Western Animation: Little Einsteins
is a preschool edutainment show based on the Baby Einstein brand. It was created by Baby Einstein and Curious Pictures. It debuted on the Playhouse Disney block of Disney Channel
in August of 2005 and quickly became one of the most popular shows on the block. The most recently produced episode was released in 2009. Little Einsteins focuses on the adventures of four gifted, young children, Leo, June, Quincy and Annie as they travel around the world in their friend, Rocket and go on adventures called missions.
Each episode of the show follows roughly the same pattern
. The kids would start the episode by introducing the audience to a piece of art and a piece of music which would involve somehow in the plot. The Einsteins would then go on a mission announced by Leo, to solve a problem, help someone, or find something.
The Einsteins would use Rocket to travel to different places, looking for clues and overcoming obstacles. They would then work together to achieve their goal, when Leo would announce mission completion. The show would then go to the curtain call, where the Einsteins would introduce themselves as well as giving the audience one more look at the art and music of the episode.
The main characters in Little Einsteins are:Leo
: A six-year old boy and the leader of the team. Leo is a gifted conductor and always carries a baton with a flashing ball on the end. He has used this baton to conduct everything from his friend Quincy, to cows, to a sunrise. Leo is the one who announces that the team has a mission and is the main pilot for Rocket.June
: A six-year Chinese-American (or Chinese-British, depending on where you are) girl who was born to dance. June is a trained ballet dancer and easily the most athletic member of the team. She's so athletic in fact that she can use her super ballet leap to launch herself over ten feet in the air, landing without harm. June is the owner of a telescope, which has lead to a few missions over the years.Quincy
: A five-year old African-American (or, African-British) boy, who loves to play musical instruments. Quincy is perhaps the most gifted of the four Einsteins. He can play any musical instrument he comes across like a pro, whether he's ever played it before, or not. Quincy once had a rather strong fear of the dark, but overcame it with help from his friends.Annie
: At four years old, Leo's little sister is the youngest of the Einsteins, but don't underestimate her. This cheerful little girl is a wonderful singer, even coming up with song lyrics off the top of her head. Annie's pride and joy is a portable microphone, which she always carries with her. And she's the only person, besides Leo, to have ever piloted Rocket.Rocket
: Rocket is a sentient rocket ship, who runs on musical notes. He was once a toy rocket on baby Leo's crib mobile. But as Leo got bigger, so did Rocket. Now he is capable of taking the Little Einsteins anywhere in the world and even into space.
- Rocket has two main special abilities.
- The first ability is his various tools, like the Look-And-Listen scope, which can help the Einsteins find important places and clues and the Grab-Nabber, a claw-like device, which lets Rocket grab things and bring them into the cockpit.
- His second ability is to shape-shift into different vehicles. During various missions Rocket has become everything from a train, to a boat, to a submarine, to a drill tank. To put it simply, wherever the Little Einsteins need to go, Rocket can change into a vehicle to take them there.
: Little Einsteins is unusual among preschool shows, in that it has a recurring bad guy. This bad guy takes the form of Big Jet, a jet plane who is noisy, selfish and mean. Big Jet first appeared in the episode Hungarian Hiccups, where his engine was so loud, it scared Rocket. Despite this, Rocket was able to beat Big Jet in an air race. Big Jet has been trying to get even ever since, taking things that don't belong to him and pestering Rocket and the Einsteins whenever he gets the chance. Rocket and the Little Einsteins always manage to send him packing though, at least until next time.
Not to be confused with Young Einstein
or Albert Einstein himself
, though the production company does pay a royalty fee for the use of the Einstein name.
Little Einsteins provides examples of:
- Adam and Eve Plot: The ending to "Knock on Wood" seems to hint at this, as Tapper and his new (female) friend are likely the only ivory billed woodpeckers left in existence.
- A Day in the Limelight: They've all had episodes that focus on them every now and then, but special mention needs to go to "Quincy and the Magic Instruments" and "Annie's Solo Mission" which almost exclusively featured the title characters in each one. The former one was even missing Rocket for most of it, whereas the latter had him starring alongside Annie.
- A Rocket Named Rocket
- Affectionate Parody: The show borrows a few story lines and characters from fairy tales or other well-established children's stories, such as The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood.
- All Animals Are Domesticated: Though there are exceptions, the team frequently encounters wild animals that turn out to be friendly. This includes a polar bear in the episode "Flight of the Instrument Fairies", and a Tyrannosaurus Rex (crossed with a double bass) in a different episode.
- Animation Bump: The two specials Our
Big Huge Adventure and Rocket's Firebird Rescue. There's also a subtle one between Season 1 and Season 2, and in the episode "The Christmas Wish".
- Big Bad: Big Jet.
- Bigger on the Inside: Rocket. This is especially evident in the Origins Episode, where a pullback of Rocket's interior as the kids first walk inside shows him to nearly reach the size of a schoolbus.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Not an all-female example, but Annie, Quincy and June, and Leo, in that order.
- Book Ends: The episodes start with a curtain opening and ends with a curtain call.
- Call Back: Big Jet's season-changing machine, first used in "O Yes O Yes It's Springtime," makes a reappearance in "The Great Sky Race Rematch" to help him cheat during part of the titular race. Two prior guest characters also make cameos as song contest participants in "Annie, Get Your Microphone."
- Camera Abuse: Of a sort, anyway. Various animals have sniffed or breathed on the camera at times, and Big Jet will also occasionally shake it by buzzing by too close. Rocket even cleaned it, squeegee and all, in "The Birthday Machine."
- Captain Crash: Leo, arguably. Rocket seems to get lodged in a looooot of places (including "space goop", a mountain and an erupting volcano) when he's directly controlling him. Then again, Rocket did it to himself once, in "Rocket Safari"...
- Catch Phrase: Quincy is very fond of magnanimously declaring, "I CAN-NOT... BELIEVE IT!" when something unexpected happens. He says this often enough that it has potential to become a Most Annoying Sound if you watch several episodes in a row. On rare occasions he'll change the end of it, in a "I CANNOT BELIEVE that you did that!" sort of fashion.
- Leo's various, oft-repeated phrases using the word "mission" are Catch Phrases in their own right.
- Annie's "Look, look, look!" counts, similar to Quincy's.
- Child Prodigy: Though any of them could apply (the show is called Little Einsteins after all), if it's an instrument that can be played, expect Quincy to be able to do so. Besides "normal" instruments such as the piano, french horn, and violin, he's also been seen playing a medieval bugle, a nautical whistle, and even two birthday noisemakers. At once.
- Classical Music: The music of the day, almost always.
- Conspicuous CG: Pretty much anything but the Little Einsteins themselves, up to and including Rocket. Most often seen with that episode's token animal or instrument friend(s).
- Defeat Means Friendship: The episode Show and Tell has Big Jet be as jerky as normal, where he steals the kids' favorite things, which they had been bringing to show and tell at school. This lasts until the very end, after they've all gotten them back, when he shows up and apologizes for his actions for the first time ever. This leads to a rather cute scene with the kids and Rocket. Though it was left somewhat open-ended, as that was that character's last appearance before the show went on hiatus, it's implied to be this trope.
- Besides this the theme pops up in other episodes, such as "The Song of the Unicorn" and "The Good Knight and the Bad Knight".
- Disembodied Eyebrows: While the girls have Oddly Visible Eyebrows and Quincy's are very definitely on his head, this trope applies to Leo, whose eyebrows (one at least) are visible even when viewed mostly from the back. The one farthest from the camera is floating partially off his head, and in the baby pictures spotted in "How We Became the Little Einsteins: The True Story" they're floating several inches above his head.
- A Dog Named Dog: A rocket named Rocket.
- Every Episode Ending: The aforementioned "Curtain Call" has gone through some changes, but it always consists of the characters celebrating themselves and the audience, and featuring the art & music of the day one more time.
- Evil Is Petty: Big Jet's entire antagonism of Rocket and the team is because he was narrowly defeated in a race during his premiere episode.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Many of the episode titles, unsurprisingly. Also Quincy's "silly song" from the episode "The Northern Night Light", which is indeed very silly.
- And why do the main 4 pat their lap to start up Rocket? Because, they don't need no stinkin' fuel!
- Fake Interactivity: Sadly a staple of every episode. And speaking of "every episode"...
- Five-Man Band
- Floating in a Bubble: Happens to the group sans Annie and Rocket in "Annie's Solo Mission."
- Forgot About His Powers: Many episodes would have been made a lot shorter if they had remembered that Rocket is a rocket ship and simply flown past their obstacles.
- Hammerspace: Rocket employs this frequently, mostly for his tools and transformations; Big Jet is also an occasional user, such as in the episode where he dropped a cage much larger than himself on top of Rocket. The other kids will also use it from time to time. But Quincy makes "reach just off-camera/behind the back and pull out large item" an art form.
- Hiccup Hijinks: The episode Hungarian Hiccups. Unusual in that it was Rocket who had the hiccups.
- Idiot Ball: The show is about kids whose early exposure to classical music and art have turned them into child prodigies, but thanks to Fake Interactivity, they're still obligated to show less observational prowess and problem solving ability than your four-year-old.
- Incredible Shrinking Man: "The Incredible Shrinking Machine" in the first season.
- Intelligible Unintelligible: Rocket's the one seen most often, obviously, but in short the only characters that speak understandable English are the Little Einsteins themselves. Everyone else either communicates with music or, in Big Jet's case, engine noises. This is usually translated by one or more of the kids.
- Invisible Parents: Exaggerated in that none of the kid's parents are ever seen or even mentioned, even in the Christmas special.
- It's Quiet... Too Quiet: Invoked by June and Quincy in "Annie, Get Your Microphone!".
- The Kiddie Ride: Rocket has been immortalized as a ride. The other characters? Only as decals on the ride.
- Last of His Kind: Defied in "Knock on Wood"; Tapper, an ivory billed woodpecker is assumed to be this, but the group is determined to find him a friend of his own species. They succeed.
- Leitmotif: June has one that's most often heard whenever she says "Dancey dancey dance" and spins, although it's also used when she opens an episode after the curtain rises. Heard here at about 1:45.
- Rocket also has one, which is linked with the blast-off music and used most there. The first part of it will also play during some actions of Rocket's.
- Medium Awareness: A given, with the nature of the show. But besides the frequent acknowledgment of the viewer, the characters will also mention and direct the soundtrack (such as in one episode, Leo comments on a dramatic change in music with "Whoa, that music makes me feel worried"). Rocket even takes his power from the beat of the BGM.
- Medium Blending: Between 2D/Flash animation and CG. There's also many Real Life shots; see Scenery Porn on the YMMV page.
- Mickey Mousing: Perhaps obviously, music is often used for sound effects, especially when animals or puzzles are concerned.
- Music for Courage: Similar to the Theme Music Power-Up note below, the episode's theme music will also kick in when things look bad.
- Musical Theme Naming: Leo is named after conductor Leopold Stokowski. June is named after choreographer June Taylor. Quincy is named after musician Quincy Jones. Annie is named after jazz singer Anni Rossi.
- Never Say "Die": "Knock on Wood"; June makes a point about how Tapper is "not just any woodpecker" because he's an ivory billed woodpecker. The group repeatedly notes how important it is for him to find a friend of his own species and "not be all alone"...and never once is the word "extinct" mentioned in the episode, leaving any viewers who aren't well versed in obscure ornithology utterly perplexed over what could possibly be so special about this one woodpecker finding a friend. For bonus points, Tapper does find a friend...who happens to be a female ivory billed woodpecker. Let the implications fall where they may.
- Once an Episode: The introduction and re-introduction of the Music/Art of the Day, the latter in the form of the curtain call mentioned above. There's also the blast off sequence with Rocket (most oddly used at the end of the episode "Quincy and the Magic Instruments", which Rocket had been absent/stuck for the most of and still included a blast off), some sort of stinger after the curtain falls and before the credits, and in the second season we have powering Rocket up into Super Fast. Annie's singing (see With Lyrics below) is almost Once an Episode, but there have been a rare few where this is missing for one reason or another.
- Our Dragons Are Different: There's at least two. One in the episode "Go Team!!" that less resembles a dragon than it does an iguana with wings, and one in the firebird special that could change its size with a crescendo.
- Primal Fear: Quincy's afraid of the dark.
- Public Domain Soundtrack
- Ripped from the Headlines: Possibly. In 2005 an episode called "Knock on Wood" was released, featuring a male ivory-billed woodpecker in Arkansas. In 2004 there were reports (which were published in 2005) of a male woodpecker sighted in Arkansas. It's either this trope or a giant coincidence.
- Scenery Porn: There's a surprising number of real world shots in an animated show like this, and they're almost all ridiculously beautiful. The show's renditions of these real locations when it switches to a more animated look tend to be very true to form, and just as pretty.
- Scooby-Dooby Doors: A variation, one in pathways in a garden in the firebird special.
- Selfless Wish: In the Christmas Episode, Annie uses her wish box to wish that she could spend Christmas with her friends. This has to be about the most selfless wish ever since she was wishing for something she already had — she was already there with all of her friends.
- Sequel Episode: "The Great Sky Race Rematch" is Big Jet's rematch with Rocket for his defeat in "Hungarian Hiccups," the first time we see the Great Sky Race. Despite Big Jet's numerous attempts to cheat (starting with disabling Rocket's ability to fly and only getting worse from there), Rocket still wins.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: June, at least when compared to the other three kids. She's the most likely to use much larger words than the others do, and she employs them frequently.
- Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Leo is the leader of the group.
- Shout-Out: Leo's pet Melody looks remarkably similar to a Totoro.
- So Proud of You: The phrase shows up in at least two different picture books from the show Quincy's Dream and Annie's Solo Mission, and possibly in the episodes they're based on as well.
- Songs in the Key of Lock: Often used as part of the problem.
- Speak of the Devil: Big Jet is the one used most often, but even in episodes with other antagonists this can still come into play.
- Stock Footage: The blast-off and Super Fast sequences, with any guest characters for that episode edited in where necessary.
- Talking Is a Free Action: Happens whenever exposition gets in the way of something that needs to be finished quickly. A variation is the easing up into Rocket's Super Fast speed, as by the end of the time it takes for Rocket to speed up all the way, the given event would be over in real time. Naturally, he always makes it just in time in-episode.
- Tempting Fate: Leo is a repeat offender. If he warns the others (or the viewer) to be careful for one reason or another, you can bet something bad is about to happen. In one episode this got the entire group separated, and on several instances this has brought Big Jet into the picture.
- There Are No Adults: Combined with Invisible Parents.
- Theme Music Power-Up: An episode's given music is often used to save the day.
- Title Drop: This happens. A lot. The title itself is also something of a namesake, as the phrase "Little Einsteins" was coined by June at the end of their first mission.
- True Companions: The group is very dedicated to each other, and will go great lengths for another member. Though this is seen at several times throughout the series, it's never more evident than in the climax of Rocket's Firebird Rescue, when each of the kids give up what they gathered throughout the earlier parts of the special to help Rocket save the day.
- Viewers Are Goldfish
- Wise Beyond Their Years: June. Besides the Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness touched on above, she's often the one to answer questions, come up with obscure information, or just act the most adult in general. Her elegancy also plays into this, and all of this can make her seem much older than six.
- With Lyrics: The music of the day usually gets lyrics added to it by Annie. For example, in the episode "Fire Truck Rocket", half of the lyrics added to the 1812 Overture are simply, "la la la la la la la la, la la!"
- Your Size May Vary: Rocket and Big Jet are the biggest victims of this trope, although it can also occur with certain guest characters. The size proportion between Jet and Rocket will also change, sometimes within the confines of the same episode.