Johnny and the Sprites (2007-2008) features the adventures of an ordinary guy (John Tartaglia of Avenue Q fame) who moved to a house in the woods to work on his music on his own. Much to his surprise, he discovered that these woods were inhabited by Sprites, friendly fairy-like creatures who possess magic, but are largely unfamiliar with the ways of the human world. Normally shy creatures, two of them, a boy named Basil and a girl named Ginger, take a shining to Johnny and they become fast friends, with Johnny teaching them many new things and sharing his music in the process.
The series began as a set of five animated shorts aired every so often Disney Channel's Playhouse Disney block. These segments proved so popular that the program was greenlit for a full series. The new series brought a greatly expanded set portraying the Sprites' home of Grotto's Grove, as well as new characters. Three new Sprites were added, Water Sprite Lily, Earth Sprite Root and a wise old Sprite named Sage, puppeteered and voiced by Tartaglia. Additionally, a character named Gwen, portrayed by Natalie Venetia Belcon, was brought on as a friend for Johnny who paid semi-regular visits. The second season of the full series saw a further expansion to the set, as well as a seminal change to the program when Gwen was allowed to finally meet the Sprites for the first time and both she and Johnny gained the ability to visit Grotto's Grove. The presumed final episode of the series was aired on April 19, 2008 and the program disappeared from U.S. airwaves, though both a music album and DVD were released. Repeats of the program began airing on the 24/7 Disney Junior network in 2012.
Tartaglia has since moved on to other projects, such as the musicals of Beauty and the Beast and Shrek, and much later on, creating Splash and Bubbles. All this while remaining a longtime performer on Sesame Street and becoming the new performer of Gobo Fraggle on Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock. Co-creator Louise Gikow also has a long association with The Muppets, including writing a number of Muppet Babies (1984) and Fraggle Rock children's books and contributing to Muppet Magazine.
This series contains examples of:
- An Aesop: Each installment is intended to have an aesop of some sort, which generally summarized by Johnny narrating to the audience at the end of the show. Some are more easy to figure out than others; "The Sprites Save Grotto's Grove" seems to run almost entirely on pure comedy, but nevertheless has a stated aesop about trying lots of different ideas and not giving up.
- All Just a Dream: In "Turbo Car Johnny," Johnny has a dream in which he spends so much time playing video games that by the time he stops, he's an old man with a ridiculously large beard.
- Amusing Injuries: In the "Everything Must Go" song in "The Sprites Save Grotto's Grove," Johnny takes a number of these as Yolanda Ivanna pushes him around, singing about how everything must go so that she can build her luxury hotel.
- Are We There Yet?: In "Waiting for the Stars," one of the original shorts, Johnny sings A trip can seem a whole lot longer / If the moment you begin it / You're asking "are we there yet?" every other minute. Ginger then comments "I hate that!"
- Argument of Contradictions
- "Who's On First?", one of the original shorts, has Basil and Ginger arguing in this manner about whether Johnny is going to read a book with Basil or play basketball with Ginger. Johnny interrupts it to begin the song "One Good Turn."
- The "You Never Know What You Can Do Until You Try Out Something New" song in "The Sprites' Snow Day" features several of these as Basil tells the other Sprites that their ideas won't work and they insist that they will.Lily: Pretty soon, she'll be flying home in her hot chocolate air balloon.
Basil: That won't work.
Lily: Yes, it will.
Basil: No, it won't.
Lily: Yes, it will.
Basil: I'm afraid that won't work out at all.
Lily: And why not?
Basil: Because she's too big and that balloon's too small.
Lily: Oh, good point.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: In "The Twenty-Foot Root," Root ends up making himself grow to 20-feet tall after being upset about being the littlest Sprite. Johnny teaches him that "You're the right size naturally / You're who you're supposed to be..."
- Award-Bait Song: The songs were all written by composers from Broadway shows, many of them Tony award-winning, but "Brightly Shining" stands out as this. It was going to be part of the stage show Magical Holiday, but that was canceled and rescheduled as a more general non-holiday-themed stage show. Oh, and like the show's theme song, it was written by Stephen Schwartz. (Pippin, Wicked)
- Be Careful What You Wish For: The Aesop of "Baby Johnny", where he accidentally makes a wish on Sprite Wish Day that causes him to regress mentally into an infant for a day.
- Be Yourself: This was one of the key Aesops on the show, and often explored in songs such as "There's Nobody Quite Like You" and "The Right Size."
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Usually only at the very end of a story, when Johnny will talk to the viewer to reiterate the story's Aesop.
- Christmas Episode: "A Very Spritely Holiday," though Johnny mentions Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and says that he likes celebrating all holidays. He decorates a Christmas tree, however, and Gwen is mentioned as Santa's helper.
- Cranky Neighbor: Miss Moldystew, portrayed by Tartaglia in drag and seen only in the original short segments. Following the song, she would pop up above her fence to complain that Johnny and the Sprites needed to keep it down, issuing such complaints as "My hot dogs are practically jumping out of their buns!"
- Expository Theme Tune and Title Theme Tune: "I was just Johnny till I walked out that door, but I'm not just Johnny anymore! I'm Johnny... and the Sprites!"
- Height Angst: In "The Twenty-Foot Root," Root is upset by being the smallest sprite and then is magically grown to 20 feet tall, only to find that this is problematic also. Johnny eventually reassures him in song...Johnny: Just think while you're the little one / You can have more than a little fun / Small's the perfect size to do / So many great big thingsRoot: Really?Johnny: You bet.
- Homesickness Hymn: "Feeling Grove-y" from "The Sprites' Sleepover" as the Sprites lament over how they're unable to go to sleep due to being away from Grotto's Grove.
- It's the Best Whatever, Ever!: In "A Very Spritely Holiday," Basil declares that the present he and the other Sprites are making for Johnny will be the best present ever.
- Kids Prefer Boxes: "A Very Spritely Holiday" has a variation on this. When the Sprites, who aren't familiar with the Christmas gift-giving tradition, see Johnny and Gwen exchanging fancily decorated gift boxes, they decide they want to participate too. They make a very fancy box for Johnny... with nothing inside. They didn't know there was supposed to be anything inside, they thought the entire point was giving the fancy box. Of course, Johnny is happy to get their gift, since, as any show like this will tell you, the point is the act of giving and the love and appreciation that was shown.Sprites: Brightly shining, shining brightly, leaves and flowers everywhere / Sprites must give a gift that's spritely / One that shows how much we care.
- Lost Voice Plot: "Ginger Listens" has Ginger become temporarily speechless due to using up all her sprite words for the day, so she learns to listen.
- Manchild: Johnny becomes this in "Baby Johnny" through an accidental wish. His mentality regresses to that of an infant, but he still has his adult body.
- The Moving Experience: "Aloha, Johnny" in which some overheard information leads the Sprites to believe that Johnny is moving to Hawaii, when he's actually only going on vacation there to visit his older sister for a week.
- New Media Are Evil: "Turbo Car Johnny," in which the Sprites can't understand why Johnny is so obsessed with a video game and Johnny eventually decides to go out for some fresh air.
- No Sense of Personal Space: The real-estate developer Yolanda Ivanna Wanna in "The Sprites Save Grotto's Grove" is this. Throughout the story, and especially in the song "Everything Must Go," she shows no respect for Johnny's personal space, poking him, prodding him, petting him and otherwise generally being a jerk, all without realizing it and thinking she's actually there to do him a favor by tearing down his backyard to build a hotel and shopping mall complex.
- Not In My Back Yard: In "The Sprites Save Grotto's Grove," a super-annoying real-estate developer shows up with exciting plans to build a hotel. It sounds great at first, until Johnny and the Sprites realize that it would require the complete destruction of Grotto's Grove, not to mention most of Johnny's backyard.
- Personal Raincloud: In "The Sprites Save Grotto's Grove," one of the ways that the Sprites use their magic to try to get Yolanda to leave and not build a hotel in their home, Johnny's backyard, is that Ginger summons one of these to rain on her.Johnny: Uh, yeah. I should have warned you about the strange weather around here. Sudden sunshowers.
- Pie in the Face: In "Make Someone Laugh," one of the original shorts, Johnny tries pieing himself in order to get Basil, who's not feeling well, to laugh. It doesn't help.
- Retool: The second season of the full series featured something of a retool, with the following upgrades: Gwen met the Sprites and became one of their friends (it had always felt a bit odd that they had to hide from her when she was Johnny's friend anyway), the Sprites could pop from place to place in a manner similar to the apparition of Harry Potter, and Sage became more active & smart, and stopped referring to the other Sprites by incorrect names.
- Santa Claus: In "A Very Spritely Holiday," Gwen tells Johnny that she's one of Santa's helpers.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: In "The Sprites Save Grotto's Grove," Yolanda wants to build a hotel in Johnny's backyard, which also happens to be the Sprites' home. It seems she won't take no for an answer, so the Sprites decide to try to goad her into this using their magic, though it takes Root simply popping out and shouting "Boo!" to tip her over the edge.Yolanda: Flying up into trees, local rain, scary creatures...Root: Boo!Yolanda: Forget about hotel! I'm outta here!Root: Bye-bye!
- Sick Episode:
- The "Laugh, Basil, Laugh" short has Basil come down with the flu and Johnny tries to make him laugh so he can feel better.
- In "Dr. Basil", Johnny catches a cold and Basil tries to cure him with disastrously results.
- Slumber Party: The sprites have one at Johnny's house in "The Sprites' Sleepover". Unfortunately, they have trouble going to sleep when away from Grotto's Grove.
- Spelling Song: “It All Adds Up To My Sister” from “Johnny’s Sister Tina”.
- Surprise Party: The surprise party is referenced by Johnny in the song "What a Surprise!" when he sings "There are surprise endings, surprise guests, surprise parties too! Surprises when they're really great can make your dreams come true. Make your dreams come true!"
- Three Shorts: The two side-by-side segments are bridged by a music video, “Heads Up”.
- Tickle Torture: This could happen if you were caught by the feared "tickle troll." "A tickle troll, a tickle troll! He'll try to make you laugh, that's his only goal! A tickle troll, a tickle troll! Just one tickle, and you lose control!"
- Title Theme Tune: "So if you should rove to Grotto's Grove, come join in the song, you can sing it too, with you-know-who! Johnny... and the Sprites! Sing along now! Johnny... and the Sprites! That's our song now! Johnny... and the Sprites!"
- Theme Tune Roll Call: The theme song changed to this in the second season.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: In "Feeling Grove-y" from the "The Sprites Sleep Over," the Sprites sing about how the couldn't possibly get to sleep unless they're back in Grotto's Grove, culminating with "Oh, how I wish I was there now... (going up a key) right now!", leading Johnny (who already wishes the Sprites would just go to sleep) to lament, "Oh no, not a key change!"
- The Unintelligible: Root
- You Mean "Xmas": Brightly Shining, a holiday similar to Christmas that the Sprites celebrate in “A Very Spritely Holiday”.