Oobi (TV series)
|Created by||Josh Selig|
|Directed by||Josh Selig
|Theme music composer||Jared Faber|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||
|Executive producer(s)||Josh Selig|
|Location(s)||Kaufman Astoria Studios
Astoria, Queens, New York
|Running time||2 minutes (shorts)
22 minutes (full-length)
|Production company(s)||Little Airplane Productions|
|Distributor||Viacom Media Networks|
Oobi is an American children's television series created by Josh Selig of Little Airplane Productions. It began as a series of shorts commissioned by the Noggin network during a three-year period in which all of the channel's programming was co-produced by Nickelodeon and Sesame Workshop. 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 it began production in the late 1960s. 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 shows. The Jim Henson Company, which designed and built the puppets on Sesame Street, held a stake in Noggin at the time of Oobi's inception. Principal photography took place at Kaufman Astoria Studios, where Sesame Street is also taped.
The series follows four characters, represented by bare hand puppets, on their everyday adventures. It features Muppet performers Tim Lagasse, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Noel MacNeal, and Tyler Bunch in starring roles. Oobi's 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.
- 1 Premise
- 2 Characters
- 3 Production
- 4 Release
- 5 Episodes
- 6 Television appearances
- 7 Reception
- 8 Related media
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
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. The show is intended to help preschool-aged viewers build skills such as mathematics, early literacy, and logical thinking.
Early full-length episodes follow a format consisting of three vignettes. The first is a linear story featuring the puppets embarking on an adventure or making a new discovery. The second vignette is a series of brief interviews between the puppets and human families that center on the preceding story's topic. The final segment is an interactive activity (often involving rhyming, guessing, or memory) in which the viewers are encouraged to play along with the characters. When Oobi was renewed for a second set of full-length episodes in 2004, game segments were dropped in favor of extended storylines. Interviews remained an integral part of the program in later episodes, but instead of being shown after the story, these segments were shortened and played as transitions between scenes. Oobi's shift in focus to ongoing narratives is comparable to the restructuring of Sesame Street in 2002, during which the show discontinued its "magazine format" to create longer stories for its characters.
- 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!"
- 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.
Josh Selig was inspired to create the show after watching puppeteers perform with their bare hands on the set of Ulica Sezamkowa in Warsaw, Poland. He noted the amount of expression conveyed by the more skilled actors' hands. Selig pitched the show to Noggin under the working title Pipo, 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. 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. 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." 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." The show was also specifically created to encourage preschool-aged viewers to use their imaginations and play with their own Oobi puppets.
The program was filmed at Kaufman Astoria Studios in New York. It was the first televised production from Selig's Little Airplane studio, and the company's first years in business were spent creating Oobi shorts with Muppet performers. After the original interstitials aired, Noggin ordered thirteen half-hour episodes of Oobi. These finished production in February 2003 and were first announced by the network in March of the same year. Nickelodeon ordered a second set of half-hour episodes shortly after the first; these were filmed from January to February 2004.
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. Positive critical reception for the racially diverse cast of characters led to several episodes centered on the topic of tolerance.
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. 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. Mike Barrett, who worked as the sound editor on the Wonder Pets! pilot, was the series' sound mixer.
The show's cast consisted exclusively of Sesame Workshop alumni. Viacom, the Workshop, and the Jim Henson Company operated the Noggin channel at the time of the show's creation. The four principal puppeteers were offered their parts because of their previous experience as performers on Sesame Street and other Jim Henson productions. Kevin Clash, best known for being the original performer of Elmo in many Muppet projects, guest-starred as Randy in the "Babysitter!" episode. Matt Vogel, the current puppeteer for Count von Count, played the recurring role of Angus. Martin P. Robinson–who performs Mr. Snuffleupagus, Telly Monster, and Slimey the Worm on Sesame Street–created and built the puppets' costumes and accessories. 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. Lisa Simon, who won 20 Daytime Emmys for her work as a director of Sesame Street, acted as the supervising producer.
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. The show was also available through Nickelodeon's on-demand service from 2004 until 2009. In 2005, Oobi episodes were released to Nick Jr. Video, a section of the TurboNick broadband video service. 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. 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. Oobi reruns were aired on the Nick Jr. channel from 2009 to 2013. On May 6, 2015, twenty-six episodes of the series were made available as part of the Noggin mobile application.
Oobi has aired in over 23 international markets, many of which span multiple countries. An Icelandic-dubbed version of Oobi aired on Stöð 2 from 2005 to 2006. A French dub aired in France and Wallonia on Nickelodeon Junior from 2007 until 2010. The show was included as part of the channel's Fête de la Musique event in June 2010. A Polish dub titled Rączusie premiered on Nickelodeon Poland on July 19, 2009. A Hebrew dub, which featured Gilad Kleter and Yoram Yosefsberg as the respective voices of Oobi and Grampu, premiered on BabyTV and was later shown on Nickelodeon Israel. An Arabic dub had aired on Nickelodeon Arabia from 2009 until the channel's closure. The English version aired on TVOKids in Canada from 2003 until 2005. It was included as part of ABC Kids Australia's lineup in 2005. The series was also shown in other Oceanian regions, such as Tonga. It is currently broadcast on Nickelodeon Pakistan, with Urdu subtitles. 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.
In a fashion similar to Sesame Street's international co-productions, a version of Oobi in the Persian language was produced without the original puppeteers' involvement in December 2012. It was titled Dasdasi (Persian: دس دسی صداش می آد lit. Dasdasi: Clapping Hands) in reference to an Iranian folk song about clapping one's hands. Amir Soltan Ahmadi and Negar Estakhr, who wrote and directed the program, stated in an interview with Jaam-e Jam that they had watched episodes of Oobi in English and wished to create a tailored adaptation that highlighted elements of Iranian culture. Although the puppets in Dasdasi did not retain the original Oobi characters' personalities or roles, their key physical features (such as each puppet's eye color, Uma's barrette, and Kako's hat) remained. The cast of adult puppets, which was expanded to include a set of parents in addition to a single grandfather, wore Arab garments.
In July 2013, Dasdasi was sold to broadcasters in Kuwait, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. IRIB TV2 aired the show in Iran and Japan's NHK briefly showed interest in dubbing it. IRIB's Art News Agency hosts full episodes of Dasdasi on its website.
Twenty-six full-length episodes (each consisting of two segments) and forty-seven shorts aired during the series' run. The shorts were shown between Noggin's regular schedule of programs. The full-length episodes, each one spanning ten minutes, were aired in pairs.
|First aired||Last aired|
|Full-length episodes||26||April 7, 2003||February 11, 2005|
|"Dog Problems" Official Music Video, December 1, 2006, Nettwerk Music|
Indie rock band The Format released a music video for their song "Dog Problems" in November 2006. The video, which includes Nate Ruess of Fun as the lead singer alongside Sam Means and Steven Shane McDonald, was inspired by Oobi and features hand puppets in the style of the show. Ruess is represented in the video by a puppet wearing a bowler hat on his knuckles, in a fashion similar to the Oobi character Kako (who also sports a cap). It begins with Ruess's character creating a shadow puppet, but "the set-ups get increasingly intricate and clever as things progress out into the real world and onto various parodies," one of which features a quartet of Oobi puppets spoofing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody".
"Dog Problems" was aired throughout 2007 on the music-themed cable channel Fuse as a part of its hour-long Oven Fresh music video blocks. It was pulled from the channel's lineup in 2008 following The Format's announcement that it would break up and not release another album. The video was also briefly shown on Viacom's own networks MTV2 and MTVU. The newspaper Pipe Dream noted in 2008 that the video "was just making the rounds on alternative music networks … but almost as quickly as [The Format] shot up in popularity, they were no more."
In January 2014, Havas Worldwide and the Turkish branch of the condom company Durex created a television commercial titled "Farewell Elizabeth" that parodied Oobi. It featured a man breaking up with his girlfriend and resorting to dating his right hand, which was dressed up like one of the characters from the series. The Oobi hand puppet (named "Elizabeth") was intended to be a metaphor for masturbation, which is generally regarded as a taboo subject in the country. The company had produced other anti-masturbation advertisements in the past, all of which were unsuccessful in Turkey. Havas Worldwide stated in an interview with La República that they chose to parody Oobi after deciding that doing "something never said or done" before would be the only way to make such a commercial popular with Turkish viewers.
The commercial was the first advertisement from Durex Turkey to take a comedic approach to spreading brand awareness. The humorous inclusion of an Oobi puppet made "Farewell Elizabeth" a success with Turkish consumers. The advertisement received over five million views on YouTube in its first week of release, despite how the website was blocked in Turkey at the time. The amount of Durex Turkey's followers on Facebook also increased by 20% following the commercial's first broadcast on television.
Right Hand Guy
In July 2016, Disney XD announced that it had greenlit a put pilot titled Right Hand Guy, which is in consideration for a full series. The show stars a pre-teen who draws a face on his right hand that comes to life and befriends him. The creator, Dan Lagana, took inspiration from Oobi while developing the concept.
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). The average number of viewers aged 2–5 watching Oobi increased by 43 percent during the same time period. The steady increase in ratings received coverage from Multichannel News author Mike Reynolds, who attributed Noggin's popularity to its "breakout original series Oobi." Its growing audience led Noggin to order a second set of full-length episodes. 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.
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." The Coalition for Quality Children's Media wrote positively of Oobi, complimenting its concept and calling it "thoroughly enjoyable" and "extremely well received." 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." 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." 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." In 2010, Babble.com listed Oobi second on their list of top twelve television series for babies and toddlers.
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." 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." 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." 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." Amy Sohn of New York magazine expressed her opinion that the language ruined the show as a whole, calling the characters "speech-impaired." The Star Tribune's James Lileks deemed the series "brain-rotting," and Pete Vonder Haar of the Houston Press called Oobi's writers "lazy" for using such a simple concept.
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.'" 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." 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." 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." 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."
Awards and nominations
In spring 2001, Little Airplane Productions was the recipient of a Parents' Choice Television Gold Award for Oobi. Later in the same year, Oobi won a Kids First Endorsement Award, presented by the Coalition for Quality Children's Media. It was also nominated for the organization's Best Children's Film or Video Awards. In 2004, the series received a second Parents' Choice Award and a nomination in the "Up to 6 Fiction" category at the Prix Jeunesse International Festival. 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.
|2001||Parents' Choice Foundation||Television Gold Award||Little Airplane Productions||Won|||
|Coalition for Quality Children's Media||Kids First Endorsement Award||Won|||
|Best Children's Film or Video||Nominated|||
|2004||Parents' Choice Foundation||Television Silver Honor||Won|||
|Prix Jeunesse International||Up to 6 Fiction||Nominated|||
|2009||Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation||Innovation Award||Josh Selig (for Oobi)||Won|||
Havas Worldwide and Durex's commercial featuring Oobi, "Farewell Elizabeth", was also the recipient of one award and three nominations in 2014. It was nominated in two categories at the Kristal Elma awards, which were presented by Reklamcılar Derneği. It won a Silver Prize at the Loeries and was a finalist in the 2014 Epica Awards.
|2014||Reklamcılar Derneği||Advertising Awards - Film||Havas Worldwide Istanbul
|Best Integrated Campaign||Nominated|||
|The Loeries||Digital Film Category: Silver||Won|||
|Epica Awards||Online & Viral Films Category||Nominated|||
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. As part of his "Brotherhood 2.0" project, author John Green featured Oobi in an installment of his video blog series Vlogbrothers. 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.
The show is mentioned in a variety of books published by television producers, puppeteers, and parents of young children. Satirist 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." 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. 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. Robert Rodriguez, a filmmaker who directed Sharkboy and Lavagirl and the Spy Kids franchise, also likens the show to Señor Wences' puppets in his book The 1950s' Most Wanted. Lisa Guernsey mentions that Oobi "promot[es] cognitive growth" in her 2012 book Screen Time, which reports on how electronic media affects children.
Video releases and books
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. 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. Several of these videos have been repackaged and sold in DVD packs as recently as 2015.
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. In summer 2004, TV Guide published excerpts from an interview with Stephanie D'Abruzzo about the show. The series is mentioned in the September 2004 issue of Big Apple Parent among Little Airplane's other works. The October 2004 issue of Playthings includes an interview with Josh Selig about his company, along with two photos of Oobi characters. Kidscreen regularly included news about the series. In July 2005, it mentioned the show in a description of the Little Airplane Academy. The June 2007 issue included a story about how Little Airplane conceived the Oobi series' title.
Oobi activities were available on Noggin.com from 2002 to 2009. 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." Many interactive games were created to coincide with the shorts. From 2004 to 2006, printables featuring the characters were also released on the site. The games based on the show were mentioned by Time magazine when it named Noggin.com one of the 50 best sites of 2004, and by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences when the site won a Webby Award in 2005.
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." 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?"
The 2001 North American Trade Show Tour in Saint Paul, Minnesota, included a replica of the Oobi set. Noggin's other displays at the show were all related to Sesame Street; the Oobi display was included as part of the Sesame tour. The display was designed and constructed by Matthew Allar, a scenographer for Viacom Media Networks. 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.
Fifteen minutes of Oobi shorts (approximately seven individual segments) were played as part of the 2001 Kids First Film and Video Festival, presented by the Coalition for Quality Children's Media. The festival was a nationwide event; the first screening occurred in Santa Fe, New Mexico, followed by subsequent showings at fifty locations across the United States.
"Oobi Arts and Crafts" sessions were held throughout November 2007 at Nickelodeon Suites Resort in Orlando, Florida. Sets of plastic Oobi puppet eyes, identical to those at Club Noggin, were distributed to hotel guests at these events.
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