Wednesday, July 07, 2021

'The Backyardigans’ Trends on Social Media Thanks to Gen Z

We're your backyard friends, 'The Backyardigans.'

The internet can be a fun and surprising place nowadays, thanks to Generation Z folk. People born between 1997 and 2012/15 have a knack for making the most obscure things go viral. Often thanks to their use of TikTok and the endless creativity they have. The latest “where did this come from” trend is the reappearance of Nickelodeon's popular CG-animated preschool series The Backyardigans.

The Backyardigans is a musical-adventure series featuring a group of five friends - Pablo, a blue penguin; Uniqua, a pink character that sort of looks like a bug; Tyrone, an orange moose; Tasha, a yellow hippo, and Austin, a purple kangaroo - who rely on their vivid imaginations to transform their backyard into a fantastical 3-D landscape, where together they embark on amazing epic journeys and solve problems. Each episode always comes with a lesson that the kids watching can take away.

They infuse the message with lots of catchy songs. Years later, kids and parents still find themselves singing (“hiya pie-ya, I make pie like a samurai,” is a popular earworm). Each episode starts with the theme song where each character introduces themselves, and ends with a catchy song about snack time.

Airing for 80 episodes across four seasons between October 11, 2004 and July 12, 2013, it’s one of the shows that the Gen Z people grew up watching and will forever love, it seems. And maybe it’s because of the pandemic, or it’s more a nostalgia factor for when problems were far simpler; the Backyardigans are listening to the theme song, causing it to go viral on TikTok and hit the US Spotify Viral 50 chart.

According to Chart Data, The Backyardigans’ “Castaways” song, which is a song in a episode from the show’s first season, has hit the number one spot on the Viral 50 chart. The crew finds themselves on a deserted island. Now castaways, they talk about being stuck on their own, which, to be honest, sounds a lot like quarantine. “On a lonely little island where it’s just us three” is something we can relate to a lot more now than when we were kids.

On TikTok, though, it’s the show’s theme song getting all the views. Gen Z is creating their own openings to the show, highlighting each character’s personality. Again, because The Backyardigans make grand adventures from their imagination while stuck in their backyard, it feels very fitting today.


Reply to @rainbowrailway WE'VE GOT THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD IN OUR YARD TO EXPLORE 🤣 #foryou #fyp #dance #dancer #throwback #gay #trending

♬ The Backyardigans Theme Song - The Backyardigans

And others are recreating the excitement they had when they were younger, and the show was on. Sitting anxiously at the TV while the theme song plays, wondering what adventures the group of friends would find themselves on.


if y’all didn’t vibe to the backyardigans you can’t vibe with me #fyp #childhoodmemories #backyardigans

♬ The Backyardigans Theme Song - The Backyardigans

So, while we’re not totally sure why The Backyardigans are a hit thing again, the songs are catchy, the show is all feel-good adventures, and well, we could all do for more of that these days.

The Backyardigans is available to stream on Paramount+ and Noggin!

From Bandwagon:

The Backyardigans' lyricist McPaul Smith on the heart behind his viral TikTok hits and his illustrious career in kids' media


In the spirit of celebrating these endearing songs that have taken over social media as of late, Bandwagon caught up with lyricist and writer for the Backyardigans, McPaul Smith, to find out what he thinks about the recent resurgence in the songs that he helped to write more than a decade ago.

Aside from crafting the words to 'Into The Thick Of It' and 'Castaways', McPaul also wrote many other songs for famous kids' shows like Winx Club, Lazy Town and The Book of Pooh. Read on to hear from the accomplished screenwriter-producer-lyricist himself, who's played an integral part in soundtracking our childhoods.

Hi McPaul! The songs you’ve written for The Backyardigans — ‘Into The Thick of It’ and ‘Castaways’ — have found rising popularity on TikTok after more than a decade. How did you feel when you first learnt about this?

I felt totally surprised and delighted. I heard about it first from my friend Tom Hill, who messaged me in May to say that his teenage kids had been listening to 'Castaways' a lot.  Then, over the next week, I had similar messages from many other people, so I finally checked in on TikTok and saw the profusion of videos.

What do you think is the reason for the songs’ resurgence over the past month?
I think it started because of @swagsurfff posting her first 'Castaways' video on TikTok. It was such a fun video, and she has a lot of followers, so lots of people saw it and responded. Then, I guess it spreaded fast because it’s a pretty, light, happy song – a great vibe for early summer. The melody is just so catchy and the lyrics express a feeling that many people had over the last year during Covid lockdowns - “we’re stuck where we are.”

As for 'Into the Thick of It', I’m less sure why that one caught on. But it’s a catchy tune and the lyrics “into the thick of it, but we can't see where we’re going” fit the pandemic too. Things are complicated and no one knows how this will all turn out, but we must keep moving forward.

Let us in on your creative process when you were writing the lyrics for the two songs. What was your source of inspiration?

Musically, 'Castaways' was inspired by Bossa Nova music from Brazil, a style of pop/jazz that first became popular in the 1960s. For each Backyardigans episode, we chose a particular style of music to work with, and Bossa Nova was chosen for 'Castaways'. We (the writers) listened to a lot of Bossa Nova songs and wrote songs that seemed to fit that style.

'Into The Thick of It' was written for the “Heart of the Jungle” episode. In that one, all the songs were inspired by Gilbert and Sullivan, who wrote comic operettas in England in the 19th century. Lyrically, the songs were simply inspired by the stories. We would outline a story, pick several places in that story where songs will happen, and then write lyrics that fitted the action of the story.

What was the experience like working with composer Evan Lurie on the songs?
I loved working with Evan, and also with Doug Weiselman who wrote many of the shows' songs. Doug actually composed the 'Castaways' song, and Evan composed 'Into the Thick of It'. Evan was the musical director on the show, and he brought in Doug because there were so many songs to write – four songs per episode meant 80 songs in a season! Hence, they split up the composing duties episode by episode. They’re both super talented, and really nice people to work with.

The lyrics were always written first, then they’d be given to Evan or Doug, who would write the music to fit the words. They’d bring in 'demo' recordings of the songs and we’d all listen together, along with Janice Burgess, who was the show’s creator and executive producer. After that, I'd often re-arrange the lyrics a bit to make them fit better and flow more smoothly. Sometimes, I’d add a new verse or cut a verse out – whatever it took to make the song fit the story and sound better.

The songs have been used by millions of TikTok users on their videos ever since it went viral. Have you watched any of them, and if so, what did you think of them?
Millions! Amazing! I certainly haven’t watched all of them, but I’ve watched maybe 30 or 40. I absolutely love seeing and hearing them. I’ve always been a fan of dance, whether it’s on video or in clubs or on stage – I watch a lot of contemporary dance company performances in New York. Hence, seeing people make new dance moves for songs that I co-wrote feels really good. And I love the remixes too! It’s exciting to hear something that you’re so familiar with suddenly get turned into something new and unexpected. It’s all so good.

Writing songs for a children’s series must be quite a specific process! What are some things that you’ve had to pay close attention to when writing such songs?

Clarity is important for kids’ songs. I’m careful to use language that’s clear and concrete so a younger kid would understand. If I do sometimes use more complex words, I try to make their meaning clearer through context. Usually, a song in a show tells part of the story. It takes a lot of editing and trying out different phrases and rhymes to get the story in the right order while maintaining the song’s rhythm and rhyme pattern.

I go through a lot of revisions before the final version, that’s for sure. Also, sometimes I like to put in little jokes into the songs that parents would get. Since parents are usually listening along with kids, it’s good to entertain them too – as long as it doesn’t make the song less clear to the child listener.

You’ve written many other songs for The Backyardigans and other popular TV series like Winx Club and Lazy Town. If you could pick another one of your songs to go viral next, which would it be and why?

If I were to pick another Backyardigans song to go viral, it would probably be 'The Yeti Stomp' from the Yeti episode. I like that it only mentions one particular move – “stomp, stomp, stomp” – but a dancer would then have to make up lots of other moves to go with the stomping. I’d love to see what they will come up with.

If I were to pick a non-Backyardigans song, I’d pick 'Dinosnores' from 'The Book of Pooh' for a similar reason. The song describes several different kinds of dinosaurs, and I’d like to see what kinds of moves dancers would invent for each of them.

Aside from music, you’re also an accomplished screenwriter for children’s TV, having worked on programmes like Arthur, The Book of Pooh and The New Mickey Mouse Club. In your opinion, what makes a good kids’ show?

A good kids’ TV show should have some real educational value – it should leave the viewer’s mind more enriched than before. At the same time, it should be so entertaining that it doesn’t feel “teach-y”. It should feel like a party, not like a classroom, but a kid should still learn something from it. And the music should be great!

Of all the scripting, soundtracking and production projects that you’ve worked on over the years, which has been a personal favourite?

My favourite changes all the time. At this moment, it’s probably 'The FurryTones'. That’s a musical adventure podcast that my friend Susan Clarke and I created in 2019 for Pinna, a subscription audio streaming service for kids.

It’s about four foxes who are in a band together. They live in the woods, and they get hired to play music at parties for other animals — a rabbit's graduation party, a snake's wedding, a sand crab's birthday party, a barn dance for pigs etc. In each episode, you can hear the band making up a new song for the upcoming occasion before performing it at the party towards the end. The show teaches kids about the process of songwriting. (And it’s also just full of a lot of silly animal jokes). The actors whom Pinna hired to play the foxes and the other animals did such a great job.

Alternatively, I might also say that my favorite was 'Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?', a funny game show that I worked on early in my career. It’s the first kids’ show I ever wrote for. I’m still friends with many of the people who worked on it. It started me off right!

What has been your proudest achievement in your media career thus far?

For some reason, I find this question difficult. I’ve written so many scripts and songs. I’ve worked on some shows that people remember fondly for decades, and other shows that came and went with almost no notice at all. Maybe my proudest achievement is simply that I’ve had fun working for about 30 years and have managed to make a living from it.

Tell us more about what you’ve been busy with recently!

Most recently, I’ve been writing scripts for an animated series called Molly of Denali. It’s on PBS here in the USA. The show is about the life of a 10-year-old girl named Molly who lives in a small village in central Alaska with her family. Alaska Native culture has rarely been featured in American media, so many people have misconceptions about it. This show puts it in a contemporary light, showing how Molly’s life is similar to most kids’ in some ways, yet very different in others. The show is funny and smart, and I’ve learned so much from the staff’s Alaska Native writers and producers who guided our work.

Also, for most of 2020, I was working as head writer on the new season of a Netflix animated kids’ show. The show’s new season hasn’t been officially announced yet, so I’m not allowed to tell you the title! But it’s a fun one.


Originally published: May 16, 2021.

Original source: Fatherly; Additional source: Hopster.

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