The family of blue heeler dogs in Disney Junior's series "Bluey" may be the most human-acting animated mom, dad and children on television. Serious material on the show aimed at helping preschoolers is based on real-life situations and presented in a light and often funny manner. But there will never be a time when puppy Bluey and her little sister, Bingo, will be the brunt of the humor. And unlike so many dads in animated offerings, Bluey's father will never be part of a pratfall.
Why the show takes such a different approach, according to executive producers Charlie Aspinwall and Daley Pearson, is everything about the show comes from a distinct point of view.
"The main thing we want to do is not go for a cheap joke," Pearson says. "There is definitely slapstick humor in the show, but never at the expensive of the characters. We are really trying to keep the integrity of 'this is what your parents are like' and 'this is what you are really like.'
"This is a family of blue heelers, but we are trying to keep this as true to life as possible."
Bluey and Bingo's parents are a modern couple with a knack for giving the best advice when their daughters are facing a tough topic. Dad is an archaeologist and Mom recently returned to work part time in airport security, which she juggles with raising her two pups. Both are dedicated parents who understand the value of time spent playing with their children.
"There are really two things going on," Pearson says. "One is making the kids laugh. We also want each episode to be about something and about real life and what parenting is like. We have found that only 11% of the episodes are watched solo. It's a family experience and a family show.
"If you put 'Bluey' on at home, the first thing that happens is the kids jump up and start dancing to the theme tune. And then they start laughing at what is going on. The parents then start laughing because there are jokes in there for parents too. Suddenly you are in the middle of this family situation where everyone is having a good time."
Upcoming episodes show how a home video can lift the spirits of someone who is sick, an emergency trip to the veterinarian and learning how strong a friendship can be when you have to say goodbye. The primary focus is on helping youngsters, but the show also offers guidance for parents who may be working through similar subjects with their own preschoolers.
Both producers stress that the biggest test for the team is to embrace how the show takes a realistic look at life while working under guidelines of making children's programming. They know that going to the bathroom is a huge part of the lives of young kids, but that's an element they had trouble broaching.
Several years ago, series creator Joe Brumm showed Aspinwall and Pearson a two-minute clip of a dad and his kids in a playground that served as inspiration for the series. They found it so lovely and relatable, the pair decided to produce it. Originally produced by the Emmy-winning Ludo Studio for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and BBC Studios, the program was added to the Disney Junior lineup. "Bluey" is the most-viewed children's series in the history of Australian TV.
Brumm wanted to make a show about his own life that looks at what it is like to raise a preschooler. He took that idea, added tales from other parents and combined that with extensive research into how the kids' brains work.
"A lot of research shows that kids through the age of 6 are learning through the world of play," Aspinwall says. "That's how they learn stuff. How to socialize. Through his research he wanted to tell stories through play and that's the essential thing about the show."
4:30 p.m./3:30 p.m. Central Mondays on Disney Junior
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