|Theme music composer|
|Opening theme||"Me and You and Zoboomafoo"|
|Country of origin|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||65 (list of episodes)|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
|Original release||January 25, 1999 –|
November 21, 2001
|Preceded by||Kratts' Creatures (1996)|
|Followed by||Wild Kratts (2011–present)|
Zoboomafoo is an American children's television series that originally aired on PBS from January 25, 1999 to June 7, 2001. It is still currently shown in syndication (depending on the area) and was regularly shown on Sprout until 2011. A total of 65 episodes were aired. A creation of the Kratt Brothers (Chris and Martin), it features a talking lemur (a Coquerel's sifaka) named Zoboomafoo, performed by Ottawa-born puppeteer Gord Robertson (who had also puppeteered on Fraggle Rock), and mainly portrayed by a lemur named Jovian, along with a collection of repeat animal guests. Every episode begins with the Kratt brothers in Animal Junction, a peculiar place in which the rules of nature change and wild animals come to visit and play.
After January 16, 2004, the series was pulled from its weekday airing on most PBS stations, though some PBS stations continue to air it. The show is/was broadcast in the US, Canada, Latin America, Brazil, Australia, Spain, the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, The Netherlands, Turkey, the Middle East, India and Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina and the Republic of North Macedonia in the Serbian language. On November 10, 2014, Jovian died in his home at the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, North Carolina at the age of 20.
Premise and structure
Upon their arrival at Animal Junction, the Kratt brothers (Chris and Martin Kratt) lean out the window and call Zoboomafoo (or "Zoboo" for short, and occasionally "Zob"), shown in a live-action segment as an actual lemur (Jovian) leaping across a field to reach them. When the lemur reaches Animal Junction, he won't talk to the Kratt brothers until they give him a snack, generally lemur appropriate food like garbanzo beans, sweet potato or mango slices. After he's done eating his snack, he promptly burps, saying, "Excuse me," and then spins around on a turntable, shouting, "Zoboomafoo-oo-oo-oo!" at which point he becomes a talking lemur puppet (voiced by Robertson). He then leads into the main segment of the episode by describing a "Mangatsika!" (a Malagasy word literally meaning "cold", but used in the series to mean "cool") animal that he saw on his way to Animal Junction. As he describes the animal, a song is played, "Who Could It Be?", while a cartoon shows the characteristics of the "mystery animal". At the end of the song, Chris and Martin try to guess the animal Zoboo has described and the mystery is revealed when the animal or animals arrive at Animal Junction.
Each episode has a theme. For example, baby animals, frightening animals or the importance of play. The arrival of the "mystery animal," generally used as exposition, leads Zoboo, Chris and Martin into a conversation about the animal. At least once every episode (twice in most episodes), Zoboo says that some event in Animal Junction reminds him of a time in Zobooland, where he tell stories about his best friends in Zobooland, such as Narchi (an anteater-like creature), Gooble (a bear-like creature that eats goobleberries), Sensit (a lemur that typically plays around), Wiggy Waxwing (a bird-like creature who likes to sing and eat root noodles), Green Puppy (a green puppy as the name implies), Slimantha (a salamander-like creature), Noggin Drill (a mole-like creature that uses his drill-shaped horn), Snow Lemur (a lemur that lives on a mountain), Baby Zoboomafooasaurus and Mama Zoboomafooasaurus (dinosaurs, who appear in CGI, that the animals often play on), Buggly (a bug that Zoboo rides on), Fibby (a sea creature with several parts including a tentacle and a crab leg) and Cy (a levitating one-eyed squid introduced in the second season). These segments are animated, using clay animation and feature distinct voices for each character.
After the first Zobooland story, Zoboo, Chris and Martin receive a letter from the Animal Helpers (Jackie in the first season and Amy in the second season), who show children how to help animals. This leads into Chris and Martin going out to visit creatures related to the theme, always beginning with the song "Going to the Closet" sung by Zoboo. At the end of each episode, Zoboo and the brothers sign off by singing "Animal Friends", a song that explains why animals are friends to everyone, despite being different species. Finally, Zoboo turns back into a normal lemur and returns to his home in Madagascar. Chris and Martin also leave Animal Junction to better demonstrate the theme of the day, traveling to a region, often in India or Africa, to visit the creatures there.
Before the credits of each episode, kids show and tell the viewers about various animals and pets they have, and a disclaimer is played telling the viewers that they should be careful with the animals they meet. Then Chris and Martin mention animal facts that lead Zoboo to a joke. Example: "Knock knock. Who's there? Panther. Panther who? Panther no pants, I'm going swimming!". The disclaimer and joke were edited out for non-PBS airings (excluding On Demand viewings and PBS Kids Sprout).
- Chris Kratt as himself
- Martin Kratt as himself
- Gord Robertson as Zoboomafoo (voice)
- Jovian as Zoboomafoo
- Samantha Tolkacz as Jackie (Season 1)
- Genevieve Farrell as Amy (Season 2)
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||40||January 25, 1999||April 27, 2000|
|2||25||October 3, 2000||June 7, 2001|
The series has some forms of slapstick and situation comedy as well. It starts when Zoboo burps after eating a snack, saying, "Excuse me," and then spins around on a turntable, shouting, "Zoboomafoo-oo-oo-oo!" Running gags of the series include Chris and Martin (and sometimes, Zoboo) falling into a swimming pool, a mud puddle and even simply falling down. The most prominent of these recurring jokes is the "closet" gag, reminiscent of Fibber McGee and Molly, only it involves a crammed closet that Chris and Martin open to gather needed items for an exploration. As Zoboo sings a song about the brothers' preparations for going on a trip, Chris and Martin open the door and an avalanche of outdoor items and clothes fall on them, knocking them over and resulting in laughter from them. Then they emerge from the pile of gear, fully equipped for their trip. In the episode "Running", Chris and Martin open the closet, expecting to be buried under its contents, only to find a clean and organized closet. A form of slapstick comedy shown in the series is when Zoboo or the brothers get hit by flying items, such as pies, balls and even yarn thrown by animals. Also, just before the trip, there is always a bird that flies down towards Animal Junction, making Chris and Martin yell, "Incoming! Duck!" Very rare in the show's history was the bird a real duck. It is often a peregrine falcon named Sticky Feet or a barn owl named Moon Face. Some of Zoboo's catchphrases include "Mangatsika!" (a malagasy phrase meaning "cold" which was mistakenly used instead of "Milay" which is the Malagasy equivalent of the English "Cool!"), "I meant to do that!", "I can't believe my mind!", "I'm voky!" and "Hey! Hoo! Hubba hubba!".
Another segment of the series features a group of children known as the "Animal Helpers," who send messages to the Kratt brothers at Animal Junction through a series of birds: a turkey vulture (named Tomatohead), an barn owl (named Moonface), a lanner falcon (named Sandstorm), a peregrine falcon (named Stickyfeet), a great horned owl (named Blink), a saker falcon, a golden eagle (named Talon), a duck, a snowy owl, a crow and several others.
The letters lead into short stories illustrating the Animal Helpers' interactions with the animals in their environments, performing small tasks such as placing a baby bird back in its nest or leading a calf back to a mother cow. Samantha Tolkacz appeared on the series as Jackie from its debut on January 25, 1999 until April 27, 1999, at which point Genevieve Farrell replaced her, appearing as Amy for the rest of the series' run.
Zoboomafoo would also give the animals interesting names that have to do with their appearance, behavior or personality. Examples include: A baby Indian elephant named "Toothbrush" because of his bristly hair; a young female chimpanzee named "Brainiac" because chimps are very intelligent; and two sloths named "Slow" and "Slower."
Partial filming for the series took place on location at the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, North Carolina. Although the last new episode aired on PBS KIDS in November 2001, most PBS stations continued to rerun Zoboomafoo episodes in syndication until January 2004. In addition, Sprout aired reruns until July 2011.
In 2003, the Kratt Brothers began another series titled Be the Creature on the National Geographic Channel, then began a new children's animated series Wild Kratts in January 2011, which currently airs on PBS KIDS and TVOntario, among others.
Jovian, a captive Coquerel's sifaka housed at the Duke Lemur Center, portrayed Zoboomafoo in the live-action segments (along with stand-ins). On November 10, 2014, Jovian died of kidney failure in his home at age 20.
Awards and nominations
There are also several video games for the PC based on Zoboomafoo, where children learn the alphabet and animals that correlate to each letter. Some of the letters have interactive games to go with them, such as a coloring page.
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- PBS Publicity (February 10, 2000). "PBS and Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing To Launch PBS Kids Books". PBS. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
- "CINAR, PBS and the Kratt Brothers Become Partners on". Bloomberg. April 13, 1999. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
- "Remembering a star: Jovian, lemur host of Zoboomafoo, passes away". Duke Lemur Center. November 11, 2014. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
- "Remembering a Star: Jovan, Lemur Host of Zobomoofaoo Passes". Duke Lemur Center. 2014. Retrieved June 16, 2017.
- Williams, Donna (May 21, 2001). "PBS Wins Two More Daytime Emmys at Televised Ceremony". PBS News Archive. New York, NY. Retrieved April 17, 2013.
- Fries, Laura. "Zoboomafoo". Parents' Choice Awards: Television. Parents' Choice. Retrieved April 17, 2013.
- "Zoboomafoo". Parents' Choice Awards: Television. Parents' Choice. Retrieved April 17, 2013.
- "Old Games Finder". Old Games Finder. Retrieved June 16, 2017.