Katie and Orbie
|Katie and Orbie|
Orbie (left) and Katie (right)
|Created by||Ben Wicks and Susan Wicks|
|Written by||Susan Wicks (seasons 1–3)
Mary Mackay-Smith (seasons 4–6)
|Directed by||Lee Williams|
|Voices of||Chris Wightman
|Narrated by||Leslie Nielsen|
|Country of origin||Canada|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||78 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Sheldon S. Wiseman|
|Original channel||Family Channel|
Katie and Orbie is a Canadian animated television series aimed at preschoolers, originally broadcast in Canada in 1994 by Family Channel and later aired in the United States on PBS from January 28, 1996–July 27, 1997 and on Disney Channel from 1997–2000. In Canada, the series aired uninterruptedly on Family and (beginning on 2007) Disney Junior (formerly called Playhouse Disney) until December 2012. The show has also aired in several countries around the world.
The animated series is based on a series of four environment-themed children's books titled Katie and Orbie Save the Planet, illustrated by Canadian cartoonist Ben Wicks and written by his daughter Susan Wicks, which were published in 1991. In 1993, Lacewood Productions adapted the characters into an animated series which was originally in production until 1996, being revived five years later by Amberwood Entertainment and then cancelled in 2002. Contrary to the original books, the series isn't strictly environment-themed, having stories that range from having a new pet or helping their friends, to address themes like children with divorced parents, Down's Syndrome and cerebral palsy. However, some stories are still focused on protection of the environment.
The TV show was narrated by actor Leslie Nielsen.
During the first three seasons, most stories were written by the characters' co-creator Susan Wicks, with Mary Mackay-Smith serving as a secondary writer. For seasons 4–6, all stories were written by Mackay-Smith.
Unlike most TV shows, the animation on Katie and Orbie is similar to a slideshow, instead of coming to life, also, none of the characters actually speak, so a variety of sound effects are used during the stories. Pumper Pups, a TV series produced by Amberwood Entertainment in 2000, also used this style of animation, and it was also narrated by Leslie Nielsen.
International rights for the series were first owned by Entertainment Rights (which was also a producer company on seasons 4–6), which on 2009 was merged into Classic Media. On March 25, 2010, Canadian company E1 Entertainment signed a deal with Amberwood Entertainment on which E1 obtained the worldwide distribution rights to several of Amberwood Entertainment's TV shows, including all 78 episodes of Katie and Orbie.
- Katie - A blonde five-year-old girl, who is imaginative, playful, curious and usually quite happy. She almost always wears a green and white striped t-shirt with blue overalls. She lives with her best friend Orbie and her parents in a suburb of an unnamed city. Her sound effects include a characteristic laugh, as well as occasional sighing, yelling and crying sounds. Those sound effects, as well as her "voice" during the Did You Know? segments, are made by Amanda Tripp.
- Orbie - A small and pink alien, he has red polka dots on his body (early episodes show him having the capacity to change the color of his dots, depending on how he feels), who is from an unknown planet which is "far away out past the moon". The book Katie and Orbie Pick Up the Garbage, one of the books on which the series is based, implies that he was sent away from his home planet because it was too polluted to sustain life, and the destiny of his native family or his species is unknown. While travelling in a small spaceship, he reached Earth and just happened to land in Katie's backyard, and immediately he and Katie became best friends, resulting in him being "adopted" by Katie's parents. He's apparently the same age as Katie. He speaks in a unique series of squeaks and chirps (often referred to as 'honks') that people appear to be able to understand despite that fact that he isn't speaking any known language. With the exception of I Don't Want to be Different (the last story of the first episode), people are shown to be oblivious to the fact that he's an alien, and treat him like a normal person (In that story a group of kids at a restaurant look surprised at Orbie, making him feel embarrassed). He doesn't wear clothes or appear to require them; however, he does wear clothing and boots if it's raining, cold or snowing. He is a natural acrobat, often breaking into leaps and flips out of sheer joy and has pads on his fingers and toes which enable him to climb walls and hang from the ceiling. He can also use these pads to help him climb other things, but they work best on flat surfaces. He sleeps in Katie's closet, hanging upside down from the bar like a bat. His sound effects are made by Chris Wightman.
- Wayne - Katie's father as well as Orbie's adoptive father. He is always referred to as "Dad", but his real name is mentioned in the episode The Thunderstorm. He works at an office building, but his actual job is unclear. He is very thoughtful towards Katie, Orbie, and his wife, Susan.
- Susan - Katie's mother and Orbie's adoptive mother. She is always referred to as "Mom", but her real name is mentioned in the episode Mrs. Parette's Picture.
The family's surname was never given. Also, both Wayne's parents (Katie's paternal grandparents) and Susan's parents (maternal grandparents) have appeared on the show. Wayne's parents live in an apartment building in the city, while Susan's parents live in an old house in the same suburb where the characters live.
Friends and other characters
- Mrs. Elaine Parette - A friend of the family, she is an old woman who likes children and is usually seen baking cakes or cookies for them. She has a big willow in her garden which serves as a hideout for Katie, Orbie and their friends. She has at least one daughter, as well as at least two grandchildren. She is always referred simply as Mrs. Parette, being one of the few characters that has a surname. Her name, Elaine, was mentioned by Katie's mother in the story Mrs. Parette's Picture, which was her first appearance.
- Chance - The family's cat. She has orange fur, except for her left ear which has white fur.
- First appearance: The Day Chance Found a New Home, but first seen as a background on Katie's First Sleepover
- Andy - A boy who resembles Katie, although his hair is paler. His parents are divorced and he lives with his mother and his stepfather named Harry. He is one of the three "regular" friends of the main characters, the other two being Arthur and Yee Ping.
- First appearance: Andy's Birthday Present
- Arthur - A boy who was at first a bully, who gets angry easily and can even hit someone who is bothering him (Katie on only one occasion). Later, his appearance was changed and he was depicted as a simple boy, although a bit mischievous, who plays normally with the other kids.
- First appearance: The Day Arthur Smacked Katie
- Yee Ping - A girl of Chinese origin, who is very friendly and has even taught Katie and Orbie some Chinese traditions. After Orbie, she was Katie's second friend introduced on the series. When she was introduced, her skin was light brown, however during the course of the series her skin becomes white.
- First appearance: Yee Ping
- Kyra - A young girl, with the same hair color as Andy, usually wearing a diadem over it. She has asthma and, on a later appearance, also wears glasses. Her parents are never seen, only her grandmother has appeared. She mostly appears during seasons 2 and 3. Along with Dakota, she is rarely seen during the Amberwood Entertainment seasons.
- First appearance: Everybody Counts, but formally introduced on Kyra, a later episode.
- Phoebe and Bryn - Sisters who are always seen together. Phoebe is the youngest and Bryn is the oldest. Phoebe has blonde hair, and Bryn has brown hair. Bryn has an egg allergy.
- First appearance: Does It Have Eggs In It?
- Dakota - a Native American boy. Although a common character on the Lakewood seasons, he is practically written out on the Amberwood Entertainment seasons, only appearing a few times, and is "replaced" by the Latin character Miguel.
- First appearance: The Pow-Wow
- Micah - A nine-year-old boy who has Down Syndrome. He lives on a farm with his mother named Ara. On his mother's farm they have several animals, including a mare named Spirit, and her newborn colt, Sprite.
- First appearance: Andy's Birthday Present, but formally introduced on Drumsticks, a later episode.
- Tom - A young adult who usually serves as Katie and Orbie's babysitter.
- First appearance: The Baby Sitter
- Polly - Tom's girlfriend. Like Tom, she likes children very much and loves to play with them. Orbie once had a crush on her. Her appearances are scarce. Her appearance changed between episodes, first she had red, curly hair and white skin, and later she had straight, black hair with a ponytail, and black skin.
- First appearance: Puppy Love
- Belkis - A girl that does not speak English. It is unknown from what country she came from, although the name Belkis is of Hebrew origin.
- First appearance: Belkis
- Charisse - A black girl who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, she lives with her mother in an apartment. Her appearances are scarce.
- First appearance: Charisse
- Miguel - A Latin boy who joins the series by the end of the 4th season as sort of a replacement for Dakota, although his appearances are scarce.
- First appearance: Tom's Pool Party
- Charlie and Megan Cobbington - Siblings who are neighbours to Katie and Orbie, along with their parents. Charlie and the parents are written out of the show after season 2, but Megan still makes brief appearances on season 3 before being written out too.
- First appearance: The Story Dress
- Greg, Jenny and baby Megan - A young couple and their baby girl who are neighbours of Katie and Orbie's family. They appear only in a few stories. They also have a dog named Bruce.
- First appearance: The New Baby
- Kerry - A Caribbean girl who had been Katie's best friend for an unspecified time, and in her only appearance (episode Close to My Heart) she and her parents moved to another town because her father had got a new job. Ironically, despite being referred to as Katie's best friend, she never appeared before and is never seen or mentioned after the aforementioned story. Mrs. Parette gave her and Katie two heart-shaped collars with photos of both, so they could remember their friendship.
A handful of other minor characters have appeared during the series.
Main article: List of Katie and Orbie episodes
The TV series started production in 1993 by Lacewood Productions, which created thirteen half-hour episodes each consisting of three unrelated stories of seven minutes each, and two interstitial segments titled Did You Know? of thirty seconds each. The series debuted in 1994 on Family Channel and quickly became a success, prompting Lacewood to create two further seasons of the show in 1995 and 1996. Beginning with the third season in 1996, the series began to use digital ink and paint for coloring.
In 1997, after producing 39 episodes for the show, Lacewood Productions closed down and production of the series was suspended. In 2000, Lacewood was reformed under the name Amberwood Entertainment, which alongside Entertainment Rights began production of 26 more episodes for the show, which debuted on the Family Channel the next year. However, the revival of the series was short-lived, as in 2002 after the sixth season the series was cancelled.
A total of 234 individual stories were produced, three per each half-hour episode. Each episode also had two instertitial segments titled Did You Know? which tells viewers small pieces of information regarding several subjects, such as plants, flowers, animals, the body and arts. These segments are narrated off-screen by Katie (voiced by Amanda Tripp).
Each episode is structured by the opening theme, the first story, a Did You Know? interstitial segment, the second story, another Did You Know? interstitial segment, the third story and the closing credits.
- Canada: Family from its premiere in 1994 to December 2012.
- CTV aired the show from 1994 to 2008.
- Playhouse Disney (2007–May 6, 2011).
- Disney Junior (May 6, 2011 – December 31, 2012).
From 2007 until 2012, both Family and Disney Junior only showed the series during overnight hours. During that time, many children are asleep. Presumably, the show was still aired on those channels, in order to fulfill the Canadian content rules.
- United States: PBS (1996–1997); Playhouse Disney (1997–2000). The airing rights for the show were acquired by PBS during 1995, and it premiered in PBS stations on January 28, 1996, becoming the second animated show to air on PBS (The Magic School Bus was the first), however it was dropped off PBS in early 1997, at the time it was picked up by Disney Channel to be aired on its new Playhouse Disney block until September 2000. It has not been seen on any US channel since then, however it could be seen on CBeebies, as the channel is available inside the USA on the Spanish Mexico package of Dish Network, channel 848. Seasons 4–6 remain unseen in the US.
- Latin America: CBeebies (2008–2010) This Spanish version, dubbed in Mexico, is narrated by Mexican voice actor Alejandro Villeli, with voice actress Leyla Rangel singing the theme song and narrating the Did You Know? segments. The channel aired the episodes in order, Monday to Friday; on weekends, repeats of the episodes aired on Monday and Tuesday were shown. From June 2009 until its removal, the channel reran the episodes shown on Friday the following Monday. The full run of 78 episodes was shown four times (with the first 67 episodes airing a fifth time before its removal). The channel aired the show only in the evenings at 8:30 pm and later 9:30pm (although from August–December 2008, it also aired on weekend afternoons). The show was suddenly removed from CBeebies on April 12, 2010 and replaced by Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies. It has not been shown in the region since then. It is also the only version to have all 78 episodes dubbed.
- Australia: ABC Television (24 November 1995 – 5 June 2002). The series first aired on ABC on 24 November 1995 and was last shown on 27 January 2000 during the summer non-ratings season. However, it later returned on the now defunct ABC Kids channel until 5 June 2002. ABC lost the broadcasting rights to the series in 2006.
- United Kingdom: The series was seen on Nickelodeon UK as early as June 1994. Apparently, it also aired on Channel 4 and Disney Channel during the 1990s. It also was the first programme to air on the UK version of Nick Jr. from its launch on Wednesday, 1 September 1999 and was seen at 6:00 am every day until March 2000. It also aired as part of Tiny Living from 2000 to 2002.
- Spain: An Iberian Spanish dub of the show exists, it aired on 2000 on a digital channel called Club Super 3 which was part of a now-defunct platform called Via Digital. Presumably, only the first 39 episodes were dubbed, as they were made before 2000.
- A French version also exists, but no information is known about what channels have aired it. Apparently, only seasons 3–5 were dubbed. A 5-disc DVD set has been released in France
- A Portuguese version of the series exists, titled Hugo e Catarina.
Seasons 1, 4, 5 and 6 of the show were available on DVD on the online store of the now-defunct Canadian retailer Express Media; however, seasons 2 and 3 were not.
Two DVDs were released in Australia in 2010 with season 6 episodes.
- Nisse, Jason (September 10, 2000). "Boom, boom! Now we've got Orbie". The Independent (London).
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-BZmrbUiTY Opening for the Spain dub of the show