There are movies and shows for adults, for kids, and movies and shows for everyone. Some of them adhere strictly to their set guidelines, never straying far from their lanes. And sometimes the shows that are for everyone miss their mark because they’re trying so hard to please everyone.
And every once in a while, a show for one audience finds another by happenstance, and it takes over the cultural landscape — in this case, a masterpiece called bluey. Created by Joe Brumm and Ludo Studio, and broadcast by Australian Broadcasting Corporation, bluey is a preschool-aged animation show that debuted in Australia in late 2018. And while it swept Australian audiences up in a warm blanket of joy, it wasn’t until early 2020 that American audiences fell in love with the show.
Maybe it was fortunate, but as the pandemic reached the United States in March 2020, bluey, found itself a massive set of parents desperate for help, and came to the rescue on Disney+. And maybe it was the stress and onset uncertainty that came with the pandemic, but there was something comforting, loving, and needed for families that bluey provided. And yet, while this show is about a lovable family of four blue heelers in Queensland Australia, based on creator Brumm’s experience raising his two daughters, it hits home with any audience that watches it. It just might be one of the greatest shows ever made for “kids” that is actually a show about life in disguise.
A Heartwarming Show
If you’re one of the uninitiated, perhaps put off by the concept of watching an animated show that appears under the “kids” section of Disney+, you’re missing out on something truly special. The word “heartwarming” gets thrown out so often to describe movies, shows, books, etc. that evoke emotions, and when it does, it becomes cliché and loses its power as a superlative.
and yet, bluey fits the bill. Each episode is seven minutes long, often filled with plenty of jokes, silliness, life lessons for kids and adults, and expertly weaving a three-act-story into a bite-size portion. The animation is clean, creative, and refreshing. The characters are all unique, delightful, funny, lovely, and relatable. With 141 episodes through three seasons, it’s a wonder that the creative geniuses behind the show continually tell new stories, engage audiences, and make viewers think.
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Something For The Kids
Cartoons have been hits for kids as far back as the medium goes. And bluey is a triumph of the medium. It may not have mind-bending animation sequences, but it never lacks for detail. The shapes are smooth, simple shading, and very geometric.
It’s an easy show to follow. The characters are all cute and cuddly, and who doesn’t love a dog? The Heeler family is fun and playful. Dad, Bandit, is silly and willing to play. Mom, Chili, is loving, silly, and equally playful. Bingo, the younger sister, is very much her own pup, and of course, then there is Bluey, the namesake of the show. While Bluey may be the lead character, her playful nature, creativity, and willingness to explore her world, translate and are shared by nearly everyone in the show.
From a child’s perspective, bluey offers a hilarious and enjoyable idea and game generator. Plenty of parents (yours truly included) can relate to the experiences of their kids asking to replicate a game seen in an episode. but, bluey offers even more than that. It gives small doses of life lessons in understandable ways. Ideas like how to communicate with adults in “Yoga Ball” or how to try new things in “The Creek” to dealing with sibling rivalry and the concept of jealousy in “Hammerbarn” are presented in funny ways.
Adults tend to explain concepts in the terms they understand, and bluey takes an approach to using the art of animation and creativity to tell these stories in a way anyone can understand. Any kid will tell you that something silly is awesome. Episodes like “Take Away” are fantastic as chaos quickly breaks out to the delight of kids, or “Flat Pack” that relishes in the joy and unending imagination that a simple cardboard box can create. To be a kid, is to be free or constraint, free to explore, and free to be a kid. Society clamps down on that pretty quick, so when bluey embraces that mentality, it hits the mark perfectly for young audiences.
An Ode To Parenting
Parenting is a journey, and while there’s no need to delve into a long-winded, and articulate analysis on the challenges, joys, and experiences of parenting, there is something to be said about that journey in bluey. In fact, it may be the reason that bluey can work on so many levels and attract such a wide audience. It doesn’t aim for cliché or the low-hanging fruit of sitcoms. Take the episode “Sticky Gecko” from season two, for example.
In this episode, Chili wants to get the kids out of the house for a playdate at the park, but Bluey and Bingo are running on their own schedule. Chili tries to rush them, but each kiddo has their own thing they need to do before they can go. It’s a scenario that every parent runs into. “We’re going to be late!” And the episode does a brilliant job of giving the audience a chance to understand Chili’s perspective, and the perspective of the kids. It also gives Chili a moment to explain why it’s important to her to be on time. All of this, with the standard chaotic joy of the show, jokes, sight gags, and within seven minutes.
bluey is adept at taking the moments that parents deal with daily, converting them into digestible funny moments, and introspection. Episodes like this include “Wagon Ride” (about patience and not interrupting people), or the now classic “Grannies” (about understanding that being right and getting what you want aren’t mutually exclusive), or “Café” (about the challenges of adults making new friends).
The show recognizes that for every situation there are multiple perspectives – and for the show, it’s from the eyes of the adult and from the kids. By giving each perspective an opportunity to understand the other, the show is a bridge of cooperation, understanding, and growing up. Kids grow up, and adults remember how they can forget that they grew up. These type of episodes are the most prevalent – and in a lot of ways, the most fun. Bandit and Chili are as likely to engage and play with Bluey and Bingo in their creative and made-up games, antics, and explorations. These games and ideas, and the engagement of parents, have translated to real life situations and lots of happy parents.
And there’s something to be loved about a show that can translate such complicated concepts so simply and with such joy, and still be a kids show that you want to sit and watch with your kids.
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Fandom has grown a lot for bluey since it took the streaming households of Disney+ by storm in 2020. It’s been – as one would expect any kids show to be – heavily marketed and merchandised. You can now find Bluey stuffed animals, toys, and books in the aisles of Target. In Australia, clothing for kids, pjs for adults, birth certificates for Queensland residents, and even a magazine have been released. Scenes from bluey are now popular gifs online, popping up on Twitter regularly. A stage show called Bluey’s Big Play debuted in Australia, and will debut in the United States in November 2022.
Audiences are eagerly anticipating the first half of season three to begin streaming on Disney+, coming on August 10th. You can certainly expect an uptick in bluey tweets, and stories about a whole new set of fans finding the show then. While it can be easy to criticize a show for simply being a merchandising machine (a la Star Wars), bluey certainly has the credentials as a well-established and beloved show first, that has toys that are hits with kids too. And given the recurring news articles written about the show, it’s clear that the fandom of bluey is here to stay, and will continue to be eager for more stories from the brilliant minds that created it.