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Blue's Clues is an American children's television show premiered on Nick Jr, September 8, 1996, although production of new episodes stopped by 2006. Reruns have been airing on AFN Family since 1996. Versions of the show have been produced in other countries, most notably in the United Kingdom.
It was created by a "green team" of producers, Todd Kessler, Angela C. Santemo and Traci Paige Johnson, who used concepts learned from child development and early-childhood education research to create a television show that would capture preschool attention and help them learn. They used the narrative format in their presentation of material, as opposed to the more traditional magazine format, and structured every episode the same way.
The result, Blue's Clues, has been called "one of the most successful, critically-acclaimed, and ground-breaking preschool television shows of all time".Author Malcolm Gladwell called the show "perhaps the 'stickiest'—meaning the most irresistible and involving—television show ever". Its innovative use of research, technology, and interactive content has influenced its genre since its debut, including the "gold standard of preschool TV programs" that inspired it, Sesame Street. It became the highest-rated show for preschoolers on commercial television, and received nine Emmy awards. Its efficacy in teaching preschoolers using the medium of television has been documented in research studies.
In March 2018, Nickelodeon announced a reboot of the show, eventually titled Blue's Clues & You. It will be hosted by Joshua Dela Cruz, include improvements to the show's original designs and aesthetics, and a complete switch to 3D CGI animation. It will premiere in November 2019.
History from Wikipedia
"By 1990, parents, teachers, and media experts had been criticizing "the lack of quality fare for children on commercial television" for many years. Up to that point, PBS was the only source for quality children's television; other broadcasters voluntarily set educational standards for their programming and "were expected to regulate themselves", but it led to little change in the quality of children's programs. By the time Blue's Clues premiered in 1996, there was a large amount of TV shows for children, but most of them were violent and designed to sell action toys and other products. According to author Diane Tracy in her 2002 book Blue's Clues for Success, "The state of children's television was pretty dismal."[note 1]
There was little incentive for producing high-quality children's television until 1990, when Congress passed the Children's Television Act (CTA), which "required that networks be held accountable for the quality of children's programming or risk losing their license". Congress provided little direction in how the CTA was enforced and the law was so vague, no real improvements were made, so the FCC "strengthened its regulations enforcing the CTA" in 1996. The additional regulations included a provision called "the Three-Hour rule", which mandated that broadcasters air at least three hours of children's programming per week, between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., and that they be tagged with an E/I (Educational and Informational) logo. The cable network Nickelodeon, which had been airing programs for six- to twelve-year-olds, was not legally bound by the CTA but complied with it many years before the laws and regulations were passed anyway.
Nickelodeon assigned a team of producers, Angela Santomero, Todd Kessler, and Traci Paige Johnson, to create a new U.S. television program for young children in mid-1994 using research on early childhood education and the viewing habits of preschoolers. They did not, according to Tracy, have the traditional backgrounds of most producers of children's programs but possessed "an amazing combination of talents, backgrounds, and personal attributes". According to The New York Times, Kessler was the first creator to be brought on board to the project; Santomero and Johnson joined soon after. Kessler had a background in children's television, with prior experience on Sesame Street, but he disagreed with its format and thought that it was too static and not visual enough. He also worked as a freelance producer for Nickelodeon from 1993 to 1994. Santomero worked at Nickelodeon as a researcher and Johnson was a freelance artist and animator. Researcher Daniel R. Anderson of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, one of the first researchers to study the effect of television on young children and who had also worked on Sesame Street, was an adviser for the new show. At first, Nickelodeon had hired Anderson as an adviser for its Nick Jr. block of preschool programs starting in 1993, although Santomero had already been getting his input about research informally. When Nickelodeon enlisted her to co-create Blue's Clues, he came on in a more formal capacity.
Santomero, Kessler, and Johnson met at the Nickelodeon Studios for a month to develop Blue's Clues. The character Blue was originally conceived as a cat, and the name of the show was to be "Blue's Prints," but the show's name was changed and Blue became a dog because Nickelodeon was already producing a show about a cat. Kessler handled the show's "computer-based production", Santomero the research, and Johnson the design. Alice Wilder served as a producer and director of development and research. They were given a "modest" $150,000 to produce a pilot.
Blue's Clues premiered in the U.S. on September 8, 1996. It was a smash hit, largely due to the producers' extensive research, and became crucial to Nickelodeon's growth. Within 18 months of its premiere, Blue's Clues was as well-known as more established children's shows such as the 30-year-old Sesame Street. It became the highest-rated show for preschoolers on commercial television. By 2002, 13.7 million viewers tuned in each week.
In 2000, with very little "fanfare" and after 75 episodes, co-creator and co-producer Todd Kessler left Blue's Clues and Nickelodeon, to pursue other projects. He told The New York Times that he had "no hard feelings". He continued to be listed as an executive producer for the remaining run of the show.
In 2004, a spin-off, Blue's Room, was launched. It featured puppets instead of animation as well as the original show's second host, Joe, in several episodes. Blue's Clues celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2006 with a special that consisted of a 12-minute retrospective produced by VH1's "Behind the Music" staff and a collection of "milestone" episodes, including first host Steve Burns' 2002 departure."
The series stars Blue, an animated blue dog who, in each episode, leaves a paw print on 3 items in a colorful cartoonish house, in a children's book named "Blue's Clues," to tell Steve, (later Joe from seasons four to six) Blue's caretaker, what she needs or wants. After collecting the "Handy Dandy Notebook" from Sidetable Drawer, either one signs the "Play Blue's Clues!" song, which shortly explains to the viewer how to play Blue's Clues. Along the way, as a side plot, one of Steve's or Joe's friends needs help in a mini-game. This usually results in encouraging the viewer to use problem-solving, math, science, or reading skills to solve the problem. For example, in Magenta Comes Over, Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper are having trouble creating "race cars," (actually, small "cars" out of fruits and vegetables.) The viewer is taught opposites by picking out which item is smaller, smoother, etc. These side plots segments mostly come in between finding the actual clues and is where most minor characters are introduced. Later, when Steve (or Joe,) has found each of the three items, he goes to the Thinking Chair, a bright red armchair, to think about what Blue, (or one of her friends,) wants or needs. This segment usually involves problem-solving skills as either host tries to figure out Blue's Clues. The show ends with the "So Long Song," as the door to the Blue's Clues House closes and fades into the credits.
- Sidetable Drawer
- Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper
- Paprika and Cinnamon
- Shovel and Pail
- Tickety Tock
- Slippery Soap
- Felt Friends
- → Main article: Blue's Clues & You!
- A pink snail appears in each episode three times as an extra challenge for older kids.
- The '12' mark on Tickety's clock face is usually replaced by a symbol that relates to the episode's topic.
- In The Fairly OddParents' television film Channel Chasers, Timmy Turner runs into a parody of Blue's Clues called "Clint's Hints".
Additional information about production and educational goals from Wikipedia
"The creators' and producers' goals were to "empower, challenge, and build the self-esteem of preschoolers" while entertaining them. Kessler, Santomero and Johnson were influenced by Sesame Street, the first children's television program to utilize a detailed and comprehensive educational curriculum developed from research. "We wanted to learn from Sesame Street and take it one step further," Santomero said. Like Sesame Street, formative research which the producers called their "secret sauce," was used during all aspects of the creative and decision-making process during the production of Blue's Clues. In addition to a curriculum that emphasized reasoning skills relevant to preschoolers' everyday lives, the producers wanted to include audience participation, called by Variety its "call and response style," that encouraged mastery of the information presented, positive reinforcement, and prosocial messages. In their first brainstorming sessions in 1994, Santomero, Kessler, and Johnson decided to promote mastery rather than rote learning or memorizing, make sure that their viewers knew the answers to the puzzles with which they were presented, and include elements of surprise and play. By 2001, the show's research team consisted of head researcher Alice Wilder, Alison Sherman, Karen Leavitt, and Koshi Dhingra.[note 3] The research team and creators worked collaboratively.
Unlike Sesame Street, which tested a third of its episodes, the Blue's Clues research team field tested every episode three times with children aged between two to six in preschool environments such as Head Start programs, public schools, and private day care centers. There were three phases of testing: content evaluation, video evaluations, and content analysis. In their tests of the pilot, conducted throughout the New York City area with over 100 children aged from three to seven, the show was "immediately successful." They found that as the pilot progressed, children's attention was not only captured and sustained, but they became excited and actively participated with what they saw, to the point that they stood up to get closer to the television and spoke back to the host. The producers and researchers also consulted outside advisers, who were chosen based on their expertise and the needs of each script. As Anderson stated, the formative research team served "as a liaison between the feedback provided by the preschoolers and outside advisers and the production team, including writers, talent, producers, directors, element artists, and animators."
When I believed we had the best show on television that could educate preschoolers and positively impact their lives, I was relentless. I wanted so much to give kids a television show that celebrates how smart they are, because I truly believe they are brilliant. I also wanted to create a show that would help pre-schoolers feel good about themselves".
Twenty years worth of research had showed that television, a "cultural artifact" accessible to most American children, could be a "powerful educational agent." The show was designed and produced on the assumption that, since children are cognitively active when they watch television, a show could be an effective method of scientific education for young children by telling stories through pictures and by modeling behavior and learning. The creators and producers used film techniques to present information from multiple perspectives in many "real world" contexts, or situations within the daily experiences of young children. They wanted to provide their viewers with more "authentic learning opportunities" by placing problem-solving tasks within the stories they told, by slowly increasing the difficulty of these tasks, and by inviting their involvement. These learning opportunities included the use of mnemonics in the form of mantras and songs, and what Tracy called "metacognitive wrap-up" at the end of each episode, in which the lessons were summarized and rehearsed. The producers wanted to foster their audience's sense of empowerment by eliciting their assistance for the show's host and by encouraging their identification with the character Blue, who served as a stand-in for the typical preschooler.
Sesame Street reflected the prevailing view that preschoolers had short attention spans; it featured a magazine-like format consisting of varied segments. Based on research conducted over the 30 years since the launch of Sesame Street by theorists like Anderson, the producers of Blue's Clues wanted to develop a show that took advantage of children's intellectual and behavioral activity when watching television. Previous children's television programs presented their content with little input from their viewers, but Blue's Clues was one of the first children's shows to actively invite its viewers' involvement. Its creators believed that if children were more involved in what they were viewing, they would attend to its content longer than previously expected—for up to a half hour—and learn more. They also dropped the magazine format for a more traditional narrative format. As Variety magazine stated, "... The choice for Blue's Clues became to tell one story, beginning to end, the camera moving left-to-right like reading a storybook, transitions from scene to scene as obvious as the turning of a page." Every episode of Blue's Clues was structured in this way.
The pace of Blue's Clues was deliberate, and its material was presented clearly. Similar to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which also inspired the producers, this was done was in the use of pauses that were "long enough to give the youngest time to think, short enough for the oldest not to get bored." The length of the pauses, which was estimated from formative research, gave children enough time to process the information and solve the problem. After pausing, child voice-overs provided the answers so that they were given to children who had not come up with the solution and helped encourage viewer participation. Researcher Alisha M. Crawley and her colleagues stated that the show was "unique in making overt involvement a systematic research-based design element." In 2002, the success of Blue's Clues inspired the producers of Sesame Street to change its format and add more interactive segments. Blue's Clues also differed from Sesame Street by not using cultural references or humor aimed at adults, as this could confuse preschoolers but, instead, made the show literal, which the producers felt would better hold the children's attention. The structure of each episode was repetitive, designed to provide preschoolers with comfort and predictability."
"Blue's Clues was set in the home—the environment that was most familiar and secure for preschoolers—and looked like no other children's television show. Each episode was in development, from idea development to final production, for approximately one year. Writers created a goal sheet, which identified their objectives based on the show's curriculum and audience needs. Script drafts, once developed and approved by the show's creators and research team, were tested at public and private schools, day care centers, preschools, and Head Start programs by three researchers, who would narrate the story in the form of a storybook and take notes about the children's responses. The writers and creators revised the scripts based on this feedback. A rough video, in which the host performed from the revised script in front of a blue screen with no animation, was filmed and retested. The script was revised based on the audiences' responses, tested a third time with animation and music added, and incorporated into future productions.
Most of the show's production was done in-house, rather than by outside companies as was customary for children's TV shows. The show's creators understood that the look and visual design of the show would be integral to children's attachment with it. Johnson expanded on the "cut-out" style she had created during her college years. Blue's Clues was the first animated series for preschoolers that utilized simple cut-out construction paper shapes of familiar objects with a wide variety of colors and textures, resembling a storybook. Johnson also used primary colors and organized each room of the home setting into groups. The green-striped shirt worn by the show's original host, Steve, was inspired by Fruit Stripe gum. The goals were to make the show look natural and simplistic; as Tracy put it, "freshly cut and glued together with a vivid array of textures, colors, and shadows" similar to picture book illustrations. The music, produced by composer Michael Rubin and pianist Nick Balaban, was simple, had a natural sound, and exposed children to a wide variety of genres and instruments. According to Tracy, the music empowered children and gave the show "a sense of playfulness, a sense of joy, and a sense of the fantastic". Rubin and Balaban encouraged the musicians who performed for the show to improvise.
The host performed each episode in front of a "blue screen", with animation added later. The show's digital design department combined high-tech and low-tech methods by creating and photographing three-dimensional objects, then cutting them out and placing them into the background. This made the objects look more real and added perspective and depth. Their animation technique was at that time a new technology. Johnson hired artist Dave Palmer and production company Big Pink to create the animation from simple materials like fabric, paper, or pipe-cleaners, and scan them into a Macintosh computer so that they could be animated using inexpensive computer software such as Media 100, Ultimatte, Photoshop and After Effects,[note 4] instead of being repeatedly redrawn as in traditional animation. Johnson credited Kessler with the idea of using the Macintosh. The result was something that looked different from anything else on television at the time, and the producers were able to animate two episodes in eight weeks, as compared to the sixteen weeks necessary to create a single episode by traditional methods. Their process looked like traditional cut-out animation, but was faster, more flexible, and less expensive, and it allowed them to make changes based on feedback from test audiences. Unlike traditional animation environments, which tended to be highly structured, the animators were given information about the characters and goals of the scenes they would animat, and then given the freedom to work out the timing and look of each scene themselves, as long as their creations were true to the characters and to the story. By 1999, the show's animation department consisted of Palmer, 20 animators, 11 digital designers, and 5 art directors and model makers. By 2002, Nickelodeon had built a "state-of-the-art" $6 million digital animation studio that housed 140 people, including 70 animators."