By Hillary Busis
Updated February 05, 2013 at 02:00 PM EST
The Hub

Strawberry Shortcake

  • TV Show

Berry Bitty City is home to a cornucopia of sweet citizens, including Cherry Jam, Lemon Meringue, Plum Pudding, and of course, Strawberry Shortcake. But there’s one fruity friend who’s been missing from the berry patch… until now.

On Feb. 23, Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures returns to The Hub with a season premiere that also introduces a face both old and new: Huckleberry Pie, the franchise’s first and only male lead. Nostalgic children of the ’80s — or “heritage fans,” as American Greetings calls them — may recognize him as a character who originated in Strawberry‘s initial incarnation over 20 years ago. First Generation Huck was a straw hat-wearing moppet with a perma-blush and a personality that owed a debt to Mark Twain. His 21st century counterpart, though, is decidedly more modern — starting with a look inspired by certain heartthrob pop star.

“We did look at Justin Bieber and some of the celebrities little girls adore,” American Greetings Properties vice president of production Sarah Finn tells EW of Huck’s design. “We wanted him to look adorable, but feel very current, and you know that hairdo is quite Bieberesque.” In this sense, Huck is in line with the rest of Berry Bitty City’s residents, all of whom are much more fashion-conscious than the Strawberry of old. “That’s what little girls are exposed to more these days, with all of these live-action tween shows — fashion, hair, pop stars, singing, music, all of that is an important part of their lives at the moment,” Finn explains.

But don’t worry, parents: a more modern look doesn’t necessitate more mature storylines. Finn is adamant that Huck will be nothing but a boy friend to Strawberry and her pals — accent on the space between “boy” and “friend.” “It’s been great to explore the friendships between the girls and Huck without there being any sort of romance or gender difference issues,” she says, adding that Huck’s inclusion should help reaffirm girls aged 4-6 that “it’s okay to have a friend who’s a boy, and not be teased. At those ages, it’s such a sensitive issue.”

And it won’t hurt that Huck’s going to bring a passel of adorable puppies with him. In the show’s upcoming premiere, the new kid in town will arrive in a van filled with cute pets. When his wheels hit a rock, Strawberry and co. happily swoop in to help Huck take care of his “fun, friendly, frisky” charges, each gaining a pooch of her own in the process. “He’s such a fun character,” Finn says. “We like to have a lot of comedy on the show as well, and I think introducing Huck has helped us do that — or continue it.”

Strawberry Shortcake premieres Feb. 23 with back-to-back episodes at 8 and 8:30 a.m. ET. Starting the following week, the series will air each Saturday at 8:30 a.m. ET.

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Strawberry Shortcake

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