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Oobi (TV series)

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Oobi
Noggin Oobi Logo Nickelodeon.png
Genre Children's television series
Created by Josh Selig
Directed by Josh Selig
Starring Tim Lagasse
Stephanie D'Abruzzo
Noel MacNeal
Tyler Bunch
Theme music composer Jared Faber
Composer(s) Christopher North
Jeffrey Lesser
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes
  • Shorts: 47
  • Full-length episodes: 26
Production
Executive producer(s) Josh Selig
Producer(s) Lisa Simon (supervising)
Editor(s) John Tierney
Ken Reynolds
Cinematography Randy Drummond
Running time 2 minutes (shorts)
22 minutes (full-length)
Production company(s) Little Airplane Productions
Distributor Viacom Media Networks
Release
Picture format
Audio format Stereo
Original release
  • Shorts:
  • 2000 (2000) – 2002 (2002)[1][2]
  • Full-length episodes:
  • April 7, 2003 (2003-04-07) – February 11, 2005 (2005-02-11)[3]

Oobi is an American children's television series created by Josh Selig of Little Airplane Productions. It began as a series of shorts produced for the Noggin network. Full-length episodes of the show began airing on April 7, 2003, and the series ended its run on February 11, 2005.

Selig created the series shortly after leaving Sesame Street, which he had worked on since its premiere in 1969. He developed the idea for Oobi while watching bare-handed puppeteers audition for Ulica Sezamkowa, the Polish adaptation of Sesame Street. Roles on Oobi were offered to veteran puppeteers from related Sesame Workshop productions, and the original shorts were broadcast when Noggin was a joint venture between Viacom and the Workshop.

The series follows four characters, represented by bare hand puppets, on their everyday adventures. Its concept is based on a technique used by puppeteers learning to lip-sync, in which they use their hands and a pair of ping pong balls in place of a puppet. The characters' designs include plastic eyes and accessories, such as hats and hairpieces. The puppeteers' thumbs are used to represent mouth movement, and their fingers flutter and clench to indicate emotions. The puppets have been compared to those of ventriloquist Señor Wences and referred to as "furless Muppets" in promotional statements.

Oobi was a breakout success for the Noggin network. It has received a variety of awards and nominations, including an Innovation Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and multiple accolades from the Parents' Choice Foundation. Although critical reception upon the show's release was generally positive, criticism has been directed toward the characters' use of simplified sentences that normally do not contain prepositions or conjunctions. Oobi posted an average Nielsen rating of 2.35 among the preschool age group by its second season, becoming the highest-rated series ever to air on Noggin in 2004. It is the most widely distributed Noggin original program, having aired in over 23 markets worldwide.

Premise[edit]

The series takes place in a neighborhood inhabited by hand puppets with human qualities, and is shown from the perspective of Oobi, a four-year-old. The puppets frequently communicate with the audience and encourage participatory viewing. The characters' dialogue is made up of basic vocabulary and they speak in simple sentences.[4] The show is intended to help preschool-aged viewers build skills such as mathematics, early literacy, and logical thinking.[5]

Characters[edit]

The series' characters are bare hand puppets.

Main characters[edit]

  • Oobi (performed by Tim Lagasse) is a four-year-old. Oobi is curious, inquisitive, and always willing to learn something new. His eyes are brown in the short episodes and hazel in the full-length episodes.
  • Uma (performed by Stephanie D'Abruzzo) is Oobi's three-year-old sister. She loves singing, pretending, and chickens. Her catchphrases are "Nice!" and "Pretty." She is shorter than Oobi and wears a barrette in the full-length episodes. Because she is so young, she has trouble pronouncing larger words.
  • Kako (performed by Noel MacNeal) is Oobi's excitable, confident, and slightly arrogant best friend. He has green eyes and wears a red cap in the full-length episodes. His catchphrase is "¡Perfecto!" (Spanish for "perfect").
  • Grampu (performed by Tyler Bunch) is Oobi and Uma's wise and sometimes rather unlucky grandfather. His appearance is different from that of the children; four of his fingers are curled instead of being extended. His catchphrase is "Lovely!"

Recurring characters[edit]

  • Inka is Oobi's piano teacher. She encourages her students to practice as much as possible.
  • Angus is a high-strung friend of Oobi's whose eyes are below his fingers rather than on top.
  • Mrs. Johnson is Oobi's elderly neighbor. She has a cat named Kitty.
  • Mamu and Papu are Kako's parents, who appear whenever Oobi visits Kako's house.
  • Maestru is Oobi and Kako's singing instructor. He is also in charge of the town's theatrical productions.
  • Frieda is a foot, with whom Oobi often plays at the park.
  • Moppie is Uma's best friend from preschool. She has curly red hair.
  • Bella is a greengrocer and one of Grampu's friends. She owns the local grocery store.

Production[edit]

Josh Selig was inspired to create the show after watching puppeteers perform with their bare hands in Warsaw, Poland.[6] He noted the amount of expression conveyed by the more skilled actors' hands.[7] Selig pitched the show to Noggin under the working title Pipo,[8] but it was later renamed Oobi to mirror the characters' eyes with two O's. Viacom registered the Oobi title as a trademark on July 5, 2000.[9] Elements of the series were intentionally made simple and old-fashioned, so that young children could easily understand the storylines and relate to the characters.[10] In an interview with Gothamist, Selig stated, "Simple is good. Everything about Oobi is stripped down to the bare essentials: the writing, the puppets, the educational goals. What is left—when it all works—are clear stories and emotional performances unencumbered by lots of fur or feathers."[11] He expanded upon this idea in an article for The New York Times, in which he noted that "in the same way the puppets are very bare, the way they speak is quite distilled ... we've found it's really attractive to young kids. They like the clarity and simplicity."[12] The show was also specifically created to encourage preschool-aged viewers to use their imaginations and play with their own Oobi puppets.[13]

Principal photography took place at Kaufman Astoria Studios in New York. The show was the first televised production from Selig's Little Airplane studio, and the company's first years in business were spent creating Oobi shorts.[14][15] After the original interstitials aired, Noggin ordered thirteen half-hour episodes of Oobi. These finished production in February 2003[4] and were first announced by the network in March of the same year.[16] Nickelodeon ordered a second set of half-hour episodes shortly after the first;[17] these were filmed from January to February 2004.[18]

Appealing to a diverse audience was a key factor in the show's writing. The character of Frieda the foot was introduced specifically to highlight acceptance among children.[19] Positive critical reception for the racially diverse cast of characters led to several episodes centered on the topic of tolerance.[20]

Sacred Noise, a music production company in New York, provided the show's background music. New York-based composers wrote original songs sung by the characters in select episodes. Christopher North Renquist, who had been a songwriter for Disney Channel prior to working on the show, wrote the majority of the music.[21][22] Jeffrey Lesser, who continued to work at Little Airplane as the music producer of Wonder Pets!, was asked to write the "Oobi and Grampu" song for the "Fishing!" episode.[23] Mike Barrett, who worked as the sound editor on the Wonder Pets! pilot, was the series' sound mixer.[24][25]

Much of the show's crew had worked for Sesame Workshop before working on Oobi. Both Viacom and the Workshop operated the Noggin channel at the time of the show's creation.[26] The four principal puppeteers were offered their parts because of their previous experience as performers on Sesame Street and other Jim Henson productions.[7] Kevin Clash, best known for being the original performer of Elmo in many Muppet projects, guest-starred as Randy in the "Babysitter!" episode.[21] Ken Reynolds and John Tierney, editors on Sesame Street, were hired to edit the show. Both Josh Selig and the show's educational consultant, Natascha Crandall, worked on the Palestinian and Arabic adaptations of Sesame Street.[27] Lisa Simon, who won 20 Daytime Emmys for her work as a director of Sesame Street, acted as the supervising producer.[28][29]

Release[edit]

In the United States, episodes of Oobi premiered on Noggin. The interstitials were screened at festivals in 2000 and continued to air alongside the long-form series afterwards. Reruns were occasionally shown on Nickelodeon during the Nick Jr. block.[30][31] The show was also available through Nickelodeon's on-demand service from 2004 until 2009.[32][33][34] In 2005, Oobi episodes were released to Nick Jr. Video, a section of the TurboNick broadband video service.[35] Later that year, the show was aired as part of "Cox Family Fun Night," a weekly event featuring content from Nickelodeon that was broadcast every Sunday on Cox systems' local origination channels.[36] Select General Motors vehicles sold throughout 2005 included entertainment systems preloaded with Nickelodeon content, including episodes of Oobi and fellow Noggin program 64 Zoo Lane.[37][38] Oobi reruns were aired on the Nick Jr. channel from 2009 to 2013.[39] On May 6, 2015, twenty-six episodes of the series were made available as part of the Noggin mobile application.[40][41]

Oobi has aired in over 23 international markets,[42] many of which span multiple countries. An Icelandic-dubbed version of Oobi aired on Stöð 2 from 2005 to 2006.[43] A French dub aired in France and Wallonia on Nickelodeon Junior from 2007 until 2010.[44][45] The show was included as part of the channel's Fête de la Musique event in June 2010.[46] A Polish dub premiered on Nickelodeon Poland on July 19, 2009.[47][48] An Arabic dub had aired on Nickelodeon Arabia from 2009 until the channel's closure.[49] The English version aired on TVOKids in Canada from 2003 until 2005.[50][51] It was included as part of ABC Kids Australia's lineup in 2005.[52] The series was also shown in other Oceanian regions, such as Tonga.[53] It is currently broadcast on Nickelodeon Pakistan, with Urdu subtitles.[54][55] Although Oobi was not shown regularly on Nickelodeon Southeast Asia's feed, the channel's website featured games and media relating to the show until 2016.[56]

Episodes[edit]

Twenty-six[57] full-length episodes (each consisting of two segments) and forty-seven shorts aired during the series' run.[58] The shorts were shown between Noggin's regular schedule of programs. The full-length episodes, each one spanning ten minutes, were aired in pairs.[59]

Series overview[edit]

Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
Shorts 47 2000 2002
Full-length episodes 26 April 7, 2003 (2003-04-07) February 11, 2005 (2005-02-11)

Shorts[edit]

No. Title Directed by
2000-02
1 "Dance!" Tim Lagasse
Grampu brings a radio outside and each of the kids takes a turn dancing along to a different genre of music.
2 "Tag!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi, Uma, and Kako play a game of tag.
3 "Flush!" Tim Lagasse
Uma and Grampu imitate the sound of a toilet flushing.
4 "On & Off!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi learns how to turn a light switch on and off.
5 "Share Pretzels!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi shares his store-bought pretzels with Uma and Kako, who end up eating all of them. Grampu appreciates Oobi's thoughtfulness and gives him a home-baked pretzel.
6 "Watermelon!" Tim Lagasse
The children eat watermelon.
7 "Soup!" Tim Lagasse
Grampu makes soup for Uma.
8 "Hot Dog and Ketchup!" Tim Lagasse
The kids eat hot dogs with condiments.
9 "Prince Oobi!" Tim Lagasse
Uma and Kako pretend that Oobi is a prince.
10 "Bubbles!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi and Uma blow bubbles.
11 "Empty and Full!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi learns the difference between empty and full.
12 "Popcorn!" Tim Lagasse
Grampu gives Oobi and Kako a bowl of popcorn.
13 "Worm!" Tim Lagasse
The children discover a worm outside.
14 "Apple Picking!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi, Uma, and Kako go apple picking at an orchard. Uma tries to reach an apple from a tall branch, but is unable to. The boys decide to help and use teamwork to grab it.
15 "Pretend Wind!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi and Kako are outside on a windy day and they pretend to be the wind by blowing on each other.
16 "Tea!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi and Uma sing the teapot song outside.
17 "Ice Cream!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi and Uma eat ice cream.
18 "Water Games!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi and Kako play with a sprinkler in the backyard. The water unexpectedly stops running, puzzling them. They soon discover that it turns on and off at random.
19 "Guess!" Tim Lagasse
The gang plays a guessing game.
20 "Bird!" Tim Lagasse
After hearing a bird's song, Grampu teaches Oobi and Uma different bird calls.
21 "Cat!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi feeds a cat with help from Grampu.
22 "Puppy!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi pretends to be a puppy.
23 "Animal Cookies!" Tim Lagasse
Kako eats all of Oobi's animal-shaped cookies.
24 "Slide!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi rides down a slide with Uma.
25 "Follow the Leader!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi and Kako play a game of follow the leader, in which Kako performs an action and Oobi must copy it.
26 "Peekaboo!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi, Uma, and Kako play "peekaboo" by covering and uncovering each other.
27 "Dig!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi and Uma play in the sand with Grampu.
28 "Hide and Seek!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi hides behind a sunflower during a game of hide and seek.
29 "Nature!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi explores the outdoors.
30 "Pretend Catch!" Tim Lagasse
The children play catch with an imaginary ball.
31 "Music!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi, Uma, and Kako decide to make music together. Uma sings, Oobi blows on an empty jug, and Kako turns a soup can into a makeshift drum.
32 "Guitar!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi and Kako play a guitar.
33 "Bongo Drums!" Tim Lagasse
Grampu teaches Uma how to play bongo drums.
34 "Quiet Read!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi's reading is interrupted by Uma, who is listening to loud music.
35 "Clap Hands!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi and Kako clap hands to pass the time.
36 "Painting!" Tim Lagasse
The characters make paintings.
37 "Macaroni Jewelry!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi, Uma, and Kako put on a fashion show with jewelry made from macaroni. Their performance is cut short when Grampu calls them to the kitchen, where he has prepared bowls of macaroni and cheese for the kids.
38 "Paint Shapes!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi and Kako use sponges to paint different shapes.
39 "Pinch Pot!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi and Uma make a pinch pot out of clay.
40 "Drawing Game!" Tim Lagasse
Grampu draws a rabbit and asks Oobi to guess what it is.
41 "Neighborhood Art!" Tim Lagasse
The characters discover art around the neighborhood.
42 "Toothpaste!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi and Kako try to open a tube of toothpaste. Kako decides to jump on top of it, accidentally covering Oobi with toothpaste in the process.
43 "Feelings!" Tim Lagasse
The puppets learn about each other's feelings.
44 "Cake!" Tim Lagasse
The kids eat cake with frosting.
45 "Wet and Dry!" Tim Lagasse
The kids learn the difference between wet and dry.
46 "Bubble Bath!" Tim Lagasse
Oobi and Kako take a bubble bath. They pretend to be different creatures by covering themselves with suds.
47 "Itsy Bitsy Spider!" Tim Lagasse
Kako pretends to be a spider and gives Oobi the idea to sing the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" song.

Full-length episodes[edit]

No. Title Directed by Production code[60]
2003–04
1a "Camp Out!" Josh Selig 009
Grampu takes Oobi, Uma, and Kako camping in the backyard.
1b "Uma Swing!" Josh Selig 003
Oobi teaches Uma how to be careful at the playground after she falls off of the swing.
2a "Uma Bathroom!" Josh Selig 001
Uma refuses to take a bath after playing in the mud with Oobi and Kako.
2b "Dance Class!" Josh Selig 004
Oobi and Uma learn that practice makes perfect when they take their first dance lessons. After being taught a simple routine, they celebrate their new moves with a dance party.
3a "Kako's Puppy!" Josh Selig 005
Oobi learns that pets are a big responsibility when Kako asks him to take care of his puppy.
3b "Uma's Birthday!" Josh Selig 006
A big surprise birthday party for Uma becomes more about the party and less about her. She feels overwhelmed and retreats to her room. The boys realize that Uma would prefer a small party and give her one.
4a "Asparagus!" Josh Selig 007
Oobi and Grampu take drastic measures to get Uma to try eating asparagus, but almost all of their attempts fail. Oobi is able to convince Uma to take a small taste, and she ends up loving it.
4b "Haircut!" Josh Selig 008
Oobi wakes up with hair on his head. He tries hiding and styling it, but is not satisfied. In the end, he and Grampu go to the barbershop. Oobi is able to overcome his fear of getting a haircut and happily returns to his old hairless self.
5a "Grampu Day!" Josh Selig 002
Oobi, Uma, and Kako create a holiday called "Grampu Day," on which they each create a special gift for Grampu. Oobi makes a clay statue of Grampu, Kako makes food and Uma sings a special song.
5b "Make Pizza!" Josh Selig 010
Grampu teaches the kids how to make pizza using dough, tomato sauce, and cheese.
6a "Showtime!" Josh Selig 011
Uma wants to help with Oobi and Kako's puppet show. They ask her to watch instead, but soon realize that they need Uma's help to open the curtain.
6b "Oobi's Car!" Josh Selig 012
Uma forgets to be careful while playing with Oobi's favorite toy car, and breaks off one of its wheels. Grampu explains to Oobi that accidents happen and fixes the toy with the children's help.
7a "Garden Day!" Josh Selig 013
Grampu teaches the kids how flowers grow and gives them a seed to plant. They have trouble waiting for it to grow, but learn that patience is key when gardening.
7b "Piano Lesson!" Josh Selig 014
Inka gives Oobi his first piano lesson, and teaches him how to play "Do-Re-Mi."
8a "Uma Chicken!" Josh Selig 015
Uma pretends to be a chicken as part of Oobi and Kako's farm animal game. However, she takes things too far and is soon unable to stop acting like a chicken.
8b "Sleepover!" Josh Selig 016
Uma misses Oobi when he visits Kako's house for a sleepover. Grampu does his best to make Uma feel better, but the only thing that works is a phone call and a lullaby from Oobi.
9a "Play Ball!" Josh Selig 017
Kako becomes frustrated with tee-ball and refuses to play. After Oobi learns the basics of Kako's hand-clapping game, Oobi teaches Kako the fundamentals of tee-ball. Kako gets a hit and Uma is revealed to be a tee-ball natural.
9b "Build Fort!" Josh Selig 018
Oobi and Kako build forts out of blocks and argue over whose is better. They combine their forts after coming to the conclusion that arguments are no fun.
10a "Petting Zoo!" Josh Selig 019
Grampu takes Oobi and Kako to the petting zoo. The boys are afraid of the horse at first but overcome their fear after joining Grampu for a horseback ride.
10b "New Friend!" Josh Selig 020
A day at the park with Grampu becomes special for Oobi when he meets Frieda, a friendly foot. Oobi learns that diversity is good and that new friends come in many shapes and sizes.
11a "Uma Sick" Josh Selig 021
Oobi and Kako try to make Uma feel better when she comes down with a fever. They make her a card and perform a "get-better dance", but learn that what she really needs is some rest. They decide to sing her a lullaby, and Uma is healthy once again after sleeping.
11b "Playdate!" Josh Selig 022
Oobi forgets about Kako and the playdate they had planned when Grampu gives him a pet turtle.
12a "Make Art!" Josh Selig 023
The kids decide to make art together after seeing Grampu's painting. Kako paints a colorful pattern, Uma creates a circle-themed piece, and Oobi makes a collage.
12b "Rainy Day!" Josh Selig 024
Oobi and Kako reluctantly join Uma to find a rainbow after the rain spoils their plans. They cheer up after catching raindrops and splashing in puddles.
13a "Pretend Circus!" Josh Selig 025
Oobi, Uma, and Kako use their imaginations to create their own pretend circus.
13b "Make Music!" Josh Selig 026
The kids form their own band and try to find makeshift instruments. Kako blows into a bottle, Uma uses a pot as a drum, and Oobi claps with Grampu.
2004–05
14a "Video!" Josh Selig 027
Grampu shows Oobi and Uma how to film and edit a home video.
14b "Grown-Up!" Josh Selig 028
Oobi, Uma, and Kako pretend to be grown-up firefighters, musicians, and businesspeople.
15a "Shopping!" Josh Selig 029
Oobi and Kako learn to respect other people's property when Grampu takes them to Bella's supermarket.
15b "Uma Dreams!" Josh Selig 030
Grampu helps Uma turn her nightmare into a silly dream.
16a "Chopsticks!" Josh Selig 031
Grampu takes the children to a Chinese restaurant, where Uma learns how to use chopsticks.
16b "Clean Up!" Josh Selig 032
Oobi, Uma, and Kako work together to clean up Oobi's room.
17a "Kako Dinner!" Josh Selig 033
Oobi learns that trying new things is good when he visits Kako's house for dinner.
17b "Sign Language!" Josh Selig 034
Oobi and Kako meet a deaf girl named Amy at the park. Her mother helps them learn sign language so that they can communicate and play together.
18a "Halloween!" Josh Selig 035
It is Uma's first time trick-or-treating on Halloween. After Oobi teaches her all of the rituals, Uma takes Kako under her wing and helps him overcome his fear of ghosts.
18b "Checkup!" Josh Selig 036
Oobi visits his pediatrician's office for a checkup. He is nervous at first, but the doctor's kindness helps puts Oobi at ease.
19a "Uma Trip!" Josh Selig 037
Oobi, Kako, and Grampu take Uma on a pretend trip throughout the house.
19b "Frieda Friend!" Josh Selig 038
Frieda invites Oobi to play with her and another foot named Frankie at the park. At first, Oobi does not know how to play with them because they like different games. However, Uma tells him that differences are okay and even points out some things that they have in common.
20a "Neighborhood!" Josh Selig 039
Oobi and Kako build a replica of their neighborhood out of boxes and paint. They give Uma a tour and show her the library, the post office, and the zoo.
20b "Uma Preschool!" Josh Selig 040
Uma does not want Grampu to leave on her first day of preschool, but ends up having the time of her life when she meets her teacher and some new friends.
21a "Theater!" Josh Selig 041
Maestru directs a musical performance of "Little Red Riding Hood", staged in the park. Oobi plays the wolf, Uma plays Little Red, Kako plays the mother and grandmother, and Angus steals the show as the woodsman.
21b "Baby!" Josh Selig 042
Oobi meets a baby named Sophie and her mother, Sheila, at the park. Oobi feeds Sophie, changes her diaper, and rocks her to sleep.
22a "Chez Oobi!" Josh Selig 043
Grampu prepares a special dinner of spaghetti and meatballs for his date with Inka. Oobi and Kako help by turning the house into a French-style restaurant. They turn on soft violin music, act as waiters, and serve fruit tarts for dessert.
22b "Valentine!" Josh Selig 044
Oobi and Uma follow a trail of hearts to find their mystery valentine, who turns out to be Grampu in a festive heart costume.
23a "Parade!" Josh Selig 045
The kids put on their own parade after seeing a parade poster. Oobi wears a float costume, Uma becomes a majorette, and Kako dresses as a one-man band.
23b "Babysitter!" Josh Selig 046
Grampu and Inka go out polka dancing and leave a playful babysitter named Randy in charge of the kids. Uma initially resents Randy, but his silly demeanor eventually wins her over.
24a "Recital!" Josh Selig 047
Oobi and Angus perform at a piano recital. Oobi is very confident and helps Angus overcome his stage fright. However, when Oobi makes a mistake during his performance, he panics and runs offstage. Kako persuades him to try again, and soon afterwards, Oobi is able to play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" perfectly.
24b "Dinosaur!" Josh Selig 048
Oobi writes a storybook called "The Lost Umasaurus", in which dinosaurs named Oobi-Rex and Dino-Kako help Umasaurus find her way home.
25a "Nature Walk!" Josh Selig 049
Grampu takes the kids on a nature walk in the park. The highlight of their trip is seeing an eagle fly through the air.
25b "Sing!" Josh Selig 050
Oobi and Kako decide to join Maestru's singing group after hearing a song called "Yo To Ho!" (based on the classical opera tune "Ride of the Valkyries").
26a "Fishing!" Josh Selig 051
Grampu takes Oobi fishing. They learn about patience and eventually catch a fish. However, Oobi feels bad for the fish and convinces Grampu that they should set it free.
26b "Superheroes!" Josh Selig 052
Oobi, Uma, and Kako pretend to be superheroes when they bring Mrs. Johnson's cat down from a tree.

Reception[edit]

Ratings[edit]

Oobi was instrumental in growing the Noggin network's viewership. From 2003 to 2004, full-length episodes of the show (along with premieres of Miffy and Friends and Connie the Cow) were responsible for increasing Noggin's average daily viewers to 93,000 children in its key demographic of infants and toddlers (a 55 percent increase over its ratings the year before).[61] The average number of viewers aged 2–5 watching Oobi increased by 43 percent during the same time period.[61] The steady increase in ratings received coverage from Multichannel News author Mike Reynolds, who attributed Noggin's popularity to its "breakout original series Oobi."[62] Its growing audience led Noggin to order a second set of full-length episodes.[63] The premiere of the "Uma Preschool!" episode on September 6, 2004, posted a 2.35 Nielsen rating among the preschool age group, becoming the highest-rated premiere of a Noggin original series to that date.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

"The strangest [Noggin] show, hands down (pun intended), is Oobi, whose surprisingly appealing puppet characters are bare human hands with goggle-eyes, accessories and homey little indoor and outdoor sets."

— Lynne Heffley, The Los Angeles Times[64]

The puppeteers' performances and the show's approach to teaching fundamental life skills have been praised by critics. Common Sense Media reviewer Andrea Graham gave the show a five-star review, writing that "when it comes to preschool programming, Oobi really breaks the mold, succeeding in its simplicity."[65] The Coalition for Quality Children's Media wrote positively of Oobi, complimenting its concept and calling it "thoroughly enjoyable" and "extremely well received."[66] Diana Dawson of the Herald-Journal found the show's old-fashioned look appealing, stating that "in a world that too often forgets the innocent joy of playing kick-the-can and catching fireflies, there's something incredibly endearing about the bare-handed puppetry."[67] DVD Talk's Holly Ordway was unimpressed with the series' simplicity, but admitted in her review that it was "a clever way to encourage kids to be imaginative."[68] Evan Levine of The Star Democrat stated in his review that "it is certainly fun for preschoolers to be able to make their own Oobis, and they’ll no doubt relate to some of the issues discussed … parents, however, may find that the show wears thin quickly and feels a little forced."[69] Ryan Ball of Animation Magazine described the show as "an offbeat new entry" to Noggin's lineup, adding that "the fact that all the characters are played by hands just adds to the quirkiness."[70]

Whether or not the characters' simple speech helps build basic language skills has been debated. Los Angeles Times critic Lynne Heffley commended the interactive aspects of the show but mentioned that the simplified dialogue can distract from the educational content. She writes, "the repetition of single words and use of incomplete sentences ... offer a mixed result: at times seeming too babyish, at other times effectively underscoring concepts, ideas and vocabulary."[64] In her Common Sense Media review, Andrea Graham stated that the language "should not be seen as detrimental to a child's speech development – rather, it's a language that young children understand and appreciate."[65] Jaime Egan of Families.com wrote negatively of the dialogue but felt that it did not divert from the educational value. She wrote that "even though the characters do not speak in complete sentences ... the lessons that this show teaches can be invaluable."[71] The hosts of Ray William Johnson's Equals Three criticized the simplified language, stating that the puppets "didn't even use full sentences. They just said enough words to make themselves understood."[72] Amy Sohn of New York magazine expressed her opinion that the language ruined the show as a whole, calling the characters "speech-impaired."[73] The Star Tribune's James Lileks deemed the series "brain-rotting,"[74] and Pete Vonder Haar of the Houston Press called Oobi's writers "lazy" for using such a simple concept.[75]

Some critics have commended the show for its widespread appeal, while others have argued the opposite and criticized it for catering solely to preschoolers. In an interview with The New York Times, Tom Ascheim said that "the show's quirky appeal extended far beyond Noggin's target audience. 'The simplicity is really understandable by my two-year-old, but my ten-year-old really giggles at Oobi.'"[76] Andrew Dalton of The Stir stated that he was a fan of the show himself, adding that Oobi is "just happy to be simple and gleeful, and that actually makes it more appealing to sit and watch as a grown-up."[77] The San Diego Union-Tribune's Jane Clifford felt that it could be enjoyed by viewers of all ages, remarking that "if as a kid you ever drew eyes or a mouth on your hand and then 'talked' to a friend, you'll relate to this show."[78] Oppositely, Rebecca Brayton of WatchMojo.com felt that while Oobi "had the intentions to build academic skills in children ... it left their parents empty-handed."[79]

Awards and nominations[edit]

In spring 2001, Little Airplane Productions was the recipient of a Parents' Choice Television Gold Award for Oobi.[80] Later in the same year, Oobi won a Kids First Endorsement Award, presented by the Coalition for Quality Children's Media.[81] It was also nominated for the organization's Best Children's Film or Video Awards.[82] In 2004, the series received a second Parents' Choice Award[83] and a nomination in the "Up to 6 Fiction" category at the Prix Jeunesse International Festival.[84] In June 2009, Josh Selig was presented with an Innovation Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation for his work on the show.[85]

Year Presenter Award/Category Nominee Status Ref.
2001 Parents' Choice Foundation Television Gold Award Little Airplane Productions Won [80]
Coalition for Quality Children's Media Kids First Endorsement Award Won [81]
Best Children's Film or Video Nominated [82]
2004 Parents' Choice Foundation Television Silver Honor Won [83]
Prix Jeunesse International Up to 6 Fiction Nominated [86]
2009 Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Innovation Award Josh Selig (for Oobi) Won [85]

Cultural impact[edit]

Oobi has made an impression on celebrities. Actress Uma Thurman, who shares her first name with one of the show's principal characters, revealed to Stephanie D'Abruzzo (who plays Oobi's Uma) that she was familiar with the show and its characters in 2005.[87] As part of his "Brotherhood 2.0" project, author John Green featured Oobi in an installment of his video blog series Vlogbrothers.[88] In a humorous sketch, the show's title character demonstrated how to write a book proposal alongside a sock puppet. Clips from Oobi were frequently shown on Joel McHale's The Soup during the segment "What the Kids Are Watching", in which McHale took scenes from children's programs out of context and provided sarcastic commentary on them. After watching a scene from the "Showtime!" episode that depicted Oobi and Kako glued together, McHale joked about the puppets being homosexual.[89]

The show is mentioned in a variety of books published by television producers, puppeteers, and parents of young children. Neal Pollack mentions the show in his autobiography Alternadad, in which he notes that Oobi "offered the standard share-and-be-creative message ... it also featured a hilarious character called Grampu."[90] It is briefly referenced in Laura Lynn's Ariel's Office, in which the narrator describes her daughter watching Noggin and being "transfixed by Oobi and ... letting me clean up."[91] It is described as a "Noggin show that use[s] Señor Wences-style human hand puppets" in Dade Hayes's novel Anytime Playdate, which investigates the preschool entertainment business and its effect on parenting.[92] Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez also likens the show to Señor Wences' puppets in his book The 1950s' Most Wanted.[93] Lisa Guernsey mentions that Oobi "promot[es] cognitive growth" in her 2012 book Screen Time, which reports on how electronic media affects children.[94]

Related media[edit]

Appearances in other media[edit]

Oobi shorts and episode clips were included in many Nick Jr. DVDs released in 2003 and 2004, beginning with Blue's Clues: Shapes and Colors!, which contained the "Dance!" short.[95] The final video to include a clip from the show was Oswald: On-the-Go Oswald, which featured a clip from the "Dance Class!" episode.[96] Several of these videos have been repackaged and sold in DVD packs as recently as 2015.[97]

Oobi has been featured in many television-related magazines. Information about the show was frequently incorporated into Nick Jr. Magazine, whose August 2004 edition included an Oobi-themed craft section.[98] In summer 2004, TV Guide published excerpts from an interview with Stephanie D'Abruzzo about the show.[99] The series is mentioned in the September 2004 issue of Big Apple Parent among Little Airplane's other works.[100] The October 2004 issue of Playthings includes an interview with Josh Selig about his company, along with two photos of Oobi characters.[101][102] Kidscreen regularly included news about the series. In July 2005, it mentioned the show in a description of the Little Airplane Academy.[103] The June 2007 issue included a story about how Little Airplane conceived the Oobi series' title.[8]

Online content[edit]

Oobi activities were available on Noggin.com from 2002 to 2009.[104] Kenny Miller of Viacom announced the addition of Oobi to the site in an interview with PR Newswire, describing the show's online webpage as a place "where kids can match shapes with bubbles, colors with snacks, compose music, and draw and dance with Oobi."[105] Many interactive games were created to coincide with the shorts.[106] From 2004 to 2006, printables featuring the characters were also released on the site.[107] The games based on the show were mentioned by Time magazine when it named Noggin.com one of the 50 best sites of 2004,[108] and by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences when the site won a Webby Award in 2005.[109]

The majority of the games received positive reviews. In 2006, the AACE organization listed the "Oobi's Letters" game as an online resource that helped players develop "critical components of children's development."[110] Jean Armour Polly and Heidi Kotansky of Common Sense Media wrote positively of the more informative activities, but noted that some lacked a sufficient amount of educational content. They write, "in Oobi's Bubbles, kids drag a bubble wand next to Oobi's 'mouth' so he can blow bubbles. This just teaches tots to click and drag. Wouldn't it be more fun to do this with real wands and soapy water?"[111]

Promotional events[edit]

The 2001 North American Trade Show Tour in Saint Paul, Minnesota, included a replica of the Oobi set.[112] The display was designed by Matthew Allar, a scenographer for Viacom Media Networks.[113] Oobi was also a recurring theme of "Club Noggin", a monthly event taking place at General Growth Property malls across the United States. Episodes of the show were screened at these events, and visitors were supplied with Oobi puppet eyes and activities.[114]

"Oobi Arts and Crafts" sessions were held throughout November 2007 at Nickelodeon Suites Resort in Orlando, Florida.[115] Sets of authentic Oobi puppet eyes, similar to those at Club Noggin, were distributed to hotel guests at these events.[115]

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External links[edit]