Backyardigans – Believing is Seeing

Age Levels targeted:
2-7

Background:
The American-Canadian series Backyardigans ran on TV from its 2004 autumn debut till mid-spring of 2010. It then continued to air as reruns on various US channels up till 2015. The show is based on a rejected 1998 pilot entitled “Me and My Friends.” The show’s computer graphics animated format was the result of a joint collaboration by the talented CGI artists of the Nicolodeon and Nelvana animation studios

Overview of the show:

Backyardigans stars five CGI animal characters that get into wildly varied adventures built entirely within a colourful and vibrant imaginative world they create for themselves in their shared backyard. The plot of each show involves them creating a new reality based on things happening in their backyard (hence the name) and these are always interesting and engaging. What is better still is that there is a significant portion of the show devoted to singing and dancing – this makes for a wider appeal to a larger audience of kids – the plot for older kids and the singing and dancing for the younger ones.

The Main Characters
Austin – The easy going everybody’s buddy Austin is a purple kangaroo who starts off the series bashfully having recently moved to the area. As the series progresses he grows more comfortable while remaining ever affable. While there are isolated episodes in which he plays a bad guy in the backyardigans adventures, on the whole he’s more a follower than a leader and tends to stay on good terms with everyone.
Pablo – this blue propeller-hatted penguin is Tyrone’s best friend and the eager beaver (or eager penguin at any rate) of the backyardigans group, always rushing around trying to assure his friends that everything’s going to be fine – regardless of whether they’d thought otherwise to begin with
Tasha – this yellow tomboy (or perhaps tomhippo) hippopotamus is very decisive and tends to try and take charge during the backyardigans exploits. She’s friendly and sweet to her friends but best not to get into an argument with her or chances are you’ll lose.
Tyrone – If anyone needs support from Pablo when he goes into one of his reassuring frenzies it’s most likely to be his apprehensive best pal Tyrone. On the other hand, this easy going, somewhat sarcastic moose is perhaps the most levelheaded of the backyardigans gang and for all his apprehension during the adventure is generally the one who’ll comment at adventures end on what a great adventure it had been.
Uniqua – this pink polka dotted “unique” (hence the name) girl creature of a made-up species is even more strong-willed than her friend Tasha and considers herself the leader and brains of the group. While generally nice, her strong willed obstinacy at times damages her friendships with other backyardigans characters during their adventures.

Lesser but repeating characters – while the backyardigan group themselves are by far and away the most important in the show, there are a number of supporting characters that appear at various times throughout the series. These include the Wormins, a type of imaginary wormlike being that speaks to them in a squeaky language – their best friend among the Wormins being Sherman. Being an imaginative series they draw from both fantasy and sci-fi for their adventures and thus interact with both aliens and dragons as well as Austin’s robot Roscoe.

Types of skills the show teaches:
The themes of the show are simple but positive; friendship, imagination, creativity and activity – while younger kids may not understand these concepts entirely, it’s never too soon to encourage these traits.

Site review:
Overall the show is a good choice for children’s viewing. The stories are fun and enjoyable but what will keep your kids coming back will be the dances and the songs – watching chubby animals perform a variety of multicultural tunes while pirouetting is wonderfully silly and amusing.

My kids review:
This was one of my kids’ favorite shows for a lengthy period of time and there were quite a number of songs and catchphrases from the show that became repeated around the house. The songs were so catchy even my wife and I were singing them.

Anecdotal:
My daughter is now an award winning teen baker of fancy cakes and makes many other yummy baked goods but when she first started out one of the things she most enjoyed making was pies (especially lemon meringue). It became a regular thing that when she would say “I’m going to make a pie but I don’t know which kind to make” that someone would inevitably suggest she make “the great pie” from the Backyardigans “Samurai Pie” episode.

 

Similar shows: Little Einsteins, Dora the Explorer, Go, Diego, Animaniacs, Hysteria

Site’s Rating:
9

Reading Rainbow – Because Reading is fun

Overview of the show: Reading Rainbow is a series whose primary purpose is to encourage young children to read. Each episode features a theme that is prominent in all of books read by the host.

There are no overall storylines or characters as the show is purely educational though the hosts are generally celebrities. The format of each episode is identical – the narration of a book, followed by the interviewing of a contributor to society and finally a book review.

Reading Rainbow is one of the longest running children’s shows of all time – more than 25 years. It has also won dozens of awards including a Peabody.


Little Bear – friends matter

Little Bear is a cartoon series for toddlers about anthropomorphic woodland animals. The episodes are short and intended for easy consumption by young children.

The eponymous hero is Little Bear, a grizzly bear cub who has fun with his friends, rain or shine. His friends all have the same name as their species – Owl, Duck, Hen, Cat, Frog – except for Emily, who is one of the few humans in the show.

The stories are simple tales about friendship and play games with others; to cooperate, be thoughtful and considerate of others’ feelings.


The Koala Brothers – giving a mate a hand

Overview of the show: The Koala Brothers is an Australian cartoon show about two brothers, the koalas Frank and Buster, who live in a small rural town. Together the two of them fly a plane around the outback and solve problems they can spot from the air.

The cast is a menagerie of native Australian fauna, including echidnas, crocodiles, platypi and emus. Each episode, Frank and Buster assist the citizens in the Outback; the major theme of the show is of charity and generosity – to be kind and help out your friends whenever you can. The characters are distinct and very humanly flawed; part of the show is overcoming one’s own foibles in order to be compassionate.

Koala Brothers is a good choice for international audiences especially, as it introduces the aforementioned themes as well as culture and settings.


Higglytown Heroes – Real Heroes for our time

Overview of the show: Higglytown Heroes is about the adventures of 4 kids, Eubie, Wayne, Twinkle, and Kip, as well as their pet squirrel Fran. Higglytown Heroes demonstrates to viewers the roles of everyday heroes in life – firefighters, police, doctors, dentists etc – all people who have a positive impact on nearly everyone.

The show is designed around the use of animated matroyshka dolls – a unique artistic style that sets Higglytown Heroes apart from other children’s shows. The plots are simplistic but enjoyable; most involve the four children happening across an incident in town and finding out about how it gets solved and who solves it.

Primary and repeated themes are of cooperation and a curiosity about the world – these short episodes are a positive choice for toddlers.