KUALA LUMPUR, June 14 — Ever notice how contemporary cartoons and kids’ shows still perpetuate outdated stereotypes like the passive dud-like dad and the stay-at-home mum who does all the child-rearing?
The reality of parenthood couldn’t be more different for many modern families today, so when acclaimed Australian animator Joe Brumm created Bluey in 2017, the children’s series instantly won over little ones, grown-ups and critics.
The multi-award-winning show centres around a six-year-old Blue Heeler dog who loves to play and turns everyday family life into extraordinary adventures that unfold in unpredictable and hilarious ways.
But Brumm didn’t expect the show to be a hit — all he wanted to do was make a show to make kids laugh.
“I wanted to make a kids show that showed kids as I think kids are, which isn’t little mini-adults.
“I was interested in the way a kid genuinely sees the world and what they like to do all day which seems to be to play and play games imitating adults whether it’s shops, taxis and just recreate that adult world in their play,” he told Malay Mail recently.
Brisbane-based Brumm whose clients include Viacom, Ludo Studio and Cartoon Network, and the man behind the Bafta-winning series Charlie and Lola, based the show on his own parenting experience with his two daughters, 10 and eight.
The titular character Bluey is named after Brumm’s own Blue Heeler childhood dog.
While the show is praised for promoting the importance of active parenting by both parents, it wasn’t a conscious decision on Brumm’s part when he created the show.
In the show, Dad Bandit is laid-back yet resourceful and juggles childcare while working from home and Mum Chilli is a full-time working mother who has just gone back to the office.
“Leading into it, there was a survey where a lot of dads said they weren’t particularly happy with the way dads were portrayed in kids cartoons but it didn’t really form any sort of driving force.”
The material is inspired by how he interacts with his kids and how his brothers and friends raise their kids which became the blueprint for Bandit.
“I didn’t want to do the bumbling dad because it’s been done a fair bit.
“I get a lot of stuff wrong but it’s fun to show the dad getting stuff right as well,” he added.
Brumm reckons kids in Malaysia will identify with the domestic-type games that are universal to children whether it’s a trip to the supermarket or playing house.
Viewers here who are perhaps more familiar with Melbourne or Sydney will find some form of escapism in sunny Brisbane where Bluey is predominantly set in and where Brumm lives.
He said it has been a pleasure bringing the Queensland capital to the world and Malaysian viewers will be able to spot similarities between Brisbane and home.
“I think Malaysians would do well to get to know Brisbane and Queensland.
“It’s just as friendly as anywhere in Australia — we’ve got a lot of palms and a lot of plants that people from the tropics will recognise and will make them feel like home.
“It’s a very laidback city, it’s on a river and it’s a great place to come and have access to beautiful beaches, it’s a great place to live and hopefully a great place to visit, I love it,” said Brumm.
Produced by Ludo Studio and backed by BBC Studios, Bluey has enjoyed success in a short span of time in many countries outside Australia, including the UK and the US.
In Australia, the show was named Best Children’s Program in 2019 and 2020 at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards and won the Most Outstanding Children’s Program Logie award in 2019.
BBC Studios director of children’s and content partnership Henrietta Hurford-Jones knew it was special the minute she heard the pilot’s pitch and saw the show’s early work.
“It seems to tick all the boxes but really it comes down to the brilliance of Joe and his vision.
“He’s a brilliant writer and creator, that’s a huge part of what makes it what it is,” she told Malay Mail.
Asked how kids’ content has evolved over the years, Hurford-Jones said creators and studios have always striven to portray on-screen experiences that children will be having.
As society evolves, preschool content is changing to become more open and reflect a more contemporary society.
“Your child is learning socially and emotionally and can recognise themselves in some of the characters and the situations on screen that they have in shows like Bluey,” Hurford-Jones said.
“It’s really about making kids feel comfortable with themselves and start to see the world around them and learn to interact with it and this show does that more than anything.”
Bluey is now available on BBC Player and debuts today on CBeebies (unifiTV Channel 553) with episodes from Monday to Friday at 6.50pm.