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Cast of Zoobilee Zoo
|Presented by||Ben Vereen|
|Opening theme||by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||65 (plus 14 direct-to-video episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Steve Binder|
|Producer(s)||Mary Jo Blue|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||DIC Group Production|
|Original network||first-run syndication|
|Original release||September 15, 1986 –|
March 27, 1987
Zoobilee Zoo is a children's television series featuring actors dressed as animal characters that originally aired from 1986 to 1987. It continued to run in syndication until 2000 on several television channels including commercial network television stations, public television stations, The Learning Channel, and the Hallmark Channel. The original 65 episodes are currently owned by Hallmark Properties and were produced by WQED Pittsburgh.
Each episode is opened by a greeting from host Ben Vereen, dressed as a spotted snow leopard, who plays the mayor of Zoobilee Zoo. Speaking directly to viewers that he refers to as "Zoobaroos", Vereen usually appears throughout each episode to summarize the main themes or to perform a song and dance.
The plot in each episode centers around the main characters, called Zoobles, as they play together and encounter difficulties common to young children. The primary themes are cooperation, making friends, and creativity.
Cast and characters
Each Zooble character has a certain artistic talent that shapes the way they approach different scenario.
- Sandey Grinn as Bill Der Beaver in all but 2 episodes (see below), who likes to invent and fix stuff.
- Forrest Gardner as Van Go Lion, who enjoys art.
- Karen Hartman as Talkatoo Cockatoo, who enjoys reading, writing, and speech.
- Michael B. Moynahan as Lookout Bear, who enjoys adventuring and travel.
- Gary Schwartz as Bravo Fox, an Ed Wynn-like showman who encourages the talents of theatre and acting.
- Louise Vallance as Whazzat Kangaroo, the youngest Zooble who encourages kids to enjoy music and dance.
- Ben Vereen as Mayor Ben, a snow leopard who stars as the host of the show explaining what kind of adventure the Zoobles will be having.
- Michael Sheehan as the original Bill Der Beaver in 2 episodes. When Sheehan decided to leave the show for other interests (such as Jem), he was replaced by Sandey Grinn.
- Roger Behr as Limerick Leprechaun and Peter Possum
- Roger Peltz as Rhymin' Simon and the Genie
- Crosby the Dog as Crosby
- Suzy Gilstrap as Sandy
- Robert Shields as Elmo the Clown
- Patty Maloney as Ergo
- Helen Lambros as The Witch
- Vinson Crump as Vince
In addition, Grinn, Schwartz and Vallance have also played some minor characters. Schwartz played the gorilla in A Camping We Will Go (revealed in a blooper reel) and Grinn played Bravo's Vaudeville friend Charlie Google in Vaudeville Star. Due to this, in the respective episodes, neither Bravo nor Bill appear. Vallance voiced Gilda the Tooth Fairy in When You Wish Upon a Tooth Fairy.
Background and production
Premiering on September 15, 1986, Zoobilee Zoo was produced and directed by Steve Binder. The show's concept was developed by Hallmark Entertainment which partnered with children's production company DIC Enterprises.
Episodes were released on a wide array of VHS tapes, the most recent series released in 1997, but not yet released to DVD. In 2000, 14 new direct-to-video episodes and soundtracks were released, and the stage show "Zoobilee Zoo Live!" toured briefly, with several of the cast members reprising their roles.
Zoobilee Zoo was well received critically, but earned only modest viewer ratings. It was praised by the National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers and the National association of Elementary School Principals. In addition, it was endorsed by the Action for Children's Television (ACT).
(*These are the first two episodes filmed (but aired out of sequence) featuring Michael Sheehan as Bill Der Beaver; all other episodes feature Sandey Grinn in that role)
- A Star is Born
- Time for Laughs
- Blue Ribbon Zoobles
- Bravo, Come Home!
- Land of Rhymes*
- The Genie
- When You Wish Upon a Tooth Fairy
- The Robot Zoobles
- Trading Places
- The Great Trash Mystery
- Strike Up the Band
- Mystery in Zoobilee Zoo
- Bill Sees Stars
- The Cockatoo/Fox Report
- Grown Up for a Day*
- Winter Wonderland
- Fox in Wolf's Clothing
- Vaudeville Star
- Is There a Doctor in the House?
- Speak to Me, Bill
- A Sticky Situation
- To See or Not to See
- Just in Time
- The Cave Zoobles
- The Bear Behind the Badge
- One Touch of Van Go
- Job Hunting
- The Great Game #1
- Lookout, Super Zooble
- Invisible Zooble
- Lookout's Dog
- Endangered Zoobra
- Bravo's Puppets
- The Witch's Spell
- The Great Game #2
- Van Go, Master Painter
- The Ghost of Zoobilee Woods
- Pigment Puzzle
- Whazzat the Clown
- The Great Zooble Tryouts
- Gotta Dance
- Close Encounters of a Zooble Kind
- Lady Whazzat
- The Zooble Book of Records
- Sing Along #1
- The Magic Ring
- A Trip to Memoryland
- The Zooble Hop
- Attack of the Giant Potatoes
- Popular Bill
- Simon and Leprechaun
- Pictures to Remember
- Smart Dummy
- The Zoobadoobas
- Sing Along #2
- A Camping We Will Go
- Bravo's Party
- Two's a Crowd
- Piano Man Bill
- Surprise, Surprise
- The Teleportation Machine
- Without a Sound
Awards and recognition
The series was awarded the 1987 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Costume Design.
- Rossen, Jake (May 19, 2016). "The Lost Magic of 'Zoobilee Zoo'". Mental Floss. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
- Margulies, Lee (December 31, 1986). "'Zoo'--will It Pass Syndication Test?". Los Angeles Times. Times Mirror Company. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
- Gordon L. Berry; Joy Keiko Asamen (May 25, 1993). Children and Television: Images in a Changing Socio-Cultural World. SAGE Publications. pp. 138–139. ISBN 978-1-4522-5374-9.
- Mendoza, N.F. (December 27, 1992), "Disney offers lullabies for the toddlers while the Learning Channel prepares kids for the classroom", Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Company, retrieved December 26, 2016