Oswald (A Nice Quiet Picnic/The Big Parade). Directed by Ken Kessel. NickJr, 24 minutes. HIT Entertainment PLC, Nicktoons Productions. 2001
Toddlers and Preschoolers will love the early 2000’s cartoon, Oswald, based on the series of books by Dan Yaccarino. The show ran on Nicktoons from 2001-2003; parents can still find the show on the NickJr channel. Yaccarino served as producer on the show, assuring that the look and feel of the books carried over. Each episode runs approximately 24 minutes and contains two episodes that run about 12 minutes each.
The show follows the adventures of Oswald, an octopus, and his friends in the city of Big. Each episode contains the same characters: Oswald (voiced by Fred Savage), his dachshund, Weenie, who looks like an actual hot dog (voiced by Debi Derryberry), and his friend, Henry, a penguin (voiced by David L. Lander) appear in every episode. Other friends show up from time to time. In the episode A Nice Quiet Picnic, Oswald, Henry and Weenie go on a picnic; as more friends show up, the group tries to figure out how to feed everyone when there are only three sandwiches. The episode highlights the value of sharing, as Oswald continues to invite friends to the picnic as he encounters them in the park, despite Henry’s protests that there is not enough food to feed everyone; it also focuses on teamwork, as the group of friends comes together to feed everyone at the picnic. There are repetitive phrases and counting exercises throughout for toddler and preschool audiences, and simple songs round out the episode.
In The Big Parade, Oswald hears parade music from his window and is excited, believing that a parade is coming to town. He and Weenie fetch Henry and their friend, Daisy (voiced by Crystal Scales) – an actual Daisy flower – and find a spot to wait for the parade to pass, talking excitedly about their favorite parade performers; in particular, the acrobats, the jugglers, and the Grand Marshall. When they learn that there is no parade, and that the music was coming from a friend’s radio, they decide to make their own parade, each character assuming their favorite role. As with A Nice Quiet Picnic, there is a great deal of repetition, this time, reinforcing the roles of the parade performers. The episode teaches children to deal with disappointment, as the group does when they realize that there is no parade – they turn a letdown into a positive situation.
The artwork is the same as the artwork from the Oswald book series, with bright, vibrant color against a calm backdrop of City. The skies are blue, the grass is a calming green, and even Oswald’s apartment building is an inviting backdrop of light color, all assuring that the main characters will stand out. The characters speak calmly, in quiet, soothing voices.
The series is not very interactive, but it does provide good storytelling with characters that may be known to young audiences; it also serves, for those audiences that are unfamiliar with Oswald, as a bridge to reading the books. It may be a fun idea to have an Oswald day where audiences can view a two-story episode and talk about the themes of teamwork and what to do when you feel sad. Have Oswald books available and on display for parents and children to read and take out after the read-aloud. There are Oswald board books available for younger audiences. The Oswald mini-site on the NickJr. webpage offers printables that attendees could color.
NickToons and the now-defunct Noggin network also ran episodes of Maurice Sendak’s series, Little Bear and Bil Cosby’s Little Bill; these shows were based on series of books and could also be of interest to younger viewers and readers.
The Oswald series of books by Dan Yaccarino includes early readers, board books, and 8×8 books. Titles include Oswald’s Camping Trip; Counting with Oswald; Colors with Oswald and Henry’s First Haircut.