|Also known as||Backyardigans|
|Created by||Janice Burgess|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||80 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||21–23 minutes|
|Original release||October 11, 2004 –|
July 12, 2013
The Backyardigans is a computer-animated musical children's TV series created by Janice Burgess. The series was written and recorded at Nickelodeon Animation Studio. It centers on five animal neighbors who imagine themselves on fantastic adventures in their backyard. Each episode is set to a different musical genre and features four songs, composed by Evan Lurie with lyrics by McPaul Smith. The Backyardigans' adventures span many different genres and settings. The show's writers took inspiration from action-adventure movies, and many episodes are parodies of movies.
Nickelodeon called the show "a home-grown Nick Jr. property," as "the whole creative team... [had] been part of the Nick Jr. family for years." Creator Janice Burgess had worked as Nick Jr.'s production executive since the mid-1990s. The Backyardigans originated as a live-action pilot episode titled "Me and My Friends," filmed at Nickelodeon Studios Florida in 1998. The characters were played by full-body puppets on an indoor stage. The pilot was rejected by Nickelodeon, and Burgess decided to rework the concept into an animated series. In 2002, a second pilot was animated at Nickelodeon Digital in New York. The second pilot was successful, and the series entered production.
The show ran for four seasons totaling 80 episodes. The first three seasons aired on Nickelodeon on weekday mornings. Nickelodeon only aired eight of the fourth season's 20 episodes; the remaining episodes aired exclusively on the separate Nick Jr. channel. In 2009, the show was planned to continue beyond the fourth season. However, in 2010, the series' creator Janice Burgess decided to move onto a different series: Nickelodeon's revival of Winx Club. Burgess worked as a creative director and writer for Winx Club before eventually retiring from Nickelodeon in 2014.
The Backyardigans was critically acclaimed. Many critics felt that The Backyardigans was superior to Nickelodeon's other preschool shows because its writing was sophisticated and enjoyable for older viewers. The New York Times and Common Sense Media commended the show for including frequent nods to an older audience, such as references to action-adventure franchises. The quality of the show's music was also praised by critics, and the show received eight Daytime Emmy Award nominations for its music.
The show centers around a group of five animal neighbors: Uniqua, Pablo, Tyrone, Tasha, and Austin. They share a large backyard between their houses. In each episode, they meet in the backyard and imagine themselves on a fantastical adventure. Their adventures span a variety of different genres and settings; many episodes involve visiting different parts of the world, traveling back or forward in time, and using magic or supernatural powers. The characters give themselves different jobs or roles depending on the episode's imaginary setting, such as detectives, knights, or scientists. From the second season onward, many episodes are parodies of action-adventure films such as James Bond, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, and Ghostbusters.
The openings and endings of the episodes follow a similar pattern. The stories begin with the characters in the backyard, introducing themselves and explaining the scenario they are about to imagine. When the Backyardigans finish their adventure, the fantasy sequence fades, restoring the original backyard setting. The characters sing a closing song, then walk inside their houses for a snack and close the door. As the episode ends, at least one character reopens the door and shouts a phrase related to the adventure.
The show follows the format of a stage musical. Each episode is set to a different genre of music and features four songs. The characters sing and dance to the songs with original choreography. The song and dance routines are often used to introduce a character's imaginary role, further the plot, or explain a problem. In addition to singing songs in a new genre each episode, the show's background music changes to match, scoring all of the Backyardigans' actions.
Each of the five characters on the show has two voice actors: one for speaking, and the other for singing. Live-action dancers first perform the dancing on the show, and their movements are later transported to animation. The choreographer, Beth Bogush, described the process: "What we do is we film the live footage in the studio, send that off, and they do a Leica, and then they send it to the animators. The animators watch and were pretty precise. What we film for that day is pretty close to what you see in the character."
- Uniqua is a pink spotted character who is curious, self-confident, and adventurous. She likes to tell jokes and make her friends laugh. The series uses the name "Uniqua" for both the character and her species. She wears pink, polka-dotted overalls and has a pair of swirled antennae on top of her head. She usually imagines herself having roles that require brains and courage, such as a scientist or pirate captain. Creator Janice Burgess describes Uniqua as the child she wishes she was like as a child. She is the only main character to appear in every episode. Speaking voice: Lashawn Tináh Jefferies. Singing voice: Jamia Simone Nash (seasons 1–3) and Avion Baker (season 4). Dancer: Hattie Mae Williams.
- Pablo is a blue penguin with a yellow beak who is high-strung, frenetic, and tends to overreact. He wears a blue bow tie and a propeller beanie. Due to his energy and impetuousness, he often goes into a "panic attack" when he faces an obstacle, running around in circles and telling everyone not to worry until someone gets his attention by calling his name three times. Pablo's panic attacks became less prominent after season one, though in the later episode The Flipper!, his propensity for getting overexcited is the main plot point. Pablo does not appear one time: "Chichen-Itza Pizza." Speaking voice: Zach Tyler Eisen (season 1) and Jake Goldberg (seasons 2–4). Singing voice: Sean Curley. Dancer: Tasha Cooper (seasons 1–3), Jonathan Sandler (season 3), Steven Konopelski (seasons 3–4), Jacob Wimar (season 4), and Paul Flanagan (season 4).
- Tyrone is a red-haired orange moose who is laid-back and cool-headed. He wears a red-and-blue striped shirt. He is best friends with Pablo, and he is almost the complete opposite of Pablo in terms of personality, with his calm and easygoing character. Tyrone is known for his sarcastic comments, one of them being "That certainly was convenient." At the end of most episodes, he says, "That was an excellent (type) adventure, don't you think?". Despite not appearing to wear trousers, Tyrone somehow manages to put his hands in his pockets. Speaking voice: Reginald Davis Jr. (season 1), Jordan Coleman (seasons 2–3), and Christopher Grant, Jr. (season 4). Singing voice: Corwin C. Tuggles (season 1), Leon Thomas III (seasons 2–3), Damani Roberts (season 3), and Tyrel Jackson Williams (season 3-4). Dancer: Greg Sinacori (seasons 1–2, 4), Bradley Shelver (season 3), and Andrew Cao (season 3).
- Tasha is a strong-willed yellow hippo who is rational, skeptical, and highly motivated to get her own way. Tasha wears red Mary-Jane shoes and an orange dress with a flower pattern. She is the most serious of the Backyardigans, though she can be just as easygoing as the others from time to time. Her catchphrase is, "Oh, for goodness sakes." Nickelodeon describes Tasha as "deceptively sweet" and "tough-as-nails." Speaking voice: Naelee Rae (seasons 1–2) and Gianna Bruzzese (seasons 3–4). Singing voice: Kristin Klabunde (seasons 1–3) and Gabriella Malek (seasons 3–4). Dancer: Darlene Dirstine (seasons 1–3), Amanda Ulibarri (season 4), and Nancy Renee Braun (season 4).
- Austin is a shy but fun-loving purple kangaroo. In season one, he is reserved and soft-spoken due to recently moving into the neighborhood. In later episodes, Austin becomes more outgoing and is revealed to be smart and imaginative. Austin rarely appears in the spotlight, but takes the role of the lead character in several episodes. Beth Bogush described him as "the one pulling up the rear. He's kind of a get-along guy." Speaking voice: Jonah Bobo. Singing voice: Thomas Sharkey (seasons 1–3) and Nicholas Barasch (season 4). Dancer: Kristen Frost.
- Sherman – A small, orange-spotted yellow worm. Sherman is easily scared due to his small size. He appears in "The Heart of the Jungle," "Polka Palace Party," and "Attack of the 50 Foot Worman". Oliver Wyman provides his voice.
- Wormans – A fictional species of colorful, worm-like creatures who speak in squeaks and gibberish. They appear in all the seasons of the show.
- Dragon – A friendly, green-colored dragon who appears three times (the movie "Tale of the Mighty Knights" and the episode "The Tale of the Not-So-Nice Dragon"). He hatched from a spotted egg and lives inside of Dragon Mountain. Oliver Wyman provides his voice.
- Aliens – Green-colored aliens with eyestalks appear four times: "Mission to Mars," "News Flash," "Los Galacticos," and "The Big Dipper Diner."
- Giant clam – A hungry, irritable clam who appears in "The Legend of the Volcano Sisters" and "The Great Dolphin Race." It is very protective of its pearl. It pants and acts like a dog.
- Voices – Voices were included in the episodes "Secret Mission" and "It's Great To Be A Ghost!" that do not come from any shown character.
- Robot Roscoe – A robot owned by Austin, who appears three times in the fourth season (the movie "Robot Rampage" and the episode "Elephant on the Run"). Evan Mathew Weinstein provides his voice.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||20||October 11, 2004||June 19, 2006|
|2||20||October 9, 2006||January 17, 2008|
|3||20||January 14, 2008||June 5, 2009|
|4||20||October 26, 2009||July 12, 2013|
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... I wanted to bring some of that fantastical nature to young children, but to do it in a way that is safe, hopefully not scary, and not 'imitatable' except in your head.
— Janice Burgess on the inspirations for The Backyardigans
Janice Burgess drew inspiration from action films when writing episodes of the show, as she wanted to adapt high-stakes stories for a young audience. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Burgess was asked what inspired the show; she responded, "I know this is going to sound very strange, but the things I really draw upon are action films. I like Die Hard, Star Wars, the Tolkien movies ... I thought it would be fun to take kids on that big adventure." The character of Uniqua was based on how Burgess viewed herself as a child; as a result, Uniqua was written as the leader of the Backyardigans, and Uniqua was the only character who appeared in every episode.
Before Nickelodeon ordered the first season, two pilot episodes of The Backyardigans were made. The first was a live-action pilot titled "Me and My Friends," filmed at Nickelodeon Studios in September 1998. The characters were played by full-body puppets who danced on an indoor stage. The pilot was rejected by Nickelodeon, and Janice Burgess decided to rework the concept into an animated show. In 2002, a second pilot was created; it was a computer-animated short produced at Nickelodeon Digital. The second pilot was greenlit by Nickelodeon to become a full-length series. Nickelodeon called the show "a home-grown Nick Jr. property," as "the whole creative team... [had] been part of the Nick Jr. family for years."
In December 2009, Nick Jr. president Brown Johnson stated that Nickelodeon intended to keep the show running for "at least another five years. Maybe forever." Nickelodeon believed that The Backyardigans was an ideal "evergreen" property: a series that would stay in production for a long time through multiple generations. A fifth season was planned in 2009. However, in 2010, Janice Burgess decided to end The Backyardigans to start working on one of Nickelodeon Animation Studio's newer projects: a revival series of Winx Club, a girls' action-adventure franchise. Burgess brought the former Backyardigans crew onto Winx Club as well. This included lyricist McPaul Smith; writers Jeff Borkin, Adam Peltzman, and Carin Greenberg; line producer Sara Kamen; and script coordinator Jonathan Foss. Burgess worked as the creative director, story editor, and writer on Winx Club. The crew considered it a natural progression, as Winx Club was also a musical action-adventure show, but it targeted an older audience, allowing them to branch out.
The Backyardigans received eight Daytime Emmy Award nominations, and Janice Burgess won the 2008 Emmy for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program. In a 2016 article for The Chicago Tribune, drama critic Chris Jones called The Backyardigans "a fabulously inventive TV show." DVD Talk's John Crichton gave the show a "hearty recommendation," citing its "enjoyable (and varied) music score, the character voices (both spoken and singing) and the impressive visual presentation." Slate named the Backyardigans episode "The Swamp Creature" one of the best episodes of children's television.
Critics noted that the series held broad appeal to older viewers, due to its high-quality music and focus on character-driven, non-educational stories. Susan Stewart of The New York Times said "it's hard to say whether The Backyardigans is a fantasy for children or for their parents," commending the show's animation and storytelling. Common Sense Media's Emily Ashby wrote, "It's not always easy to find a show you like as much as your youngsters do, but The Backyardigans definitely has the potential to fit that bill." Journalist Virginia Heffernan wrote, "with each episode devoted not just to a separate quest but also to a different musical genre...the show blows you away with its artistic exactitude."
The Backyardigans was adapted into several live shows. These included 2008's "Tale of the Mighty Knights" and 2010's "Storytime Live!" (an event featuring other Nick Jr. characters from Dora the Explorer, Wonder Pets! and Ni Hao Kai-Lan, as well as hosts Moose and Zee). In Canada, separate live shows called "Quest for the Extra Ordinary Aliens" (2008) and "Sea Deep in Adventure" (2009) were created.
|Name||Release Date||Number of Episodes||Episode Titles|
|It's Great to Be a Ghost!||August 30, 2005||4||
|The Snow Fort||November 8, 2005||4||
|Polka Palace Party||January 24, 2006||4||
|Cave Party||March 7, 2006||4||
|Surf's Up!||May 30, 2006||4||
|Mission to Mars||October 10, 2006||4||
|The Legend of the Volcano Sisters||February 6, 2007||4||
|Movers & Shakers||May 29, 2007||4||
|Into the Deep||July 31, 2007||4||
|Super Secret Super Spy||September 18, 2007||3||
|Tale of the Mighty Knights||February 26, 2008||3||
|High Flying Adventures!||May 13, 2008||4||
|Mighty Match-Up!||July 8, 2008||4||
|Escape from Fairytale Village!||October 7, 2008||4||
|Robin Hood the Clean||February 10, 2009||4||
|Singing Sensation!||August 4, 2009||21||
|Robot Repairman||October 13, 2009||3||
|Join the Adventurer's Club||January 5, 2010||4||
|Escape from the Tower||March 30, 2010||3||
|Operation Elephant Drop||July 13, 2010||4||
|Christmas with The Backyardigans||October 5, 2010||4||
|We Arrrr Pirates!||March 8, 2011||4||
Episodes on Nick Jr. compilation DVDs
|Name||Release Date||Number of Episodes||Episode Titles|
|Nick Jr. Favorites Vol. 2||October 18, 2005||1||
|Nick Jr. Favorites Vol. 3||February 7, 2006||1||
|Nick Jr. Favorites Vol. 4||June 6, 2006||1||
|Nick Jr. Favorites Holiday||September 26, 2006||1||
|Nick Jr. Favorites Vol. 5||March 13, 2007||1||
|Nick Jr. Favorites Vol. 6||August 7, 2007||1||
All four seasons have been released on the iTunes Store in Canada and the United States; however, the US iTunes Store is missing three episodes from the first season: "Secret Mission," "It's Great to Be a Ghost!," and "High Tea".
There were four The Backyardigans albums released in North America, and one album released in Europe. Each has approximately 20 tracks, while Born To Play has four bonus tracks only available on the iTunes Store.
The Adventures Begin...
Released September 2004, this CD promoted the series' debut. Because this was a promotional album sent via mail, it was not sold in stores. It contains four tracks from the first season, including the opening theme. The songs would later be included in the next album.
- The Backyardigans Theme Song
- Yeti Stomp
- Secret Agent
- Please and Thank You
Released on July 12, 2005, under Nick Records' label. This is the first album sold in stores. It contains nineteen tracks from the first season, including the opening theme. The CD also contains a bonus video track titled "Go, Go, Go!"
- The Backyardigans Theme Song
- You and Me to the Rescue
- Questing, Questing
- A Pirate Says Arr!
- Yeti Stomp
- Queens Are Never Wrong
- Those Bones
- Buffalo Girls and Boys
- Trudge, Trudge, Trudge
- Secret Agent
- Laser Limbo Tango (Limbo Rock)
- Row Your Boat
- Into the Thick of It
- P.U.! (Stinky Swamp Song)
- Flying Rock Song (II)
- When I'm Booing
- Please and Thank You
- Rockabilly Lullaby (Hush Little Mermaid)
Groove to the Music
This second CD was released on July 11, 2006, under Nick Records' label. It contains eighteen tracks from seasons one and two.
- Hold on Tight
- Gotta Get the Job Done
- Shake Your Body
- Rad Moves
- We're Going to Mars
- Drumming Song
- The Rules
- Tree to Tree
- What's So Scary 'Bout That?
- The Ballad of the Brave Pink Knight
- I Love Being a Princess
- Skate Ahead
- We'll Get You What We Want
- Ski Patrol to the Rescue
- Superheroes vs. Supervillains
- Oh, My Sherman
Born to Play
The third and final Backyardigans CD was released on January 22, 2008, under Sony BMG's label. It contains songs from seasons 1-2, as well as all the songs from Tale of the Mighty Knights. There is a total of 22 tracks. This album was released in a cardboard foldout case, rather than a jewel case like the previous two releases. Borders carried the jewel case release exclusively, which included a booklet. This booklet was also included on the iTunes release as a file with purchase of a digital download.
- Ready for Anything
- We Love a Luau
- Tuba Polka
- I Feel Good
- Go, Go, Go!
- The Customer is Always Right
- Surf's Up, Ho Daddy
- Almost Everything is Boinga Here (featuring Alicia Keys)
- Nothing Too Tough
- I'm a Mountie
- Racing Day
- I Never Fail to Deliver the Mail
- Lady in Pink (featuring Cyndi Lauper)
- Nobody's Bigger Than a Giant
- Hurry Home
Bonus Tracks from "Tale of the Mighty Knights"
- A Challenge
- Dragon Mountain
- Not an Egg Anymore (featuring Adam Pascal)
- Tweedily Dee
- We're Knights
Join in the Adventures...
Released in 2006, as part of a series launch tour in the United Kingdom. The album is near identical to the American-released counterpart, with "Please and Thank You" replaced with "Questing, Questing."
- Yeti Stomp
- Secret Agent
- Questing, Questing
Activision released a The Backyardigans PC game, "Mission to Mars," in October 2006. Also, there are interactive Backyardigans games available for the LeapPad and VTech's V.Smile consoles. There is also a LeapFrogClickStart game titled "Number Pie Samurai," teaching children the necessary computer skills.
From 2005 to 2007, Kohl's had a section devoted to the series' merchandise, including a clothing line and toys exclusively in-store.
Over one hundred storybooks (both original stories and episode-based) were released throughout the series' run. Most of these were released in both Canada and the United States; however, a 2006 series of educational books were exclusively sold in Canada under the license of Treehouse TV.
In 2021, the songs "Castaways" and "Into the Thick of It" went viral on TikTok, with the former appearing in more than 745,000 videos and the latter appearing in more than 46,000 videos as of June 2021. Due to their success on TikTok, "Castaways" and "Into the Thick of It" reached number 5 and 13 respectively on the Spotify viral 50 chart in the US for the week beginning on June 10th, 2021.
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premieres at 11:00 am on Oct. 11, 2004.
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'Pablor and the Acorns': July 12, 2013
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'Pablor and the Acorns': July 12, 2013
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- Owen, Rob. "Q&A with Janice Burgess", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 8, 2006. Accessed January 18, 2008. "Landing Keys was a treat for series creator Janice Burgess, a Squirrel Hill native and a 1974 graduate of The Ellis School."
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Me + My Friends ... Pilot evolved into cartoon 'The Backyardigans'
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