Monday, August 27, 2007

what is Uniqua? and why it matters so much

If you have a 2-5 year old child and you've not shown them the Backyardigans, on Nick, Jr., you're all missing out. Here's what's so great about the show, first, from a parent's perspective, then as a creative achievement.

...and I officially can't believe I just began a blog entry about a kids' TV show.

Now, as I was saying. From a parent's POV, this program is all about enabling your child's imagination. These five characters always begin their adventure in their backyard. The props they carry when they begin their play is minimal, much like the stuff most of us have sitting around our own houses. The characters then begin an adventure, complete with songs and choreographed dance numbers. As the journeys begin, the background changes from the backyard to whatever setting the kids find themselves in for that adventure (wild west, Mars, underwater, etc.). The language is never rough, gender empowerment is shared amongst the boys and girls (meaning the girls get to do just as much exploring as the boys do, if you're scoring at home), and it always concludes with the characters all back at the backyard and heading off to share a healthy snack (orange slices, sushi, etc.).

Now, for the creative-types out there, here's where the Backyardigans gets it going. The "songs" I alluded to earlier are always in a different musical style (polka, opera, jazz, etc.), however, the musical genre and the adventure genre rarely match up. For example, one episode takes place in the wild west and the music style is hip-hop (in a recent interview, the music director connected the dots, claiming both worlds have "posses".) To me, the juxtaposition of genres is the equivalent of a preschool-geared mash-up.

Secondly, the choreography is actual filmed choreography sent to animators. I love that a show goes all the way behind the scenes and does it right. They don't cut corners on the artistic values. And it shows. The characters move in very specific ways, and the dances are all different. There's no generic "Charlie Brown" style dancing (although I do love watching those Peanuts' predictable simplicity). If you watch carefully, you can also see the animated characters are slightly off from each other in the timing of movement and spacing, another stroke of genius. What is captured is very similar to reality, despite the fact that you're watching a penguin, moose, hippo, and other thing (what Uniqua is, according to Wikipedia is a "unique creature" - hence the name. However, my daughter is more daring, referring to Uniqua as a "butterfly without wings in pink overalls." God bless children.)

So where's the "strategy" aspect to this entry? Well, on the client side, in order to define yourself in a sea of sameness and loud loud noise (doesn't matter if you're a kids' TV show or a new soft drink), concentrating on the product, the offering itself, pouring your energies into creating the "best" something is essential to success. Creating something average gets you into the game, but striving for nothing short of greatness wins medals. Product innovation, newness, fresh perspective, imagination, discovering what is real, authentic, a willingness to be contemplative and thorough in the design proces, all the cliches we throw out there as advertarketers are on display on Nick Jr. for you and your preschooler to enjoy.

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the thoughts and opinions expressed below are entirely my own, and are not necessarily shared by my friends, family, or employer. (though they very well might be...)