“The Backyardigans,” one of the best children’s television programs today, was originally conceived as a full-body puppet show like “Yo Gabba Gabba.”
A pilot for the show, then called “Me and My Friends,” was filmed but rejected by Nickelodeon in favor of a new show called “Dora the Explorer.”
Backyardigans creator Janice Burgess told me recently that four of the five characters in her 3-D animated hit “The Backyardigans” were in “Me and My Friends.” The failed pilot also featured original music and dancing just like “The Backyardigans,” she says.
I interviewed Burgess for a Leaders & Success profile story in Investor’s Business Daily. You can read the story at Investors.com.
“The Backyardigans” premiered in 2004 and is now in its fourth season. When this season is over, Burgess will have produced 80 episodes of the half-hour show.
Burgess gets her inspiration for the adventures on the show, which is made for preschoolers, from Hollywood action movies.
Here’s what she said on the subject:
“I really enjoy a big adventure. I think ‘Die Hard’ is one of the greatest films ever, not to mention ‘Terminator 2.’ I love those big films. The first ‘Transformers’ was ‘Wow-wee, now we’re talking!’ I love high stakes. And I love their fantastical nature.
Obviously you’re never going to land on an island populated by reanimated dinosaurs and have them chase you around. But, hey, if you did, it would be really thrilling.
So I enjoy that. And I wanted to bring some of that to young children, but to do it in a way that is safe, hopefully not scary, and not imitatable except in your head. Like if you’re 2, you’re probably not going to fly a helicopter, drive a car, or drive a stagecoach through the Old West.”
Each episode features music from a different genre. And the show’s creative team isn’t running out of musical genres yet, she says.
When the show started, musical director Evan Lurie came up with a list of about 30 musical genres, she says. But this season alone they discovered that they hadn’t done ragtime or American country, for instance.
Thanks to the Internet and music services like Apple’s iTunes, Lurie can study many styles of music that wouldn’t have been readily available to him 10 years ago, Burgess says.
Brown Johnson, president of animation for Nickelodeon and MTV Networks Kids and Family Group, says “The Backyardigans” will be around for a long time.
“Backyardigans is going to be on Nick Jr. and Nickelodeon for probably at least another five years,” she says. “Maybe forever.”