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File:Libertyskids 2507.jpg

Libertys Kids is a PBS series created by DiC Entertainment, the producers of Strawberry Shortcake, that follows the adventures of three teenagers, two of whom were in the employ of Benjamin Franklin's newpaper/publishing business, as they find themselves witnesses to the The American Revolution from the Boston Tea Party in 1773 to the signing of the US Constitution in 1787.

The major characters are:

  • James Hiller, a young reporter who is an enthusiastic supporter of the colonial resistance who has to learn that there are hard realities in the events around him that fly in the face of his ideals.
  • Henri Richard Maurice Dutoit LeFebrve, a young French orphan troublemaker who finds himself swept up the politics of the day.
  • Sarah Phillips, a dignified British girl who is initially a staunch Loyalist determined to present her side's perspective of the conflict as a reporter under Franklin, only to ultimately side with the Revolution.
  • Moses: An African-American ex-slave who works in Franklin's printing business. A self-taught engineer, he serves as a respected adult authority over the kids.

Although the series was created for a juvenile audience, it nevertheless takes a relatively sophisticated look at the American Revolution, which highlights not only the heroes and achievements of the independence movement, but also its less palatable aspects such as the role of slavery, mob violence and the privations the Native Peoples of America suffered in this conflict.

Tropes employed in this series include:

  • All-Star Cast: Let's just look at the guest stars... Oh, boy...
  • The American Revolution: Duh.
  • Bait and Switch Credits: Somewhat. The lyrics to the intro are pretty fitting, but the song itself is a pop tune with brief Aaron Carter rapping, a little out of place for a historical cartoon that does take itself seriously.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: James and Sarah.
  • Big Eater: Henri and his pastries.
  • Blond Brunet Redhead: James, Henri, and Sarah.
  • Bloodless Carnage: For a show that talks a lot about killing and wounding people, there isn't a whole lot of blood shown. Then again, it is a show aimed at kids seven and up.
  • British Stuffiness: Sarah starts out like this.
  • Broken Pedestal: As it did in Real Life, this trope concerns itself with Benedict Arnold. He is a revered war hero at first (he's the soldier whom Sarah looks admiredly at in the show's intro), and as such many are struck by his Face Heel Turn.
  • Character Development: James and Sarah. James starts out as a jerkass who accepts all the Revolutionary rhetoric without any opinions of his own, while Sarah is an Ice Queen who is solidly British and can't understand why the colonists would want to rebel. They both get better.
  • Cheerful Child: Henri.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Cato, big time.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Henri at times.
  • Coming of Age Story: The theme song sums it up thus: I'm looking at life through my own eyes/Searching for a hero to idolize/Feeling the pain as innocence dies...
  • Complaining About Pamphlets You Haven't Read: An in-universe example when Sarah villifies Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" even when she meets the author personally. Once she gives it a read, she learns to at least appreciate it.
  • Cool Big Bro and Cool Big Sis: James and Sarah to Henri.
  • Cool Old Guy: Benjamin Franklin, much like in Real Life.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Sarah, although it doesn't take her long to warm up to them.
  • Disappeared Dad: Sarah's father.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Sarah's introduction; calmly writing a letter to her mother even as the ship she's boarding is rocked by a big storm.
  • Divide and Conquer: The series shows how the British went through great lengths to woo the Loyalists, Native Americans, and even slaves to their side, and they were very good at it.
  • Face Heel Turn: Benedict Arnold.
  • Fake Brit: Sarah is voiced by native Nebraskan Reo Jones.
  • A Father to His Men: A bunch of the officers are this way: George Washington repeatedly calls his circle of officers his family, Baron von Steuben encourages inspiring devotion in the men and at one point spoonfeeds a sick soldier, and Lafayette charges into a battle to calm the retreating Continentals down. Benedict Arnold also counts, which actually makes his inevitable Face Heel Turn more of a Tear Jerker than it is normally portrayed.
  • Fiery Redhead: Sarah
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Frozen in Time: In a weird way — the historical events progress at a reasonable pace, spanning about fifteen years, but the kids don't age.
    • Confusingly, the passage of time is mentioned occasionally, such as in the penultimate episode when Sarah mentions it's been ten years since the Declaration of Independence. She looks exactly the same.
  • Grease Monkey: Moses.
  • Green Eyed Red Head: Sarah.
  • The Gump: The premise, basically. The kids are involved in every event of the Revolution that could form the plot of a show.
  • Hair of Gold: James fits most of the criteria for the male version of this trope.
  • Happily Adopted: Henri's fate; he is eventually adopted by the Marquis de Lafayette.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: James and Henri.
  • Heel Face Turn: Sarah becoming a Patriot in "Not Yet Begun to Fight."
    • There's also a couple who are loyalist... until some British soldiers ransack their food and supplies for their own needs.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: James in regards to Sarah, anyone?
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Averted very well with Benedict Arnold who is shown to be an invaluable part of the colonial army before he switched sides. The section of the series that focuses on him explains the events surrounding his turn better than a course on American history is likely to.
  • Innocence Lost: James in particular when his naivety about the revolution collides with its unpleasant realities he witnesses with it.
    • Heck, it's in the opening theme lyrics! ("Feeling the pain as innocence dies...")
  • Innocent Cohabitation: The only reason it's okay for Sarah to be living with three males.
  • Kick the Dog: Various historical characters get their own moment. However, one of the most obvious is during the American siege of Yorktown. In order to conserve supplies, Cornwallis leaves the blacks who joined his army to fend for themselves.
  • Kid Detective: Well, kid investigative reporters.
  • Kid Hero: And they stay that way.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Henri starts out as this.
  • Limited Wardrobe: In the 14 years that took place, the main characters went absolutely everywhere wearing the same outfits. Even when crawling through the mud and forests Sarah would still wear her dainty little gown.
  • Magical Negro: Moses.
    • To be fair, it's not as if Moses and other black people had a choice but to be this. It was the 18th century. Just being friendly with white people (specifically, a teenaged white girl) was pushing the envelope of society's tolerance. It's lucky he wasn't lynched on the spot at that slave auction as a buyer. Had he been an Angry Black Man or a Malcolm Xerox, he wouldn't have lasted long. Real-life characters like James Armistead and Elizabeth Freeman are evidence of this.
  • Man Hug: Lafayette and Washington are very fond of these.
  • Meet Cute: James getting struck on the head with a book-stuffed pillowcase by Sarah... in the midst of the Boston Tea Party.
  • Memento MacGuffin: James has his mother's wedding ring and Sarah has the gold locket her father gave her. Then it's twisted around when said locket is lost in Boston Harbor and James uses his ring to forge a new one for Sarah.
  • Minored in Asskicking: Thomas Paine, albeit very briefly.
  • Mysterious Past: All the main characters have one.
  • Never Say "Die": Strongly averted. The show not only had characters die, but also wounded, sometimes in gruesome ways (though without a whole lot of blood).
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Although the events of the series span 14 years of history, the show featured kid characters who never appear to age even while the adults around them do. After all, by the end of the series, the trio should have been entering their late 20s. Henri doesn't even get Character Development!
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Sarah's father, a major of the Seven Years' War, Ohio territory explorer, and even a friend to the Indians sheltering him.
  • Opposites Attract: James, the poor, orphaned, American patriot, and Sarah, the rich English loyalist.
  • Parental Abandonment: None of the main teenage characters live with their parents. Sarah is the only one whose parents are still alive.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Henri.
  • Politically-Correct History: Mostly averted. Although the kids are friends with Moses, most of society still treats blacks the way they were in the 18th century, albeit in a way that children's programming can swallow.
  • Putting a Hand Over His Mouth: James to Sarah in the episodes "The Boston Tea Party" and "Midnight Ride". She in turn gives him one in "New York, New York" and another to Henri in "Bunker Hill".
  • Red Headed Heroine: Sarah.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Not that it dwells on it for very long, but the show doesn't dismiss that the American Revolution was initiated by angry colonists who were mostly seen as radical idiots at the time. Not to mention the tar-and-feathering...
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Monkeywrenched. Although generally the American Revolution is portrayed as a good thing, the British and Loyalists are allowed to express their points of view and even look like the good guys on occasion, what with the Brits offering freedom to slaves and the Continentals, especially slaveholders like George Washington, refusing to do so. It even shows the colonists as actual bad guys at some points, especially considering the mob violence against the Loyalists and the privations the Native Peoples suffer in the war.
    • Not that it justifies anything, the Native Americans weren't exactly innocent themselves. Joseph Brant, to the show's credit, mentions that he fought on the side of the British and lost. He didn't like what happened, obviously, but he was not surprised by the results of his defeat.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Sarah's cousin Tom, among others.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: James and Sarah, as noted below.
  • Shown Their Work: Some elements of Politically-Correct History aside, the show is a rather insightful look into its time period and gives several facts about its prominent figures that most U.S. history books would leave out.
  • Sick Episode: Sarah contracts Smallpox in "An American In Paris."
    • More accurately, she gets vaccinated for smallpox and has a reaction, most likely a mild form of the disease. But yes, she gets better.
  • Slap Slap Kiss: James and Sarah's relationship can be interpreted this way.
  • Slipknot Ponytail: Actually happens once to Sarah.
  • The Smurfette Principle: While at first glance this appears to be Sarah's role, her being female is more of a bonus; her main purpose in the story is to be a loyalist contrast to the rest of the revolutionary main cast.
  • Sorry That I'm Dying: Nathan Hale, of course.
  • Stunt Casting: Libertys Kids is a prime example. Walter Cronkite had a recurring role as Benjamin Franklin; other celebrities playing revolutionary heroes included Dustin Hoffman as Benedict Arnold, Annette Bening as Abigail Adams, Billy Crystal as John Adams, Ben Stiller as Thomas Jefferson and Michael Douglas as Patrick Henry. Others include General Norman Schwarzkopf as George Rogers Clark, Liam Neeson as John Paul Jones, Sylvester Stallone as Paul Revere, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Friedrich von Steuben, and Whoopi Goldberg as Deborah Sampson.
  • Sympathetic POV: In many of the episodes, a good deal of time is spent seeing the conflict through the eyes of the British, and showing the reasoning and justifications of their actions during the war.
    • Providing this is actually Sarah's job in the newspaper.
  • Tagalong Kid: Henri at times, although he certainly has his uses.
  • Tar and Feathers: James watches as an innocent man is tarred and feathered by a mob and joins in their mocking. This lasts until he is later informed how horrific the act can be and meets the man being treated for it, near-death.
    • Later in the series, he stands up to a mob of angry laborers who want to tar-and-feather a wealthy Tory, delaying them long enough for soldiers to arrive and restore order.
  • Team Mom: Sarah
  • The Theme Park Version: Averted, for the most part.
  • Three Amigos: James, Sarah, and Henri.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Henri loves pastries with jelly on them.
  • Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe: Well, Philadelphia.
  • Traveling At the Speed of Plot: Played with. The characters mention roughly accurate travel periods for the time, but often, news makes it to faraway places way faster than it should have.
  • True Companions: The three kids eventually form this amongst themselves, with Ben and Moses.
  • Tsundere: Sarah is often a Type A towards James throughout their story arcs, and this element to her personality brings the underlying UST in their relationship.
  • Vague Age: The characters' ages are rather unclear, considering how many years are passing during the context of the show despite everyone's appearances not aging at all.
  • Viewers are Morons: Both played straight and averted. Anyone old enough and smart enough to even follow the surprisingly advanced analysis and description of the complex issues surrounding the American War of Independence is highly unlikely to enjoy or be even remotely challenged by the ridiculously juvenile games and puzzles they use in place of commercial breaks when shown on PBS. "Continental Cartoons", for example, is a stupendously easy set of rebus-style puzzles. These are omitted when the show is aired on other networks.
    • The DVD release thankfully takes the same route but includes them in the extras.
    • The actual cartoon itself surprisingly averts this trope. Considering it's a kids cartoon, it's very detailed and takes time to show the motives and reasoning for many events and characters.
  • Vocal Evolution: While the three kids' physical designs don't change, their voices do sound somewhat more mature with the show's progression.
    • They probably didn't think they looked older and that's why.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?: The soldiers are outraged at Baron von Steuben for demanding such unreasonable things as drilling for battle, having discipline, keeping the camp clean, and winning the devotion of their underlings.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The basic plot for Sarah visiting Thomas Jefferson's home and discovering that the writer of "All men are created equal" is a slaveholder.
    • Sarah actually calls out Washington after the Siege of Yorktown when he says that the slaves who fought for the British would be returned to their masters.
    • Something they didn't go into would be the fact that Jefferson also raped some of the black women in his "employ" (because he owned them and they couldn't say no unless they wanted to be lynched). Who also had children by him. Yes, that Jefferson the one everyone loves today...revolutionary, Founding Father, visionary, serial rapist.
      • And yet, he was actually nicer to his slaves than plenty of slaveholders.
      • An interesting fact there: The slave in question? Was the slave of his wife Martha, and also her half-sister. And Thomas only took interest in her after Martha's death.
      • Another interesting fact: Jefferson's white descendants ignored or denied the slave's descendants when they claimed to be descended from Jefferson, until finally genetic testing pretty much proved the slave's descendants right.
    • That's even digging into the fact that, while Washington freed his slaves upon death and provided for them afterward, Jefferson's slave population TRIPLED and he only freed the five who resulted from his sexual escapades.
      • Not to mention his complete reversal of opinion and policy in regards to slavery in the early 1800s and his reactions to the Haitian Revolution. Notable example: He wanted to place an embargo on Haiti and STARVE the country out!
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Befitting their age, James and Sarah are initially blind to their patriotism toward their respective home countries, though it doesn't take long for them to see the truth of things.