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Parents share what they learned from watching the animated kids show 'Bluey'

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Now from Japanese animation to Australian. It's Wednesday night. It's coming up on bedtime. And 4-year-old Jonah Tagani (ph) is excited.

JONAH TAGANI: Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

DETROW: Because Wednesday is when a brand new batch of episodes of the animated Australian kids show "Bluey" dropped on Disney+.

JONAH: Turn it on.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BLUEY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters) Dad.

DETROW: It's been about a year since U.S. viewers last heard from Bluey, her sister Bingo, and her parents, Bandit and Chilli. Jonah's parents, Ahmed (ph) and Jennifer (ph), are pumped, too. And that confuses Jonah.

JENNIFER: Jonah, do you think "Bluey" is for kids or for parents?

JONAH: "Bluey's" actually for kids, man.

JENNIFER: And why do you think "Bluey" is for kids and not for parents?

JONAH: Because he's so small.

DETROW: But it's true. Parents love "Bluey." I will admit I have an entire text chain with old high school friends where all we do is talk about this family of cartoon dogs. When NPR spoke to the show's creator, Joe Brumm, last year, he told us it's supposed to speak to parents.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

JOE BRUMM: I really just wanted to show that parents would enjoy watching with their kids, rather than you just sort of tolerate it. Because I thought that that must be a really great experience for a young kid, you know, a 4-year-old or 5-year-old to be sitting on a couch laughing together with their parents at their favorite show.

DETROW: It's so far beyond tolerating, though. Many parents say they pick up parenting tips from "Bluey." So we got some parents together to talk about it. I'm joined by Linda McGee of the Chicago area. Hey, Linda.

LINDA MCGEE: Hi.

DETROW: How old are your kids?

MCGEE: So my son is 5. He turns 6 in December. And my daughter is 4.

DETROW: OK. And Joseph Peterson of Frederick, Md., What about you? How old are your kids?

JOSEPH PETERSON: Hi, Scott. My son just turned 8.

DETROW: 8. All right. And, Mari Brisco of New Orleans, how about you?

MARI BRISCO: Hi. My daughter just turned 10 months.

DETROW: Ten months, not quite in the full "Bluey" phase yet, but...

BRISCO: Not fully there.

DETROW: Soon enough.

BRISCO: Yeah, that's right.

DETROW: Linda, I feel like your kids are probably prime "Bluey" age and actually almost the same ages as Bingo and Bluey. How did you become a fan too?

MCGEE: One day my daughter was like, Mommy, I want you to come and dance the mommy part of "Bluey" with me.

DETROW: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BLUEY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters) Mom.

MCGEE: So she tried to incorporate me into the theme song. And then one day, I kind of just sat down like I was taking a break. And I started - I was very engaged. The storytelling is really, really captivating.

DETROW: It is. So, Joseph, what about you? Is there an episode that sticks out in your mind as the first time you found yourself drawn in?

PETERSON: Yeah. For me, I think that episode is "Sleepy Time."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BLUEY")

MELANIE ZANETTI: (As Chilli) Now, sleepy time.

PETERSON: It's just so heartwarming and empathetic, I think both for the difficulty it is for children - it really sees them in kind of the struggles to stay in their own bed at night.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BLUEY")

ZANETTI: (As Chilli) Bluey.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Bluey) Can I have a drink of water?

ZANETTI: (As Chilli) OK, honey.

PETERSON: And also, it's really empathetic towards the parents' point of view of - right? - what that struggle can mean, going back and forth from bedroom to bedroom to the bathroom, you know, to sharing space on the bed or on the floor.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BLUEY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Bingo) I have to go. I'm a big girl now.

ZANETTI: (As Chilli) Remember. I'll always be here for you even if you can't see me - because I love you.

DETROW: Mari, you mentioned your daughter is just 10 months old at this point. So what drew you to "Bluey"? Why are you already having this on your radar and enjoying it so much?

BRISCO: Well, I wanted to have some background noise on that wasn't the TV that, you know, me and her dad were watching. Like, you know, she doesn't need to listen to "Severance" or "Succession" or anything like that. And then me and her dad were just stuck watching it for like about 10 episodes. I was like, oh, my God, you know, she's drifted away, you know, to sleep. And I'm, like, and we're still here watching this.

DETROW: You're there.

BRISCO: Yeah.

DETROW: When I think of "Bluey" and when I talk about it with my parent friends - and I should say I've got a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old - you know, there's the entertainment and there's the emotional heartstrings pulling. But there's also moments where I find myself taking cues from these cartoon dogs in Australia on how to be a better dad. Linda, any particular moments that you think about?

MCGEE: I think it's the xylophone one.

DETROW: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BLUEY")

DAVID MCCORMACK: (As Bandit) The magic xylophone. Give me that xylophone. Give me that...

MCGEE: They have a xylophone here. And they do the freeze, and then they unfreeze you, and then they freeze you. So it's taught me to really just play along and just tap into my childlike innocence and sense of wonder. There's so many things that I've done that I probably would never do if I weren't - if I wasn't watching "Bluey," I probably would not be, like, a horsey ride or, like, a car driving to the grocery store for some reason.

DETROW: Mari, it's still early days for you, but are there moments where you've thought like, oh, OK, I see this as a good parenting note, I'm going to file this away for when there's more playtime in my life?

BRISCO: Oh, absolutely. She just started to crawl. So now we're really into, you know, chasing after her and, you know, keeping her engaged in a lot of different things.

DETROW: Have you seen the baby race episode yet?

BRISCO: Yes, I have.

DETROW: Oh, man. That's probably really relevant to your life right now.

BRISCO: Absolutely. Because - so my daughter was born eight weeks early. So I've always worried, you know, in the back of my head like, oh, my God, is she hitting the right milestones at this age and everything?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BLUEY")

ZANETTI: (As Chilli) The doctor said there was nothing to worry about.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) Some babies just roll before they crawl.

ZANETTI: (As Chilli) But I wasn't having that.

BRISCO: And, you know, even watching that episode, I was like, you know, it's OK. You know, she's going to crawl when she crawls. She's going to talk when she talks.

DETROW: How about you, Joseph?

PETERSON: Yeah. I think for me, Linda hit it with just getting tips on how to sort of get down at the carpet level and play, which I think Bandit does just effortlessly and, you know, in a way that, like, I look up to this cartoon character a lot for those reasons, but also kind of resent him because it feels so unattainable in the way that he can just fully commit to a bit.

DETROW: Oh, yeah.

MCGEE: Yeah. I feel like it puts me under a lot of pressure. It's unattainable, but it does help. It, like, pushes you out of the boundary of I need to be doing this at this time to, OK, let's just chill. Like, I'm jealous of Bandit, but I think he helps me a lot. I will say that.

DETROW: Mari, are there any particular episodes to you that you feel like really speak to, like, real-life issues? Because I know that's another dynamic that a lot of us appreciate about "Bluey," that, whether it's a wink here and there or more of a plot line, they get to some of the more complicated and some of the sadder parts of life.

BRISCO: Absolutely. So there's this episode, "Grandad," which really stood out to me. At the end of it, I was just sobbing on the couch. So granddad needs to have heartworm surgery or he has heartworms or something like that. And, you know, granddad's supposed to be resting, but, you know, instead, he takes the grandkids, you know, through the yard and everything, playing around. And Chilli's just sitting there yelling at him like, no, you need to rest. Calm down.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BLUEY")

ZANETTI: (As Chilli) You're not meant to be running around.

BRISCO: And it really stood out to me because my dad is having a triple bypass this week, actually. And, you know, he adores his granddaughter, loves playing with her and everything. And we've been telling him like, hey, you need to sit down, rest, pretty much just as, you know, Chilli was speaking to granddad. And she says, you know, I need you to rest because I still need you. And, you know, that really hit me because, you know, even as parents, we were kids once. So we still need our parents sometimes.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BLUEY")

ZANETTI: (As Chilli) I remember when you used to take me swimming here.

LAURIE NEWMAN: (As Grandad) Yeah, me too.

ZANETTI: (As Chilli) That was a long time ago.

NEWMAN: (As Grandad) It was yesterday.

DETROW: Well, this has been a wonderful conversation. Thank you to all three of you for talking about "Bluey" with me. That was Joseph Peterson of Frederick, Md., Mari Brisco of New Orleans and Linda McGee of Chicago. Thanks so much to all of you.

MCGEE: Thanks for having me.

BRISCO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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