sense Media, & GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Awards nominations. Created by the team of Matt Burnett & Ben Levin, it’s been cited and praised for portraying diversity not only in the ethnic sense, but also when it comes to gender choices.

Set in a fictional Baltimore, Maryland suburb, the series follows Craig Williams, and his two friends, Kelsey and JP, as they have their adventures in the nearby creek – conceptualized as a kid-ruled utopia of forest wilderness. There, tree forts and dirt bike ramps are just some of the features of this untamed area; and it’s the interpersonal dynamics of the various kids that pushes the social commentary and astute observations, all couched within a child’s milieu.

Of special interest to us is how a Filipina-American, Tiffany Ford, is the series’ Supervising Director. HBO Go was able to arrange an interview by e-mail, and beyond being accommodating with my questions, Tiffany dug into her memory treasure chest, and even sent me a vintage photo of her with her maternal grandparents – a truly precious photograph.

As Supervising Director of the series, Tiffany works also as a storyboarder, and even does voice work (Cariss & Paloma). She comes up with the episodes, watches storyboards pitched, and handles the general process of production for each episode. She loved being able to share that, ‘I was invited to bring my own personal stories to help build our episodes, including stories from my upbringing in LA, growing up in a diverse community of other immigrant families, many of whom were similar to mine.’

A childhood photo of Tiffany with her grandparents.

‘Others on the Craig crew shared their stories as well, and further reinforced the importance of representation and seeing a version of themselves on screen… I believe many of the family members and cultural aspects of my life growing up in a mixed African-American and Filipino household helped to inform how I choose to tell stories today.’

The ‘Ground Is Lava’ episode was one of my favorites, and when I asked Tiffany about it, she mentioned that, ‘I believe many of the stories we see on Craig of the Creek are a mixture of both drawing from our own childhoods, and getting inspiration from kids today. Episodes like Ground Is Lava, boarded by Lamar Abrams and Charmaine Vehagen, does such an amazing job reminding us what it was like to be caught in that pretend world where we really believed these things were happening.’

As for the Awards nominations, the show has amassed over its three seasons, Tiffany was proud to say, ‘It’s an amazing honor to be recognized at any level for the work we do… The crew works hard and continues to advocate for others while educating ourselves as best we can, to promote a more inclusive world through our stories.’

While the last time Tiffany visited the Philippines would have been way back in 2002, when she was 12 years of age, she hopes to visit again very soon. She remains ever thankful for her Filipina background in helping her shape her artistic voice and storytelling. ‘My mom, who is from Danao, Cebu, is an excellent storyteller – so funny and with great timing. I owe so much of my humor and artistic voice to her example’.

HBO Go is screening the three seasons of Craig in the Creek (8 episodes of the 3rd season for now). And you can catch the new episodes weekly on Cartoon Network.