March 09, 2024



(Treehouse TV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., October 11, 2004-July 12, 2013)
Nelvana Limited, Nickelodeon Studios Florida (pilot), Nick Digital (pilot), Nickelodeon Animation Studio (as Nick Jr. Productions)



Lizzie Waterworth (U.K.) – Uniqua, Austin
Zach Tyler Eisen (season 1), Jake Goldberg (season 2-4) & Janet James (U.K.) – Pablo
Reginald Davis Jr. (season 1-2), Jordan Coleman (season 2-3) & Chris Grant Jr. (season 4) – Tyrone
Maria Darling (season 1-2, U.K.) & Emma Tate (season 3-4, U.K.) – Tyrone, Tasha
Naelee Rae (season 1-2) & Gianna Bruzzese (season 3-4) – Tasah
Jonah Bobo – Austin
Jamia Simone Nash (season 1-3) & Avion Baker (season 4) – Uniqua
Sean Curley – Pablo
Corwin C. Tuggles (season 1), Leon Thomas III (season 2-3), Damani Roberts (season 3) & Tyrel Jackson Williams (season 3-4) – Tyrone
Kristin Klabunde (season 1-3) & Gabriella Malek (season 3-4) – Tasha
Thomas Sharkey (season 1-3) & Nicholas Barasch (season 4) – Austin


            The Backyardigans was a CGI-animated musical series that followed the adventures of five anthropomorphic animal children as they hung out in their shared backyard and used their imagination to go on wild adventures. These children were Uniqua (LeShawn Jefferies & Lizzie Waterworth), a pink-spotted unique creature that was curious, self-confident and adventurous, and the group’s leader by default; Pablo (Zach Tyler Eisen, Jake Goldberg & Janet James), a high-strung blue penguin that tended to overreact and experience panic attacks when encountering difficulty; Tyrone (Reginald Davis Jr., Jordan Coleman, Chris Grant Jr., Maria Darling & Emma Tate), a laid-back and cool-headed red-haired orange moose that always had a sarcastic comment at the ready; Tasha (Naelee Rae, Gianna Bruzzese, Darling & Tate), a strong-willed yellow hippopotamus who was rational, skeptical, and determined to get her own way; and Austin (Jonah Bobo & Waterworth), an imaginative fun-loving purple kangaroo that was shy at first since having just moved in, but grew to become more outgoing. Episodes would typically follow a formula, with the characters introducing themselves and the scenario they’re about to experience before the backyard transformed into that setting. The imaginary locations would fade back into the yard once they were done playing and returned to their respective homes. Each episode was set to a different genre of music (which the background music would emulate) and featured four songs. The music was composed by Evan Lurie and Douglas Wieselman.

Austin. Pablo, Tasha, Tyrone and Uniqua in the backyard.

            The Backyardigans previewed on Canadian network Treehouse TV on September 11, 2004 before debuting on the Nick Jr. programming block on Nickelodeon on October 12, 2004. The series was created by Nick Jr.’s vice president Janice Burgess, after she was invited to develop an idea by president Brown Johnson. A pilot called “Me and My Friends” was produced at Nickelodeon Studios Florida, featuring actors in full-body puppet costumes. The network passed, but Johnson encouraged Burgess to retool the idea, felling it would work better in animation. The resulting second pilot was approved for a full series order. The inspiration for the series came from action films, Burgess thinking “it would be fun to take kids on that big adventure”. She was also inspired by her childhood backyard, where she and her friends would play games and use their imaginations. Uniqua was based on how Burgess viewed herself as a kid and was the only character to appear in every episode. Dan Yaccarino designed the characters, with additional designing done by Michael Lennicx from Nick Digital. Nelvana handled the series’ animation and distribution. As they used actual children for the voices, many of them often ended up being recast as the show went on. When it aired in the U.K., the episodes were dubbed over by British actors.

Using their imaginations to go surfing.

            The series proved a hit with critics children and parents; racking up eight Daytime Emmy Award nominations, winning two, as well as Annie Award and Gemini Award nominations, winning one of the latter. In 2009, Johnson stated that they planned to keep the show running as long as possible, feeling that it was an “evergreen” property that could transcend multiple generations. Ultimately, forever ended up only being four seasons and 80 episodes. While a 5th was planned, Burgess decided she was ready to move on to other projects and joined much of her team in transitioning over to Nickelodeon’s revival of Winx Club. The entire series was released by Paramount Home Media Distribution across 21 DVDs in North America, with co-producer Nelvana and later Fremantle Home Media handling worldwide releases. Two seasons were made available to stream on Paramount+.

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