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Series / Kidsongs

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Kidsongs is an American children's media franchise which includes Kidsongs Music Video Stories on DVD and video, The Kidsongs TV Show, CDs of favorite children’s songs, song books, sheet music, toys and an ecommerce website. Kidsongs was created by producer/writer Carol Rosenstein and director Bruce Gowers of Together Again Productions (TAP), both of whom are music video and television production veterans. The duo had produced and directed over 100 music videos for Warner (Bros.) Records (WBR) and took their idea of music videos for children to the record label. WBR funded the first video, “A Day at Old MacDonald’s Farm”. Shortly thereafter, a three way partnership between TAP, WBR and View-Master Video was formed with TAP being responsible for production and WBR and View-Master responsible for distribution to video and music stores, and toy stores respectively.

The home video series was launched with four Kidsongs Music Video Stories episodes at New York's Toy Fair in January 1, 1985. "A Day at Old MacDonald’s Farm” was one of those first four. It's sold over four million copies and won the Vira Award. Each half-hour Music Video Stories episode features ten to fifteen songs, in a music video style production starring talented kids. They sing and dance their way through well known children's songs, nursery rhymes, and covers of pop hits from the 50's, the 60's and the 70's—all tied together by a simple story and theme.

The TAP/WBR/View-Master Video (Viewmaster was acquired by Tyco in 1992-1994) partnership produced 16 Kidsongs episodes of the Music Video Stories. In 1994, WBR and TAP bought out Tyco's distribution rights and produced three more View-Master videos: "Country Sing-Along", "Billy Biggle's Favorite Songs", and "Boppin' with the Biggles" and two Kid Vision videos in 1995: "Let's Put on a Show" and "Baby Animal Songs", as part of a new venture with another division of Warner Bros.—Warner Vision. In 1997, TAP acquired all rights from WBR/Warner Vision and become the sole owner of all Kidsongs properties.

Later in 1997, TAP entered into a distribution/production agreement with Sony Wonder which resulted in the production of four more titles: "I Can Dance!", "I Can Do It!", "Adventures in Biggleland: Billy's Birthday" and "Adventures in Biggleland: Meet the Biggles". That agreement ended in 1998 and in 2002 distribution rights were licensed by Image Entertainment who continues to distribute the videos.

The Kidsongs TV show also has a convoluted production/broadcast history of its own. During the first season in commercial syndication, it was produced by TAP and WBR and distributed by Orbis Communications from 1987-1988. After the season ended, the show was untouched until being resurrected for public television from 1994 to 1998. For that series run, the show was produced during the first two seasons by TAP and WBR alongside Chicago public television station WTTW and was distributed by the American Program Service. For the final season, Sony Wonder took over WBR's co-production duties.

From 1985 to 1998, 25 Kidsongs home video episodes encompassing 300 children's songs, nursery rhymes, and cover versions of adults' pop songs were produced featuring a variety of subjects that are of interest to kids: animals, birthdays, the zoo, the amusement park, camp adventure, fantasy, vehicles and general silliness. 14 have been certified platinum by the RIAA, with 5 of them having sold more than 2 million copies. As of now, over 19.5 million copies of the videos have been sold.

The following is a list of Kidsongs music video titles originally released on VHS and Betamax, and now currently available on DVD and Blu-Raynote :

  • A Day at Old MacDonald's Farm (A Day at Series Video) (1985)
  • I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (1986)
  • Good Night, Sleep Tight (1986)
  • Cars, Boats, Trains and Planes (1986)
  • Sing Out, America! (1986) (Retitled "Home on the Range" in 1990 and later "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in 2002)
  • A Day with the Animals (A Day at Series Video) (1986)
  • What I Want to Be! (1986)
  • The Wonderful World of Sports (1987) (Retitled "Let's Play Ball" in 1990)
  • A Day at the Circus (A Day at Series Video) (1987)
  • A Day at Camp (A Day at Series Video) (1989)
  • Ride the Roller Coaster (1990)
  • Very Silly Songs (1990)
  • A Day of Fun (A Day at Series Video) (1991) (VHS Release Only)
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas (1992)
  • Play Along Songs (1993)
  • If We Could Talk to the Animals (1993)
  • Country Sing-Along (I Can Series Video) (1994) (Retitled "I Can Go to the Country!" in 1997)
  • Billy Biggle's Favorite Songs (1994) (Retitled "My Favorite Songs" in 2003)
  • Boppin' with the Biggles (I Can Series Video) (1994) (Retitled "I Can Bop with the Biggles!" in 1997)
  • Let's Put on a Show (I Can Series Video) (1995) (Retitled "I Can Put on a Show!" in 1997)
  • Baby Animal Songs (I Can Series Video) (1995) (Retitled "I Can Sing Baby Animal Songs!" in 1997)
  • I Can Dance! (I Can Series Video) (1997)
  • I Can Do It! (I Can Series Video) (1997)
  • Adventures in Biggleland: Billy's Birthday (1998)
  • Adventures in Biggleland: Meet the Biggles (1998)

This franchise provides examples of:

The Music Video Series

  • Album Title Drop: While it's a music example, it's also a non-album example. Good Night, Sleep Tight features the song "Tomorrow is a Dream Away" (a Kidsongs original), which features the lyric, "Good night, sleep tight / It's the end of a busy day".
  • An Aesop: Shows up every once in a while, notably in "A Day With The Animals" and "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing".
  • As Himself: It's safe to say that all the kids played themselves, but the most notable one is Chris Finch.
    • Downplayed in "Good Night, Sleep Tight" and "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" where some of the kids are given character names.
    • "A Day at Old McDonald's Farm" may have at least one—the girl referred to as Mary may not in fact be named Mary.
  • Bowdlerise: Some of the more adult-oriented pop songs covered by the kids had to be slightly rewritten to be more family friendly.
    • "Achy Breaky Heart": "You can burn my clothes when I'm gone" gets changed to "You can just forget me when I’m gone"; "He might blow up and kill this man" gets changed to "I might break down and cry today"; "You can tell your dog to bite my leg" gets changed to "You can tell your dog I'm gone for good"; "Or tell your brother Cliff whose fist can can tell my lip" gets changed to "Or you can tell your brother Cliff I've given him the slip".
    • "At The Hop": "You can slop and you can stroll it" gets changed to "Do the stomp and even stroll it"; "Where the jockey is the smoothest" gets changed to "Where the jumpin' is the smoothest".
    • Downplayed with "C'Mon And Swim": "Bobby's gonna show you how to do the swim" gets changed to "We gonna show you how to do the swim"; "Pretend you're in the water and you go like this" gets changed to "When you’re in the water, you go like this"; "Just like the dog but not so low" gets changed to "Kinda like the dog, but not so low"; "C'mon baby now, and swim like a fish" gets changed to "When you’re in the water, you swim like a fish"; "A do the swim baby, now work it on out" gets changed to "Do the swim now, just work it on out". In addition, the first chorus and second verse are switched around, and the last few verses are removed.
    • "Driving My Life Away" removes the verses about the "truck stop cutie comin' on to me" and a waitress serving him coffee. Thus, it just repeats the first verse.
    • Not a pop song, but in "Cars, Boats, Trains and Planes" the lyrics to the "U.S. Air Force" song were heavily edited. For example, the line "Off with one helluva roar" became "Off with one mighty roar."
    • "Waltzing Matilda" avoids singing the final verse with the swagman's suicide.
    • "Why Don't You Write Me" eliminates the final verse, whose lyrics mention drinking a bottle of iodine and hanging oneself from loneliness.
    • The version of Phil Harris' "The Thing" in the video Very Silly Songs changes the lyrics to two verses in order to be more family-friendly. The verse about the singer encountering a beggar is changed so that it instead describes the singer trying to show the box's contents to a policeman, while the verse about the singer going to Heaven and being forced to take the box with him to Hell by St. Peter is altered so that it instead describes the singer unsuccessfully trying to give the box to everyone else in town and the townsfolk responding by demanding he leave town and take the box with him.
  • Costume Porn: Some of the costumes are quite appealing, even for a kids' series.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: Done quite often.
    • One instance is "The Yellow Rose of Texas" from "I Can Dance!"; the "rose" mentioned is the singer's love interest. The show changes its lyrics to make it a dance.
    • "Turkey in the Straw" from "Home on the Range" was vastly changed to make it more of a square dance.
    • "In the Good Old Summertime" from "I Can Do It!" had its nature changed from a love song to a song literally about having fun in the summer, with two extra verses added.
  • Creator Cameo: Music producer Michael Lloyd appears in the "I Got Wheels" segment of "Cars, Boats, Trains and Planes", riding a unicycle.
  • Edutainment Show
  • Food Porn: Invoked by the "Fast Food" song from "Ride The Roller Coaster".
    • "Shortenin' Bread" from "A Day at Old MacDonald's Farm" has this with Mrs. MacDonald and the kids making a huge country breakfast.
    • "The Candy Man" from "What I Want to Be", which was shot at the See's Candies factory in San Francisco.
  • Funny Background Event: In Boppin' with the Biggles, while Billy and Ruby are dancing to the Paw Paw Patch, a basket of flowers falls behind them. Billy notices this and says, "Oh, my!"
  • Girls vs. Boys Plot: The song sequence for "Anything You can Do I can Do Better" takes place at the amusement park in "Ride The Roller Coaster"; the girls and the boys compete in a series of arcade games, basically alternating victories.
  • Group Picture Ending: Inverted in "A Day with the Animals" where a group photo is taken just before the first song.
  • I'm Going to Disney World!: A few of the videos were taped at Universal Studios Hollywood. The credits of said videos feature the cast dancing around the fountain and taking the tram tour. (Rather odd, since this was produced by Warners.)
  • Scenery Porn: Manages to slip in occasionally, especially in the older videos.
    • "Cars, Boats, Trains, and Planes": The carousel is breathtaking to look at, as are the many hot air balloons, most likely due to the beautiful lighting and editing effects.
    • "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" boasts marvelous, if not entirely realistic, Christmas scenery, but one standout has to be the fantasy shots in "If I Had A Pony For Christmas".
  • Singing Voice Dissonance: At least in early videos. At times it sounds as though many of the adult actors are lip-syncing to the same few singers. Sometimes, the kids' singing appears to be provided by an adult female.
  • Something We Forgot: "Cars, Boats, Trains and Planes" has Uncle George and the kids taking the bus back home... only for "Mom" to tell George that he drove them to the park, meaning he has to go back to get his car.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: As mentioned under the Bowdlerise entry, the version of the novelty song "The Thing" used in Very Silly Songs changes the penultimate verse to describe the main character being chased out of town because of his inability to give the box to anyone, when the original version of the song told of the narrator dying after his years of being stuck with the box and attempting to enter Heaven, only for St. Peter to make him go to Hell for having the box with him.
  • Time for Plan B: In "A Day at Camp", "On Top of Spaghetti" is set up by some campers and a counselor intending and trying their best to catch fish for the camp's lunch and the counselors getting together and deciding to serve spaghetti when that plan flops.

The TV Series

  • Alliterative Name: Billy Biggle.
  • An Aesop: Wheareas the original 1987 syndicated series strongly focused on an MTV-esque song countdown for every program, the 1994 PBS reboot incorporated a lesson into some episodes, notably in its first season.
  • Chroma Key: Used for the Biggles.
  • Continuity Nod: If someone on the show's staff features in a music video that's about to be played, they'll happily say so.
  • Edutainment Show: Particularly the PBS version, which fills most would-be commercial time with edutainment material. Also in-universe for 1994 reboot, as every now and then Mrs. Wilson and Mr. Forbes/Mr. Frost will ask the kids to incorporate informational segments related to that day's episode's theme.
  • Expository Theme Tune
  • Gossipy Hens: Two of the female crewmembers Hilary and Nicole in the 1987 series often like to gossip about Todd (the director).
  • Non-Human Sidekick: The Biggles, furry gremlin-like creatures that could turn invisible and change size.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Ruby and Billy Biggle.
  • Series Continuity Error: In the 3-part "Mrs. Dipplewhite" episode of the 1987 series, Mrs. Dipplewhite's first name is Mildred in part 1, but for some reason, it ends up being "Doris" in part 3.
  • Show Within a Show: In both formats, the show involves the kids working on a television show which recycles footage from the music videos. However, the types of studios they're in vary depending on the programs. In the 1987 syndicated series, the kids find an abandoned studio that for some reason was left unlocked, whereas in the 1994 PBS reboot, they instead go to a regular working television station and ask the executives there, Mrs. Wilson (general manager) and Mr. Forbes (director of programming), for permission to use their studio facilities.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: In the final season of the 1994 PBS reboot, Mr. Forbes is replaced by a new programming director named Mr. Frost.
  • You Look Familiar: An in-universe example (see Trivia page for more info). The 4th season of the Kidsongs TV Show has the kids recognize the waltz dancing instructor in their "Don't You Just Love to Waltz?" video was their current programming director Mr. Frost. He confirms that was indeed him.