no job is too big, no pup is too small
December 19, 2019 1:16 PM   Subscribe

"What's Paw Patrol's secret? How it captivated children and conquered the world" Or is it actually a megalomonicial show that is ruining parent's lives with it's depiction of a dystopian and undemocratic failed state that misleads about rescue work, marginalizes its female characters, and exists to sell an increasing pile of toys.

Inside the All-Consuming World of Paw Patrol
It’s not clear why or how the Pups have become the designated protectors of Adventure Bay, but, Mayor Goodway aside, the city utterly lacks any real municipal infrastructure—there’s no police force, road crews, or elementary school. It’s also not clear why, exactly, Ryder’s been endowed with such authority, but, in any case, pretty much everyone else in Adventure Bay—from the nearly blind Cap’n Turbot to nefarious rival Mayor Humdinger (technically from neighbouring Foggy Bottom)—is thoroughly incompetent and perpetually in need of rescue. Goodway keeps a pet chicken, one of the show’s numerous lesser animals, in her purse—God knows the dog pack that basically runs an entire city would never consent to such degradation.
Why Your Childen's Television Program Sucks: Paw Patrol

Paw Patrol: Mighty Pups: Cartoon canines in fascistic mission
During the 1970s in a series of lectures at the Collège de France, Michel Foucault outlined a “secret history of the police”, characterising a force that paid greater attention to regulating the marketplace than investigating and arresting criminals.

The central task of the police, according to classical Foucauldian analysis, has also been to thwart and foil the possibility of revolution, the possibility of transgressing the order of capital: “For the bourgeoisie the main danger against which it had to be protected, that which had to be avoided at all costs, was armed uprising, was the armed people, was workers taking to the streets in assault against the government.”

Paw Patrol: Mighty Pups, the first theatrical reiteration from the popular animated franchise, is the latest shadowy attempt to normalise state-sponsored thuggery.
The Onion reports
posted by the man of twists and turns (87 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
My preferred dog-based cartoon franchise for kids is Bluey.
posted by zamboni at 1:25 PM on December 19, 2019 [9 favorites]


1. Adventure Bay is in British Columbia, right? They’re definitely in Canada, and the combination of mountains and seashore suggests the west coast.
2. How many people are in Adventure Bay, anyway? Just one police officer for the whole city, yet they can afford a whole tower and a team of bionic superdogs and custom transforming vehicles?
3. Is there a city council? How did this get started? What was the pitch for this, and who was providing basic municipal services before all this?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:32 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


One of my biggest achievements as a parent was inadvertently convincing my 4 year old that the Paw Patrol theme song went “Paw Patrol, nowhere to go, suburban robots that monitor reality,” a la Devo’s Smart Patrol.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 1:32 PM on December 19, 2019 [42 favorites]


The Paw Patrol (for the most part) doesn't solve actual crimes, fires, or road problems, they handle minor nonsense that honestly there should be a group outside of the designated primary city resources to solve but instead we outsource to volunteers in a poorly coordinated fashion.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:36 PM on December 19, 2019 [12 favorites]


That's a lot of words written by people who apparently never had to sit through an episode of Dora the Explorer or Thomas the Tank Engine. Paw Patrol is basically The Wire compared to Thomas the Tank Engine.
posted by Gary at 1:39 PM on December 19, 2019 [86 favorites]


The fact that there's only one girl dog in the main crew means Paw Patrol is heavily disfavored in our household. It's not on Netflix, though, so that makes it pretty easy to keep out of the regular rotation.

Super Wings does a little better on the gender front - the girl member is still The Pink One, but she's a more core member of the team. Plus the theme song is fucking amazing. Transformers Rescue Bots has a shitty gender balance, too (as much as I'd love to share Transformers).

I have been very pleasantly surprised at the amount of young kid animated fare on Netflix featuring solid girl protagonists, such as True, with its pretty good theme song. My heart's still broken at the loss of Sarah and Duck from Netflix, though. Among its other virtues, it really had the best theme song.
posted by factory123 at 1:42 PM on December 19, 2019 [11 favorites]


We still mourn the absence of Sarah. and Duck.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 1:48 PM on December 19, 2019 [24 favorites]


True fans of the show know that the whole thing takes place in Ryder’s imagination as he spends a his days alone in his room playing with stuffed animals to process a terrible, but as yet unknown trauma that has made him withdraw from the world. I think we can all agree that the haters are the real monsters.
posted by interogative mood at 1:50 PM on December 19, 2019 [12 favorites]


Paw Patrol is basically The Wire compared to Thomas the Tank Engine.

In that case is Octonauts basically Breaking Bad? Is Peppa Pig Sopranos?
posted by Ashwagandha at 1:51 PM on December 19, 2019 [15 favorites]


My daughter is now 9 years old, so I guess I missed out on this by a couple years.

I also consider myself Extremely Online, but the only time (besides this post) I've even heard about the existence of Paw Patrol is via Lin Manuel Miranda's Twitter feed when he records himself playing the theme song for his kids. Kinda interesting that this TV is so localized to just people with young kids.
posted by sideshow at 1:53 PM on December 19, 2019


That's a lot of words written by people who apparently never had to sit through an episode of Dora the Explorer or Thomas the Tank Engine. Paw Patrol is basically The Wire compared to Thomas the Tank Engine.

Or bloody Fireman Sam. If they just locked up that sociopathic arsonist Norman Price all their problems would be solved.
posted by Jimbob at 1:54 PM on December 19, 2019 [17 favorites]


I always find it funny that they lob "it's a plot by a toy company!" against kids' shows while all my grown friends are freaking out about baby Yoda, and like 50% have mentioned purchasing one.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:55 PM on December 19, 2019 [47 favorites]


I will say, having been subject to so much Paw Patrol on repeat from my daughter (she's gotten over it now and prefers Bluey) that the early seasons almost made sense, and later episodes have just descended into the utter mindless confusion that plagues all kid's TV shows that have pivoted into toy sales for the majority of their profits.
posted by Jimbob at 1:56 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


I know adults who don't even understand why it's bad that there is one female main character. But no! there's this one other recurring female character! As if have 2 out of 7 or 8 characters is somehow that much better.

Seriously: we need female heroines for all kids.

Also - I'm a huge curmudgeon and I hate it when animals talk and wear clothes. I just want to watch (the original) Incredible Journey over and over again.
posted by jb at 2:03 PM on December 19, 2019 [15 favorites]


Our house finally aged out of Paw Patrol after many agonizing years.

Now Miraculous is on an endless loop...
posted by Reyturner at 2:10 PM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


I thought we were on the edge of Paw Patrol, but then all the pups became superheroes with completely different "Mighty Pups" merch, and this is all my five-year-old wants for Christmas. So be it- I have purchased Mighty Pups and they will be under the tree next week.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:22 PM on December 19, 2019


I know adults who don't even understand why it's bad that there is one female main character. But no! there's this one other recurring female character! As if have 2 out of 7 or 8 characters is somehow that much better.

Mine have aged out of Paw Patrol into Spongebob (whose gender representation seems way worse to me) and to Disney shows that feature the same absent or clueless adults but more mean spirited kids. They still love Peppa though, because it is so nonsensical, even moreso than Dora.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:24 PM on December 19, 2019


You need to get your kids hooked on foreign cartoons so that they have no easy way to get toys/merch. Just make sure the show you pick is age appropriate (and stays that way). One Piece starts off innocent enough ...
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:25 PM on December 19, 2019 [6 favorites]


I don't usually work in the kids side of the library, so when a kid came up asking about this series I wasn't familiar with it. I wanted to make sure I had the right name.
"Papa Troll?" I asked. "Like, Papa and Mama Troll?"
The look the preschooler gave me... I'm surprised I didn't just wither up and die on the spot. Paw Patrol. I've got it now.
posted by Gray Duck at 2:25 PM on December 19, 2019 [58 favorites]


Odd Squad seems to have ruined other kids' shows for my son, which is fine with me, because bingeing episodes has become a bonding experience for us.
posted by vverse23 at 2:30 PM on December 19, 2019 [8 favorites]


The_Vegetables: I always find it funny that they lob "it's a plot by a toy company!" against kids' shows while all my grown friends are freaking out about baby Yoda, and like 50% have mentioned purchasing one.

Would you rather sit through episodes of semi-logical toy commercials masquerading as "edutainment" for children, or the complicated moral quandaries of a bounty hunter with his adorable green side-kick?

You can tell what the company's priority is when you see the range and volume of merchandise associated. Octonauts is adorable and educational, and has a decent gender balance (and as a bonus, the female-appearing characters aren't in pink costumes, and/or stuck in "support and clean-up" roles -- I'm looking at you, Robocar Poli, why does Amber clean up after those messy boy-bots so often?), but doesn't have the merchandise empire of Paw Patrol, or PJ Masks (when do you sleep, children?).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:45 PM on December 19, 2019 [6 favorites]


Odd Squad and Phineas and Ferb are legit great shows.
posted by BeeDo at 2:48 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


It's not on Netflix, though, so that makes it pretty easy to keep out of the regular rotation.

You're lucky to live in a region where it's geolocked. It's on Netflix Canada. Luckily, I've managed to convince my kid that Paw Patrol doesn't work at our house. Sure, you might see the title card when I'm scrolling through Netflix to find a show for you, but I assure you that it will not work and so let's not bothering clicking on it, OK?
posted by asnider at 2:49 PM on December 19, 2019 [16 favorites]


This telescope-topped panopticon feels like it was proposed by Jeremy Bentham and constructed by the Animaniacs.

Oh, please! Work Michel Foucault in there, you hack!
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:38 PM on December 19, 2019 [9 favorites]


This topic is relevant to my interests, thanks! However, due to the viewing preferences in my household, I'll have to sit this one out and wait for the PJ Masks post.
posted by slidell at 4:07 PM on December 19, 2019


I liked it better when I thought my 3 year old was telling me about Papa Troll.
posted by gatorae at 4:12 PM on December 19, 2019 [8 favorites]


My son (now 8) was the perfect age for the genesis of Paw Patrol. His grandma sent a care package with a Marshall figure, a DVD, and a coloring book in it because it “looked cute”. We spent 3 years with Paw Patrol. We had the toys, the clothes, the bedding and he wore Paw Patrol costumes for two Halloweens.

Still, it’s not the worst thing. There were other shows I found much more annoying.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:26 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


When dystopia descends, I struggle to believe its cogs will have been greased by Paw Patrol.
posted by hilberseimer at 4:46 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


Or bloody Fireman Sam. If they just locked up that sociopathic arsonist Norman Price all their problems would be solved.

The best explanation I've seen for Pontypandy.
posted by fshgrl at 4:49 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


My grandson is almost seven and loves the show. It was several years before I discovered the title wasn't "Papa Troll." That's a nice part of grandkids--most of the TV watching happens elsewhere.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 4:49 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


Marshall is so much better than Chase. I can't stand that pup.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:12 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


Bluey! The two main characters are both girls! Dad does parenting and is shown doing chores! Mum has a job and a hobby! There's almost no merchandise! (disclaimer: am Australian).
posted by quercus23 at 5:12 PM on December 19, 2019 [6 favorites]


I was trying to explain to my mother-in-law why SpongeBob was decent show, despite being loud & abrasive.
All that I could articulate was that it made more sense in the scheme of things.
posted by ovvl at 5:17 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


Kid's cartoons so often focus on rescue because it's a way of having action scenes in a show without resorting to violent conflict.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:18 PM on December 19, 2019 [12 favorites]


Every time this show comes up I can't believe the cop dog is named "Chase". I guess "Isawagun" and "Collateraldamage" were trademarked.
posted by supercres at 5:29 PM on December 19, 2019 [4 favorites]


(this btw is what spoils me on the concept in toto, instead of focusing on the other first-responder, ostensibly "helper" dogs)
posted by supercres at 5:30 PM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


All kids cartoons are set in the same, post-singularity future. Post-humans cavorting in a universe responsive to their whims down to the quantum level. Nightmares of infinite mutability.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:30 PM on December 19, 2019 [4 favorites]


I LOL'd at the Foucaultian analysis followed by an ad: "Real news has value. Subscribe."
posted by Sterros at 5:39 PM on December 19, 2019


There are dozens of great kids shows that don’t come with with low key misogyny and a looming juggernaut of licensed overpriced wasteful shit delightful consumer products, so I’ll stick to those. PBS kids and Puffin Rock are all my family needs right now; thanks.

Ok the Octonauts are pretty cool but why does the cephalopod scientist breathe air inside a pressurized submarine
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:43 PM on December 19, 2019 [7 favorites]


In that case is Octonauts basically Breaking Bad?

Go Heisenberg, go Heisenberg.
posted by mhoye at 5:44 PM on December 19, 2019 [4 favorites]


Paw Patrol is the fantasy of a gender-normative boy who wants to save the day with his super cool dogs and toys pup tools. Parents, societal structure, the laws of physics, and lots more all fall by the wayside because they bog down the fantasy with too much reality.

The depths of Netflix hold many other treasures. Let me introduce you to Kicko and Super Speedo. ugh. Although I have not kept up with grown-up TV for some time, so I struggle to find references, I think it's analogous to Dog The Bounty Hunter.

Judgy McJudgerson, signing off
posted by sillyman at 6:04 PM on December 19, 2019


Completely definitive and irrefutable ranking of all children's shows and cartoons ever:

1. Masha and the Bear
2. Everything else

Thanks for coming to my TED talk, I will not be taking questions
posted by lorddimwit at 6:06 PM on December 19, 2019 [9 favorites]


Ok the Octonauts are pretty cool but why does the cephalopod scientist breathe air inside a pressurized submarine

I know! It would have been much cooler if he wore a diving helmet inside, and none outside.
posted by jb at 6:09 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


I don't think Bluey has broken outside of Australia yet, but let me assure you it's coming
posted by Merus at 6:15 PM on December 19, 2019


I caught about one minute of Paw Patrol by accident. Somewhere on YouTube I think? I didn't know what it was because I had missed the title screen and I don't have kids. My first thought was: this looks like a really, really cheap show. Like bargain-basement Pixar level, or a talented 3-D Animation undergrad student's solo project.

edit: maybe I caught a super early version? I just googled it and it looks better than I remembered.
posted by SoberHighland at 6:22 PM on December 19, 2019


We went through a Paw Patrol phase but luckily we got over it (not before once having to drive three hours to see Paw Patrol “in-person” at a sketchy K-Mart parking lot. God help me). I think the kids got sick of basically the same storyline each show.

I try and keep my kids on PBS kids shows now - they adore Wild Kratts and Molly of Denali. Both have POC and multiple female characters (Molly obviously more so than Wild Kratts). Tumble Leaf and Creative Galaxy are decent on Amazon Prime.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 6:27 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


Also the best dog cartoon show for kids is The Ruff Ruffman Show (with Blossom and Chet) on PBS.

♪ When your hammer is a ham ♪
♪ When your project's in a jam ♪
♪ ARF! Ask Ruff First! ♪
♪ Ask Ruff First. ♪
posted by inflatablekiwi at 6:32 PM on December 19, 2019 [6 favorites]


Ryder’s imagination as he spends a his days alone in his room playing with stuffed animals to process a terrible, but as yet unknown trauma that has made him withdraw from the world

Ah, I see you have also played Binding of Issac.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:35 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


I will always love Paw Patrol for the volume of fan fiction that my wife and I generated from it for our son (who mercifully didn't ever watch all that much of it).
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 6:41 PM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


while all my grown friends are freaking out about baby Yoda,

Just bc your friends are slaves to clever marketing doesn’t mean you have to raise your kids on consumerist drivel.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:17 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


You people are aware that there is an entire genre, with multiple competitors, of crudely animated shows about anthropomorphic cars (a la, well, Cars) right? And that in these shows the vehicles don't actually speak but just babble nonsense while a narrator cajoles them through the story? And that while they don't have opposable thumbs, or hands at all for that matter, being vehicles, that isn't a problem because shit just magically moves around for them? You know this, right? You're familiar with Monster Trucks, Leo the Inquisitive Truck, and the ridiculously prolific Car City franchise -
Car Patrol, Tom the Tow Truck, Troy the Train, Tiny Trucks, Super Truck, etc., etc.? Well I am, thanks to Tiny Croft.

Trust me, Paw Patrol is fucking Shakespeare!
posted by Naberius at 7:48 PM on December 19, 2019 [10 favorites]


I don't know ... seems a little graphic for Paw Patrol.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 8:13 PM on December 19, 2019 [4 favorites]


That's a lot of words written by people who apparently never had to sit through an episode of Dora the Explorer or Thomas the Tank Engine. Paw Patrol is basically The Wire compared to Thomas the Tank Engine.

Pffffff, at least Dora and Thomas have actual story lines, involving a fairly decent proportion of actual human beings, including bilingual people of color in starring roles (well, at least on Dora) and a good helping of non-U.S./Canadian culture (on Thomas). I have watched Paw Patrol—it was on a multi-hour marathon on some station I couldn't change on a hospital-room TV once—and that show makes absolutely no sense. It's just a bunch of quasi-robotic, deus ex machina animal zaniness with no point.

I mean, Thomas is also fairly dystopian, and yeah, it's got a high percentage of stories involving non-human mechanical beings, but at least it has real stories.

This reminds me of this article that I just read about diversity in children's books, linked from the article in this FPP. Apparently 27 percent of children's books feature animals/other, with a mere 10 percent depicting African/African-American characters, 7 percent depicting Asian Pacific Islander/Asian Pacific American characters, 5 percent Latinx characters, 1 percent American Indians/First Nations characters... I'm not sure of the most recent numbers for TV, but here's some data from 2017 on the percentage of characters of color on TV that were named among millennials' favorites. That number is around 18 percent.

If I had to choose between mechanical silliness like Paw Patrol and Cars and media involving real stories of people in the world, I would choose the latter every time.
posted by limeonaire at 8:19 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


Bluey, Shaun the Sheep - if you are going anthropomorphic - those are the standouts.

For my older children, does anyone else remember Terry Pratchett's "Truckers"?
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 8:20 PM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


Paw Patrol is basically The Wire

Trust me, Paw Patrol is fucking Shakespeare!

The fact that there is truly awful and immoral content out there doesn't turn shit into sugar. I mean sure I'd rather watch PP than have my fingernails ripped off too.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:33 PM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


Anyone complaining about Thomas has clearly never descended into the nightmarish netherworld of Chuggington, the even-more-crudely animated knockoff that makes the suffering inflicted by all other shows mentioned in this thread as pesky, inconsequential, and gnatlike as the episodic PP peril.

Our lil' dude went through a period of months, months, when he would watch nothing but the hated Chuggington, which has all the loud screeching noises and merchandising potential that make PP so offensive (the former of which, incidentally, makes it impossible to effectively ignore if you're in the same room as it, the lowest bar that a children's program has to shimmy under), but with somehow even more banal storylines and even fewer real-world lessons to be absorbed. It's just computer-animated anthropomorphic blobs with astoundingly annoying voices endlessly bashing into each other as if wielded by some infuriated, uncomprehending ogre-being.

Mercifully, there are (usually) no commercials when streaming these things; if the little one discovered that a Chuggington molded-plastic tricycle could be had (...it probably can; this makes the bile rise), you know that thing would be in the backyard right now silently and hatefully proclaiming its immortality against all forces of nature.
posted by lorddimwit at 8:54 PM on December 19, 2019 [8 favorites]


At our house Zuma is a girl, so that helps a bit. But yeah after the first couple seasons the whole thing goes way overboard with trying to sell new and different toys.
posted by ODiV at 9:26 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


From the sound of this thread, my kids have mostly lucked out with their TV obsessions. Word World was great. True and the Rainbow Kingdom features problems and solutions totally disconnected from reality, but at least True is a good role model for kindness and tenacity. The only one that the grownups couldn't stand was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It's populated with characters that have no sense of accountability for their screwups, because their model of their own psychology reduces to immutable, reflexive reactions.
posted by Jpfed at 9:33 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


My friends' daughter *loves* Paw Patrol. Another of our friends has been cast as the voice of some sort of Christmas elf on the show. We're all waiting eagerly to see if she makes the connection, and if it blows her young mind.
posted by ilana at 11:11 PM on December 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


We have never watched Paw Patrol but we have bought a couple of small pieces of merchandise. The reason for that? Because Rubble looks like our little boy (who is currently snoring on my shoulder...)
posted by azpenguin at 11:51 PM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


Mostly the stuff on CBeebies / CBBC are really really good (ok, maybe not chuggington)
Paw Patrol / PJ Masks / Peppa Pig are not on the BBC. Occasionally the child discovers where to go to get these but we try and direct them away from any show where there is "A girl one" as a characteristic.

Of course the best times are when there is new She-Ra or My Little Pony. Both reboots are head and shoulders above the original 80s versions that they ascend to genuinely watchable.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:40 AM on December 20, 2019


There are dozens of great kids shows that don’t come with with low key misogyny and a looming juggernaut of licensed overpriced wasteful shit delightful consumer products, so I’ll stick to those. PBS kids and Puffin Rock are all my family needs right now; thanks.

Just bc your friends are slaves to clever marketing doesn’t mean you have to raise your kids on consumerist drivel.

posted by SaltySalticid


You must be fun at parties.

Be sure to check out all of the PBS Kids consumerist drivel products here.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:18 AM on December 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


We managed to dodge this, but only barely. Luckily the boy got really into Minecraft at about age five and is still happily obsessed with it, and he has learned to grudgingly accept She-Ra and Steven Universe as The Only Cartoons That Exist.
posted by Scattercat at 4:56 AM on December 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


You must be fun at parties.

Oh I’m a hoot, come on by next time you’re in my neighborhood :)

Look normally I’m fine just to pass on things I don’t care for and keep my mouth shut. But PP forces me to play defense. They plied my kid with that shit at hem the damn hospital, when he was born and again at age two. And at the doctor for his recent flu shot.

Sure, you can get PBS kids swag if you want it, but I’ve never seen or heard a thing about eg Peg + Cat when I’m not actively watching it. And that’s a great show with good music and solid math content.

There’s a difference between educational programming and swill made to push toys and I’m so salty about this because PP craps all over my weekly life, and I don’t have the luxury of ignoring it. Nobody here even watches it, but it’s everywhere else.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:02 AM on December 20, 2019 [6 favorites]


All that doesn't bother me. The part that did bother me is when one of the pups stopped a lava flow by spraying a few gallons of water on it. DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF SPECIFIC HEAT, PAW PATROL WRITERS????
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:18 AM on December 20, 2019 [12 favorites]


Yeah I mean, how dare kids enjoy something? Slaves!
posted by Fleebnork at 6:25 AM on December 20, 2019


But to walk back my snark just one step, moderation is a thing. My son enjoys his share of slavery drivel, but he also has to turn off the screen sometimes and go outside or do some art. It doesn't have to be all or nothing.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:41 AM on December 20, 2019


Of course the best times are when there is new She-Ra or My Little Pony. Both reboots are head and shoulders above the original 80s versions that they ascend to genuinely watchable.

I highly recommend Tinker Bell series. It’s so good. There’s a series of grade-1 or 2 chapter books as well which are really good (except for the one with Peter Pan, it’s a jarring throwback to whatever bs that was). We are still annoyed that they didn’t spin off Tink into an engineering series which they could have but, you know, who knows why the Mouse does anything.
posted by amanda at 6:46 AM on December 20, 2019


OK, as a connoisseur of TV shows for the under 7 set, I would agree that Paw Patrol is, at the least, not worse than the other big-time TV shows in its class (e.g., Thomas & Friends, Dora the Explorer). However, as parents, we can and should demand better for our children.

So here are some recommendations:
  • Puffin Rock, Sarah & Duck: These are both beautifully animated and well-written series that are -- and this is important -- chill. I'm amazed, in a world where Mr. Rogers showed that children appreciate not being bombarded with noise and manic energy, how rare this is. Plus Puffin Rock has Chris O'Dowd as the narrator.
  • Shaun the Sheep: It's made by the people who made Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run. It's on Amazon Prime. It's got sheep. You're watching it.
  • True and the Rainbow Kingdom: Like Paw Patrol and Thomas, there's something weirdly dystopian[^1] about this show, but as Jpfed notes, it has good lessons about being kind to others.
  • Let's Go Luna: It's got Judy Greer! It teaches kids to be interested in other cultures! The theme music slaps! What more do you want?
  • Masha & the Bear: This has grown on me; it is delightfully deranged in a way that apparently only Russian cartoons can be. Probably the clearest successor to the madcap energy of the original Warner Bros. cartoons. It's also like Warner Bros. cartoons in that you get the occasional theater or classical music reference thrown in.
  • Mighty Little Bheem: The lack of diversity in children's programming was mentioned in this thread, so this show is a good corrective to that. It's not spectacular, but I like that it has the rhythms of an old Tom and Jerry short.
[^1]: When you think about it, all children's television is dystopian, in that the actions and situations presented are so simplified (to make it easy for a child to comprehend) that, to an adult's eyes, they look like all the complexities of actual civilization have been blasted away, leaving only a husk of its former self.
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:04 AM on December 20, 2019 [11 favorites]


Masha and the Bear gets better as time goes on. For a lot of the early episodes, it's just Masha being a gigantic asshole to basically everyone and getting coddled in return. The longer it went, the more she at least occasionally displayed empathy or acknowledged that other beings had a right to exist.
posted by Scattercat at 7:07 AM on December 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


Of course the best times are when there is new She-Ra or My Little Pony. Both reboots are head and shoulders above the original 80s versions that they ascend to genuinely watchable.

I am solidly okay with My Little Pony. It's fun to watch with my daughter, and much more bearable that countless other vapid cartoons, or worse yet, those cloying YouTube families who exploit their children in the name of raking in all that sweet, sweet cash.
posted by slogger at 7:16 AM on December 20, 2019


She-Ra or My Little Pony. Both reboots are head and shoulders above the original 80s versions that they ascend to genuinely watchable.

Credit goes to Lauren Faust. Also: Super Best Friends Forever, DC Super Hero Girls

Masha and the Bear gets better as time goes on.

I have a habit of switching to native languages with subtitles ( also: Miraculous ) and I always loved the alliteration of "Masha i Mishka" instead of "and The Bear"
posted by mikelieman at 7:23 AM on December 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


Sarah & Duck has been a go-to "quiet" show for us, but True gets on my nerves with the repetitiveness of the wishing tree song, particularly if my son is watching multiple episodes.

Shaun the Sheep is fantastic and I'll gladly watch it with him.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:34 AM on December 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


Just bc your friends are slaves to clever marketing doesn’t mean you have to raise your kids on consumerist drivel.

Consumerism in reference to toys and kids shows is such a mixed bag. I mean, PawPatrol toys (even if there are a lot of them) are extremely cheap (due to overseas labor practices) when compared to say playing sports, dance, or gymnastics. I could buy every single PawPatrol toy for the amount that team gymnastics costs in about 2-3 months. Same for daycare.

Kids also age out of these shows really quickly so if you buy the toys slowly, your total investment can be pretty low, compared to say Legos which are generally expensive, and have a longer shelf life for kids. BTW, the fake Lego movie Playmobil was better than Frozen 2.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:07 AM on December 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


I was really hoping that Foucalt analysis was going somewhere, because I would read the hell out of a longform piece dissecting the class implications of Paw Patrol.

The pups are fundamentally nationalists and class traitors, functioning as both bourgeoisie and (nominal) protectors of Adventure Bay. Their first allegiance is to capital, which is why they're always around to protect Adventure Bay from the interests of foreign interference (c.f. Mayor Humdinger, whom they consistently thwart but will never vanquish, for they see too much of their own interests represented in his avarice) or internal dissent (the workers at the cafe are organizing? Chase is on the case!), using a thin subtext of heroism to mask their true intentions. In this essay I will
posted by Mayor West at 8:13 AM on December 20, 2019 [13 favorites]


Kicko and Super Speedo

Some friends put that on for the kids while the adults were playing a D&D-like game and it was so fucked that we actually had trouble focusing on our game.
posted by asnider at 8:16 AM on December 20, 2019



Chuggington, the even-more-crudely animated knockoff that makes the suffering inflicted by all other shows mentioned in this thread as pesky, inconsequential, and gnatlike as the episodic PP peril.


Oh, really? Really? We had a brief Chuggington period too, and it was... not great, but to compare it to... God damn it, lorddimwit... All right, you made me do this. Why do you make me do these terrible things? I give you the episode of Super Truck (in which mild mannered Carl the Truck transforms into whatever vehicle is necessary to save the day) where, finally, at last, the only remaining reason they can think of to panic and summon Super Truck is so he can transform into the Egyptian god Horus ... because they're... curious about... Horus*.

Note that this YouTube channel has 791,000 subscribers.

*Imagine you're having a barroom argument with some loser about whether the Silver Medal in the Marathon at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics was won by Japan's Kenji Kimihara or New Zealand's Mike Ryan, so you decide to fire up the Bat Signal because you figure Batman will probably be able to settle it for you.

Drops mic. Walks away...

posted by Naberius at 8:20 AM on December 20, 2019 [7 favorites]


Kids' licensing is my area of expertise, and of course like anything there's a spectrum of quality and a whole ecosystem of potential goals and priorities when an entity is trying to create or acquire a new property. Not every show is created thinking it's going to be Paw Patrol when it comes to merchandising, and Paw Patrol certainly was created with the idea of being a merchandising juggernaut topping its priority list. But:

There is no children's animation that isn't actively trying to be Paw Patrol, when it comes to merchandising.

I don't just mean that the people who make kids' shows aren't all Bill Watterson, which of course they aren't. But that there are people sitting at their desks in LA and New York right now, getting paid money by a corporation to get each and every single program mentioned in this thread more and more merch deals to sell more stuff to kids. The ones that have less merch available is because someone along the chain of the decision-making process at the potential licensees is skeptical about its chances to sell*, not because the people who own the rights aren't trying.

Don't get me wrong--like what you like, and may your kids not fall in love with something that makes you tear your hair out, but there is no anti-consumerist kids' animation.

(*and they may be wrong! This is not a "things suck because people buy things that suck" opinion. For instance shows like PP would probably have more gender equity if there weren't a bunch of corporate dudes saying "well we'd all like to have more female characters but that's just not what sells" and I know for a fact they are wrong, but in that case they make the decision, not me. I think both series and their merch should not suck and that people would still watch and buy!)
posted by lampoil at 8:47 AM on December 20, 2019 [8 favorites]


there are people sitting at their desks in LA and New York right now, getting paid money by a corporation to get each and every single program mentioned in this thread

Hey, I could do that! [rereads] Aw, that's not the whole sentence.
posted by asperity at 9:06 AM on December 20, 2019


These are both beautifully animated and well-written series that are -- and this is important -- chill.

Would love to see more tv shows for kids that fit this description. Never heard of Sarah & Duck but will definitely give it a try.

I probably won't get away with this for much longer, but my kids for now only have access to PBSkids and my plex server, where I have hand-picked shows I find less objectionable, and much more importantly, they cannot possibly see ads for other shows. I won't let them watch Puffin Rock or Llama Llama on Netflix because that would lead to too many damned screenshots of Paw Patrol, Battlebots, and whatever other crap their algorithm pushes at us.

As for Paw Patrol, I will grudgingly admit that I don't hate it as much as many other kids shows, but am always puzzled by why kids seem so magnetically attracted to their merchandise, when the show and its characters seem pretty fungible for any number of less successful shows out there.
posted by skewed at 9:33 AM on December 20, 2019 [2 favorites]


Cash4Lead has some excellent recommendations above. I wholeheartedly endorse Sarah & Duck, Puffin Rock, and Let's Go Luna. I'll throw in a mention of Molly of Denali as well. And I'll definitely be checking out some of Cash4Lead's other recs!

For parents in the US looking for other good alternatives: see if your local library system offers subscriptions to Kanopy, a streaming service that includes a bunch of kids' shows (and documentaries for grown-ups!) as well as animated storybooks. Our library offers unlimited streaming through Kanopy; others offer a limited number of plays per month. Worth checking out--there's lots of good stuff on there, lots of "chill" viewing options.

You must be fun at parties.

Can you not? Thanks!
posted by sugar and confetti at 9:35 AM on December 20, 2019 [6 favorites]


I haven't seen it mentioned yet, so: I've been steering our little one towards the StoryBots series to moderate success. The music is delightful and catchy to the point that they made a spinoff focused on it.

Thankfully the interest in a certain paramilitary group of talking dogs and their sociopathic 5-year-old leader has taken a dive in recent months. Personally, I'm convinced Adventure Bay is a Truman Show-esque social experiment and the residents are all unknowing (or perhaps more horrifying, unwilling) participants. Somebody has to be pulling the strings behind the scenes...
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 9:53 AM on December 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


Can you not? Thanks!

Sorry, I'll go back to my "slave of consumerist drivel" corner now.
posted by Fleebnork at 11:13 AM on December 20, 2019


I just watched part of the episode of Super Truck that Naberius linked to and I am frankly impressed at how shamelessly streamlined their production is.

No actual lip sync. Lip sync is one of the biggest time sinks in animation, and you have to redo it if you want to translate it. Super Truck just has everyone babble, then follows up with the off screen narrator explaining what they just said. Wanna put it in a new language? It’s probably a days work per episode to write and record a new script, then chop it up and drop it into the existing footage.

No walk cycles. Just move the character and make the wheels move. I didn’t even see anyone turning. Just driving forwards.

The Super Truck transformation smells like a place the same footage gets used every episode. And it’s LONG. Make a new model for whatever he turns into this episode, drop it on in parts.

I’m really really impressed by how little work they’re getting away with.
posted by egypturnash at 11:37 AM on December 20, 2019 [6 favorites]


Clangers and Roobarb, both old and new.
posted by meehawl at 12:47 PM on December 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


corporate dudes saying "well we'd all like to have more female characters but that's just not what sells"

I hear that, and I agree they are wrong. I also want to point out that PBS is a nonprofit org, and so nobody is really getting rich off their content in the way people get rich off of things like PP. And in my experience publicly funded kid’s media has more diversity in gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status etc.

Also, while there isn’t really any mainstream anti-consumerist children’s programming, there is at least non-consumerist programming. Maybe Pocoyo, or Puffin Rock? There’s not really any markets or stuff to buy in those shows, and while I’m sure you could find licensed gear online I’m not sure I’d ever see any IRL.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:05 PM on December 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


I also want to point out that PBS is a nonprofit org, and so nobody is really getting rich off their content in the way people get rich off of things like PP.

That's not really how it works, though. Generally the rights owners for the shows on PBS Kids are regular businesses* that expect to make money from kids' programming. However, with only a few exceptions, PBS Kids's taste in programming tends to run toward the less-merchandisable, especially as compared to Nick and Disney. And the existing relationships with licensees and retailers would be quite different, too, which would make becoming Paw Patrol harder. But they're still trying, hoping for something to break out.

(*The major exception being Sesame Workshop, a nonprofit that owns some animation, but mostly live action, so it's a little outside the scope of my original comment. But of course they also have people whose job it is to find more merch deals and sell more stuff to kids. The money brought in from the Elmo craze that started in the late 1990s might not have been technically profit to them, but it sure was for the licensees and retailers).

Maybe Pocoyo, or Puffin Rock?

I have personally worked on merch for one of these two properties. It was a while back and so the reason you don't see it now is that it didn't sell, at least not in the US.
posted by lampoil at 6:24 AM on December 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


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