When you are a parent, you quickly learn that your kids will inevitably get into shows or videos or learn songs that slowly chip away at your sanity because you will hear them over and over and over. Anyone who knows what “Baby Shark” is will know exactly the kind of hellscape I’m talking about.
But once in a while, a kids’ show comes into your family’s life and you miss it when your kid ages out of it — like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood or Sesame Street. For our family, that show was The Backyardigans; my now-teenager voraciously watched episodes of the show that ran on Nickelodeon from 2004 to 2013 (we watched the DVDs), and would actually get up and dance when the music started. We looked forward to new episodes about the hijinks of Pablo, Tyrone, Uniqua, Tasha, and Austin, because each episode had a different musical theme, with original songs.
Two favorites were the Motown-themed “News Flash” with a song about corn that I still hear whenever someone mentions the vegetable, and “Catch That Butterfly” which was basically a Rodgers-and-Hammerstein-themed operetta.
So the newfound appreciation for one Backyardigans song in particular that has taken over a corner of TikTok makes me extremely happy and renewed my belief that Gen Z is the best generation.
It started with Merlysha Pierre, 19, of Miami, who told BuzzFeed that she started posting TikTok videos about The Backyardigans because she was concerned that younger kids didn’t know about the show or its songs. One of the songs she posted was about the bossa-nova-themed “Castaways,” which inspired many other TikTokers to do their own versions, leading to the song charting on Spotify, going number one on its global viral chart.
“Castaways” also caught the eye of music theory YouTuber Adam Neely, who gave a little backstory about just how much went into each Backyardigans episode, from hiring musicians and dancers (honestly, I had an inkling that every episode of this show had to be a major production in its own right but no idea just how major) and broke down “Castaways” as a piece of music, calling it a masterpiece.
Every episode of The Backyardigans had a Pablo freak-out (he was arguably the show’s main character), and each one of the characters got to “star” in an episode from time to time and deal with a problem they were struggling with in “real” life through play (and song). The predictability was soothing and the show wasn’t preachy. It was also fun to watch because the writers included plenty of inside jokes for the parents tuning in — we usually watched an episode pre-bedtime when my son was little, and it was extremely pleasant to drift off to whatever the kids were singing about that day.
Director Barry Jenkins also recently discovered The Backyardigans, giving his thoughts in this very sweet Twitter thread about the show. He wished a happy Mother’s Day to the show’s creator Janice Burgess (truly, a hero. Also a Pittsburgher!).
Happy Mother's Day to Janice Burgess, award-winning creator of the wonderful BACKYARDIGANS.— Barry Jenkins (@BarryJenkins) May 9, 2021
I don't know whether Ms. Burgess has children of her own, but she very clearly helped raised a whole lotta y'all's kids with this most fantastic show, so... a salute to her pic.twitter.com/96ZqvUrjX6
So now, a six-year-old song from a children’s show is making the rounds once again, which is adorable and amazing. I may dust off the DVD player this weekend and watch a few episodes for a good Mom Cry; it looks like the show is available on Amazon and streaming on Paramount Plus if you’re not as old-school as me and prefer a slightly more modern experience.
In any event, I hope all this renewed appreciation for The Backyardigans leads to a new generation of kids discovering the depth and charm of a show about five kid friends (a penguin, a moose, a hippo, a kangaroo, and a Uniqua) who played in the backyard and sang songs and did dances until it was snack time. The Backyardigans is a nice respite for kids of any age.