Katie and Orbie
|Katie and Orbie|
Orbie (left) and Katie (right)
|Genre||Children's television series|
|Created by||Ben Wicks and Susan Wicks|
|Written by||Mary Mackay-Smith|
|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 network||Family Channel|
Katie and Orbie is a Canadian animated television series aimed at preschoolers, originally broadcast in Canada from 1994–2002 by Family Channel and later aired in the United States on PBS from 1996–1997 and on Disney Channel from 1997–2000. In Canada, the series aired uninterruptedly on Family Channel and (beginning on 2007) Disney Junior (formerly called Playhouse Disney) until December 31, 2012. The series 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 ending 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 syndrome and cerebral palsy, one of the few series aimed at preschoolers to do so.
It was narrated by actor Leslie Nielsen.
Mary Mackay-Smith wrote most episodes, with Ben and Susan Wicks serving as consultors during the first three seasons.
Unlike most TV series, the animation on Katie and Orbie was made in a technique referred to by producer Sheldon Wiseman as "picture-mation" similar to an electronic storybook, instead of coming to life, also, none of the characters actually speak, so a variety of sound effects are used during the stories. Another series produced by the same studio in 2000 and which was also narrated by Leslie Nielsen, Pumper Pups, also used the "picture-mation" technique.
International rights for the series were first owned by Entertainment Rights (which was also a producer company on seasons 4–6), which in 2009 was merged into Classic Media, now known as DreamWorks Classics. On March 25, 2010, Canadian company Entertainment One signed a deal with Amberwood Entertainment on which the company obtained the worldwide distribution rights to several of said producer's TV series, including all 78 episodes of Katie and Orbie. Amberwood Entertainment and Family Channel retain the rights for Canada.
- 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 and brown shoes. She lives with her best friend Orbie and her parents in a suburb of an unnamed city. She is very kind and friendly with most people. While she does not attend school yet, she takes dancing classes in some episodes. 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, who is from an unknown planet which is "far away out past the moon". Katie and Orbie Pick Up the Garbage, one of the books on which the series is based, explains that he was sent away from his home planet because it was too polluted to sustain life, and the fate of his native family or his species is unknown (this is, however, never mentioned in the actual series). 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, and shares many aspects of her personality. He speaks in a unique series of squeaks and chirps, as well as honk sounds made with his nose, that people appear to be able to understand despite that fact that he isn't speaking any known language. He has red polka dots on his body (early episodes show him as being capable of changing the color of his dots, depending on his mood). People are shown to be oblivious to the fact that he's an alien, and treat him like a normal person, and in any cases where a character is surprised at first glance by Orbie, it warms up to him after getting to know him better. 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 never mentioned. He is very thoughtful towards Katie, Orbie, and his wife, Susan, and often acts in a funny way to amuse them. He was born and grew up in the city, where his parents still live.
- 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. Although she is mostly seen at home, she apparently holds an unknown job too, being shown in some episodes as making or taking business calls, mentioned as doing paperwork, going into the city to attend meetings and even winning an award for her work. Her parents live in the same suburb as the family.
The family's surname was never mentioned. They also possess a cottage on the shore of a lake (which was bought by Wayne's parents) in which they occasionally spend time, especially in the summer.
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 also likes painting. 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 Susan 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: I Don't Want to Be Different, but formally introduced on The Day Chance Found a New Home
- Andy - A blond-haired boy (of a paler blond than Katie). 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 others being Arthur and Yee Ping.
- First appearance: Andy's Birthday Present
- Arthur - A red-haired 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). After that episode, his behavior was changed to that of a simple boy, although a bit mischievous, who plays normally with the other kids. His family is Jewish.
- First appearance: The Day Arthur Smacked Katie
- Yee Ping - A Chinese girl, 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. At the start of the series, her skin was of a light brown color, but it became white by the end.
- First appearance: Yee Ping
- Kyra - A girl with the same hair color as Andy, wearing a light blue diadem over it. She has asthma and, on a later appearance, also wears glasses. She mostly appears during seasons 2 and 3. Along with Dakota, she is rarely seen during seasons 4-6.
- 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 seasons 1-3, he is practically written out on seasons 4-6, 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 (the first character with the syndrome to appear in an animated series). He lives on a farm with his mother named Ara, who is also a longtime friend of Susan. He is very good at playing drums and caring for the farm animals.
- 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. She only appears on a few stories. 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 dark skin.
- First appearance: Puppy Love
- Belkis - A dark-skinned girl that does not speak English and comes from a faraway country along with her mother.
- First appearance: Belkis
- Charisse - A dark-skinned girl who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, she lives with her mother in a 17th floor apartment. Her appearances are scarce.
- First appearance: Charisse
- Miguel - A Latin boy who joins the series by the end of the fourth season although his appearances are scarce. He strongly resembles Dakota, except that Miguel has a lighter skin color.
- First appearance: Tom's Pool Party
- Charlie and Megan Cobbington - Siblings who are neighbors to Katie and Orbie, along with their parents, and they also have other four siblings. Charlie and the parents are written out of the series after season 2, but Megan still makes brief appearances on season 3 and some cameos on seasons 4-6.
- First appearance: The Story Dress
- Greg, Jenny and baby Megan - A young couple and their baby girl who are neighbors 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 dark-skinned 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 whenever they felt alone.
A handful of other minor characters appeared during the series, among them an Indian girl named Sasha, a deaf girl named Lulu and the main characters' great uncle named David.
Lacewood Productions began work on the series in 1993, creating thirteen half-hour episodes, which debuted in 1994 on Family Channel and quickly became a success, prompting Lacewood to create two further seasons in 1995 and 1996. In the third season, the series switched to digital ink and paint for coloring.
In 1997, Lacewood Productions closed down and was taken over by Paragon Entertainment. In 2000, Amberwood Entertainment, a studio founded by Sheldon Wiseman after Lacewood's closure, acquired some of its assets from Paragon, including the series, and alongside Entertainment Rights began production of 26 more episodes, which debuted on the Family Channel the next year. However, in 2002 after the sixth season the series definitely ended production.
A total of 234 individual stories were produced, three per each half-hour episode. Each episode also had two interstitial segments titled Did You Know? which tells viewers small pieces of information regarding several subjects, such as plants, food, 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 31, 2012.
- CTV aired the series at several periods, most recently on 2006-2008.
- 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. Presumably, it was still aired on those channels in order to fulfill the Canadian content rules, being eventually replaced with newer Canadian series like Stella and Sam. Only the last two seasons were in rotation on both channels in later years.
- United States: PBS (1996–1997); Playhouse Disney (1997–2000). The airing rights for the series were acquired by PBS during 1995, and it premiered in PBS stations on January 28, 1996, becoming the second animated series to air on PBS (after The Magic School Bus), however it was dropped off PBS in June 1997, at the time it was picked up by Disney Channel to be aired on its new Playhouse Disney block until September 2000. It could also be seen on CBeebies Latin America, as the channel is available inside the U.S. on Dish Network.
- Latin America: CBeebies (2008–2010) This Spanish version, dubbed in Mexico, is narrated by 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 series only in the evenings at 8:30 pm and later 9:30pm (although for a brief time in 2008, it also aired on weekend afternoons) until being removed from the channel on April 12, 2010. It has not been shown in the region since then. It is also the only version to have all 78 episodes dubbed.
- Malaysia: Astro Ria (early 2000s). Dubbed into Malay by Filem Karya Nusa.
- Australia: ABC Television (24 November 1995 – 5 June 2002). Despite the series being removed from the digital schedule after 5 June 2002, the program list on the channel's website still included the series until 2011. ABC lost the broadcasting rights to the series in 2006.
- United Kingdom: The series was seen on Nickelodeon UK as early as June 1994. It also aired on Channel 4 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 was later seen on Tiny Living from 2000 to 2002.
- Spain: An Iberian Spanish dub of the series 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, which aired at least on Quebec in the late 1990s on Vrak (at the time known as Canal Famille), as well as on France on Canal+, where apparently only seasons 3-5 were aired. A 5-disc DVD set has been released in France
- A Portuguese version of the series exists, titled O Hugo e a Catarina.
Seasons 1, 4, 5 and 6 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 series