Nicole (Jaques) Velez ’11 loves storytelling and spreadsheets. This is why her job as a senior producer on the children’s media team at GBH in Boston is the perfect fit. Velez has worked on such favorites as Arthur and Curious George and currently produces the PBS preschool series, Pinkalicious & Peterrific.

Creating the adventures of Pinkalicious and her brother, Peter, requires an eye for creativity and an aptitude for project management. “I help see through the creative elements and decisions that go into making Pinkalicious & Peterrific,” says Velez. “From story ideas and scripts to each stage of animation, I work with talented writers and artists to bring episodes to life and help ensure that every sound effect, prop design, casting choice and song is just right for the story we’re trying to tell.”

Velez also manages the logistics of the production, working with the GBH animation studio, as well as colleagues at PBS, to ensure deadlines are met and deliverables are received. This side of her job involves a stack of charts and schedules. "I love the minutiae of what producing an entire season of a show entails,” she notes.

Screen Time Inspiration

As both a mom and a producer, Velez believes that children’s programming should be a source of inspiration. “Screen time is nearly inevitable nowadays, so it is a producer’s responsibility to create content that will support the growth of kids as they learn to absorb and navigate the world around them,” says Velez. “Whether teaching them their colors, the ABCs, or life lessons in sharing and jealousy, I feel our programs should do more than just entertain. I want my own children to feel inspired to be the best they can be by the content they view and the characters they see on the screen.”

Velez was recently named a Becton Fellow at GBH, a distinction that is awarded to content producers whose work is emblematic of the organization’s public service mission of “enriching people’s lives through programs and services that educate, inspire, and entertain, fostering citizenship and culture, the joy of learning, and the power of diverse perspectives.” 

This mission is one that Velez takes seriously, understanding the impact that her work has on young minds. “Two-to-five-years-olds, who watch Pinkalicious & Peterrific, are sponges and soak up everything. With such great power of influence comes important responsibility,” she admits.

Velez welcomes the challenge of finding creative and imaginative ways to teach kids meaningful lessons, without them actually realizing they’re learning. "In addition to the themes and learning objectives of each story, a lot of thought and energy are put into each new character design, casting decision, or other new element introduced in the series," she explains. "This intentionality offers new and expanded representation that reflects the diversity of our audience and the world we live in that aligns with our mission.”

Velez (right), after receiving a Television Critics Association award for Arthur, with fellow producer Deborah Frank and Arthur author Marc Brown.

Sizzle Reels and Surround Sound

As a first-year student at Stonehill, Velez was an undecided major but was considering education. That spring, she enrolled in the Children’s Media course, which opened her eyes to this field. She declared communications as her major and took a variety of courses that laid the groundwork for her career. She specifically recalls the skills she learned in her television production classes: "They introduced me to editing software that gave me an edge early in my career when I was an executive assistant at Disney, cutting together sizzle reels for my boss’s presentations.”

Outside of the classroom, Velez got her feet wet as a producer when she helped establish Surround Sound, Stonehill’s first co-ed a cappella group. “In a way, I served as a producer back then. I wrote a proposal and pitched the new club to staff, found a team to support my efforts, ‘casted’ the inaugural members, organized performances, arranged music, and brought the performances to life. I didn’t realize then how much I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes aspect of the group’s creation just as much as I enjoyed performing.”

Man with the Yellow Hat

During her time at GBH, Velez has worked on several PBS series, including Arthur, Molly of Denali, Between the Lions, Fetch with Ruff Ruffman, and Curious George. She knows these shows inside and out.

For those curious Curious George fans: Does the Man with the Yellow Hat have a name? “That is a fun question! In my time working on Curious George, we only ever referred to him as the 'Man with the Yellow Hat.' That, too, is how the character was credited. I do believe his real name is Ted. But to George, he is, and will always be affectionately, the Man with the Yellow Hat.”

From Sesame Street to Arthur to Pinkalicious

Growing up, Velez was a big Sesame Street fan and admits that she “rocked Ernie and Bert overalls and had Elmo slippers.” She also loved watching Arthur, a show that she would later help produce. 

“I found myself watching Arthur well into my pre-teen years under the guise of keeping my younger sister company. The show was always so honest, funny, and relatable. It made having a library card cool!” she says. “It was a dream come true and a privilege to be a producer on the show all those years later. There is a reason Arthur is the longest running kids animated series of all time.”

And today, Velez still tunes into to her favorite children’s programming. “As a mom of a 3.5-year-old daughter and 3-month-old son, ‘free-time’ is an elusive concept. But it is extremely special to co-view episodes I’ve helped produce with my daughter and watch her giggle and sing along,” she says. “Music and the arts have always been a central part of my life. I’m lucky to be able to work on a show like Pinkalicious & Peterrific that focuses on the arts and offers some fabulous music. Dance parties in my kitchen are a regular thing in our house!”