Pinwheel was Nickelodeon's first series. It was a puppet-driven program that was aimed at preschoolers aged 2-5. Each episode is divided into short, self-contained segments, which included songs, skits, and animations. The show's setting is a boarding house called Pinwheel House, which is powered by a spinning pinwheel on the roof.
The show premiered on December 1, 1977, on QUBE's local C-3 channel in Columbus, Ohio. On April 1, 1979, the C-3 channel was expanded into a national network called Nickelodeon, and Pinwheel was broadcast to a wider audience. New episodes of the series continued until 1984, and it was reran until 1990.
It was the first show to air as part of the Nick Jr. block, airing on the block from its launch on January 4, 1988 until July 6, 1990.
Pinwheel takes place in and around a boarding house called Pinwheel House, which is powered by a pinwheel on the roof. Most of the songs on Pinwheel are set to music in the style of a wind-up music box. The show features live actors interacting with puppets, as well as animated shorts imported from Europe and Canada. According to the show's developers, its format was "geared to the interests and short attention span of preschoolers," which is why each episode is made up of many short stand-alone segments.
For its first season, Pinwheel was shown on Channel C-3 of QUBE, an experimental cable system in Columbus, Ohio. The show's early history was dominated by a musician named George James, who played the lead character Jake and was in charge of writing, performing, and producing most songs. The show was developed by former employees of the Children's Television Workshop, who formulated the episode structure for preschoolers.
Channel C-3 moved to national television in April 1979, when the channel rebranded as Nickelodeon. Production on Pinwheel moved from Columbus to New York. The revamped Pinwheel had a higher budget and started to include animated shorts that were imported from Europe and Canada. Production continued until 1984, with the last project being a live touring show.
On January 4, 1988, Nickelodeon launched the Nick Jr. block, a weekday morning block for preschoolers. Pinwheel was the first show to air as part of the block. New bumpers for Pinwheel were made on the block, usually where the Nick Jr. logo took the shape of two pinwheels. The show continued to air in reruns as a staple of Nick Jr. until July 6, 1990. Another puppet series for preschoolers, Eureeka's Castle, would fill the timeslots where Pinwheel was. In this article, the Los Angeles Times described Eureeka's Castle as a successor series to Pinwheel.
The owner of Pinwheel House is Aurelia, a motherly fortune teller puppet. The basement of Pinwheel House is home to Ebenezer T. Squint, an inventor and part-time magician who likes to cause trouble. The attic room is inhabited by Plus and Minus, a pair of playful twin boys.
The house's live-action residents include Coco (a mime who is great at fixing things), Jake (a musician who has many small boxes that emit sound effects), Kim (an artist who is always painting things she sees), and the elderly couple Sal and Smitty (who run a newspaper called The Daily Noodle). Living outside the house are the puppets Luigi (owner of a fruit and veggie stand), Molly Mole (a mole whose home is inside a tree), Silas the Snail (a slow snail), the Hobo Bugs (a pair of bugs named Lulu and Herbert), and the Admiral Bird (a pirate bird who is a rare species).
In the show's first season, there were several other main characters, all played by Franci Anderson: the human storyteller Franci, a group of alien marionettes called the Wonkles, and a spider marionette named Spiderbelle.
The human characters are ordered according to the first season's credits, with later cast members added to the end.
|Franci||A storyteller who keeps a terrarium that houses her strange pets: a group of little aliens called the Wonkles. Played by Franci Anderson.
Franci's actress also puppeteered and voiced all four of the Wonkles and Spiderbelle. When filming moved from Ohio to New York for the show's second season, Franci decided to stay in Ohio, so her characters were retired.
|Coco||A mime who never speaks but is very smart and has a knack for fixing things. She often appears in her own segments doing magic tricks. Played by CC Loveheart in the first two seasons and by Lindanell Rivera in season three.|
|Jake||A musician, singer, and songwriter who has a collection of small boxes that contain different sounds. His room is full of different musical instruments that he displays on a coatrack. He has a calm and quick-witted personality. Played by George James.|
|Sal and Smitty||An elderly couple who run their own newspaper called The Daily Noodle. Smitty's dream is to capture a photo of the elusive Admiral Bird for the newspaper, but he never succeeds. Played by Betty Rosek and Dale Engel.|
|Kim||An artist who paints pictures of things around Pinwheel House. In the theme song and many episodes, she wears a painter's smock and carries a painting palette. She is Aurelia's niece. Played by Arline Miyazaki.|
|Aurelia||An old fortune teller who is the owner and mother figure of Pinwheel House. She is Kim's aunt. She has a touch-tone crystal ball that works like a telephone. Played by Brad Williams.|
|Ebenezer||A magician and inventor who lives in the basement storage room. He often tricks the other residents and pretends to hate their company, but he really likes them. His name is spelled as "Ebenezer" in the credits and as "Ebeneezer" on some promo materials. Played by Brad Williams.|
|Luigi O'Brien||A happy-go-lucky salesman who talks with an Italian accent. He has a mobile cart of fruits and vegetables, which are able to talk and move. Played by Brad Williams.|
|Plus and Minus||Two playful twin boys who live in the attic room. Minus is very upbeat and enthusiastic, while Plus is more thoughtful and easily discouraged. Plus was played by Brad Williams, and Minus was played by Jim Jinkins.|
|Molly Mole||A mole who lives in a tree in the backyard. She often introduces cartoon shorts in the form of telling stories. Played by Olga Felgemacher.|
|Admiral Bird||A clever pirate bird who is known for being elusive and hard to catch. Whenever he makes a sound, it is warped with a strange echoing effect. Played by Craig Marin.|
|Silas the Snail||An elderly snail who believes in slowing down and enjoying life. He is constantly on his way to an annual snail convention, but he is so slow that he never leaves the garden. Played by Craig Marin.|
|Hobo Bugs||Two bug siblings named Lulu and Herbert. They like to play on the hedges in the backyard, and they often visit Luigi's produce stand to ask for special items. Lulu was played by Olga Felgemacher, and Herbert was played by Craig Marin.|
|Wonkles||A group of alien marionettes who live in Franci's terrarium. Three of them (named Tika, Gorkle, and Woofle) are birdlike, and the fourth (Sorbin) is a abstract green creature. Played by Franci Anderson.|
|Spiderbelle||A purple spider marionette who wears a bonnet. Played by Franci Anderson.|
List of shorts
Pinwheel featured a wide variety of imported shorts, partially listed below.
- About Dressy Sally (O Parádivé Sally)
- The Adventures of the Mole (Krtkova Dobrodružství)
- The Adventures of Parsley
- The Adventures of Portland Bill
- Alfie Atkins
- The Amazing Adventures of Morph
- Bunny in the Suitcase (A Kockásfülű nyúl)
- Captain Pugwash
- Chapi Chapo
- Charlie's Climbing Tree (Kalles klätterträd)
- Coe Film Associates animated shorts
- Crystal Tipps and Alistair
- Curious George
- The Family-Ness
- Flower Stories
- The Flumps
- Hattytown Tales
- Henry's Cat
- Jim & Jam (Bolek and Lolek)
- King Rollo
- La Linea
- The Magic Roundabout (redubbed with American actors and renamed The Magic Carousel)
- Miaunel and Balanel
- Mouse On Mars (Maus Auf Dem Mars)
- Mr. Hiccup
- Noah and Nelly in... SkylArk
- Paddington Bear
- The Perishers
- Picture Pages
- The Pilis
- Professor Balthazar
- Peelie and Poolie
- Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings
- Tip and Tap
- Topsy and Tim
- The Wombles
|Nick Jr. originals|
|1980s premieres||Pinwheel (reruns) • Eureeka's Castle|
|1990s premieres||Allegra's Window • Gullah Gullah Island • Blue's Clues • Binyah Binyah! • Little Bill|
|2000s premieres||Oobi (shorts) • Dora the Explorer • Oswald • Whoopi's Littleburg (specials) • Blue's Room • LazyTown • The Backyardigans • Go, Diego, Go! • Jack's Big Music Show • Wonder Pets! • The Upside Down Show • Ni Hao, Kai-Lan • The Fresh Beat Band|
|2010s premieres||Team Umizoomi • Bubble Guppies • Wallykazam! • Dora and Friends: Into the City! • Blaze and the Monster Machines • Fresh Beat Band of Spies • Shimmer and Shine • Nella the Princess Knight • Sunny Day • Zoofari • Butterbean's Café • Blue's Clues & You!|
|2020s premieres||Santiago of the Seas • Baby Shark's Big Show! • Noggin Knows • The Tiny Chef Show|
|See also||List of Nick Jr. original programming|