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Series / Oobi

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"Oobi was inspired by watching puppeteers without puppets. I was struck by the amount of feeling and articulation they could get without a piece of cloth on."

Oobi is a puppet show created by Josh Selig for Noggin (a channel co-founded by MTV Networks and Sesame Workshop). The characters are all bare-hand puppets. The concept is based on a technique used by puppeteers learning the basics of lip-syncing and eye focus, where they use their hands and a pair of ping-pong balls instead of an actual puppet.

The show is about Oobi, a curious and creative hand puppet. He lives with his grandpa Grampu and his overdramatic little sister Uma. Oobi and his family have funny, simple adventures that celebrate the awkward steps of growing up. All of the characters talk in very simple sentences and refer to themselves in the third person.

The show won multiple Parents' Choice Awards. The first season was a series of two-minute shorts that ran on Noggin in 2000. It was later picked up for two more seasons, both made up of longer half-hour episodes, which finished airing in 2005. A full-fledged foreign remake called Oobi: Dasdasi premiered in 2012 and ran for 78 episodes in Asia and the Middle East.

The Trope Codifier for Bare-Handed Puppetry.

This series contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Dasdasi gets rid of all the supporting characters and only focuses on the main family (which is increased to include two parents and a baby).
  • Aerith and Bob: Most of the hand puppets have made-up names like Maestru and Mamu or other thematic names with O's or U's in them. However, every so often there's a relatively common-sounding name like Uma.
  • Ageless Birthday Episode: "Uma's Birthday!" is this, since her new age is never mentioned. TV guides, from both before and after the episode aired, say she's three.
  • Alliterative Name: Frieda the Foot.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: "Theater!" has a musical version of Little Red Riding Hood.
  • All Work vs. All Play: Maestru, Oobi and Kako's singing teacher, is all work while Oobi and Kako are all play.
  • All Just a Dream: Played with in "Uma Dreams!" where Grampu has to convince Uma that her dreams aren't real.
  • Amateur Film-Making Plot: The episode "Video!" is about the kids making a home movie, then screening it in the living room with popcorn. When Oobi and Kako do their "secret handshake" in the movie, they realize it's not a secret anymore and call it their "famous handshake."
  • Amusing Injuries: The show employs this trope quite often, with Oobi getting knocked down by Uma on more than one occasion.
  • Art Evolution: The pairs of glass eyes used for each of the three kids were updated for each season. Oobi's eyes in the shorts were dark brown at first and got lighter with each new pair.
  • Artistic License – Economics: "Shopping!" shows the kids paying for an entire cart of groceries with four quarters.
  • Audience Participation: Every episode from season two includes an interactive game segment. The other episodes have similar interactions but not as part of a special segment.
  • Ascended Extra: Inka appeared in only one episode of season two, but by the third season, she was an important side character, with a total of eight appearances.
  • Aside Glance: Oobi does this a lot, usually when Uma or Kako causes trouble.
  • Babysitting Episode: "Babysitter!" features Kevin Clash, the original performer of Elmo, as Oobi and Uma's new babysitter Randy. Uma hates Randy at first since he is nothing like Grampu, but she starts to warm up to him after he shows her how silly he is.
  • Baths Are Fun: The outcome of the "Uma Bathroom!" episode.
  • Bare-Handed Puppetry: The trope codifier.
  • Beach Episode: The "Prince Oobi!" short, which is about Uma naming Oobi the prince of her sand castle.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Oobi goes berserk when Uma breaks his toy car after promising to be careful with it.
  • Be Yourself: The ending of "Grown-Up!" has this as an Aesop.
  • Big Applesauce: The show was filmed at Kaufman Astoria Studios in New York.
  • Big Budget Beef-Up: The transition from two-minute shorts to longer episodes brought improved eye pieces for the characters, much more expansive sets (including a large number of one-off locations like the Chinese restaurant and the dance studio), and a larger ensemble cast of Muppeteers.
  • Big Eater: Kako loves cake and immediately volunteers when Uma wants to play a cake-counting game with him. Of course, he gets sick of it after eating three slices in a row.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: "Grampu Day!" has all of the kids using Grampu's signature "Lovely!" Randy also does it while performing an impression of Grampu for Uma.
  • A Boy, a Girl, and a Baby Family: The family in Dasdasi, the Iranian adaptation.
  • Butt-Monkey: Grampu. For example: the "Make Pizza!" episode, where the kids accidentally cover him in pizza dough, and "Make Art!", where Uma sticks a paper circle onto his face, and Kako covers him in paint.
  • The Cameo: Kevin Clash, aka the performer of Elmo, makes a guest appearance as Randy the babysitter. He also plays a number of background characters who don't have any lines.
  • Camping Episode: "Camp Out!"
  • Character Catchphrase:
    • Uma: "Nice!" and "Pretty."
    • Kako: "Perfecto!"
    • Grampu: "Lovely!"
    • Inka: "Beautiful!"
  • Character Focus: Uma, Kako, Grampu, and Inka all get a few days in the limelight.
  • Characterization Marches On: Uma started out as a fairly generic baby in the first season of shorts, but Stephanie D'Abruzzo played the role in such an unexpectedly goofy and melodramatic way that she became a very frequent spotlight stealer.
  • Charlie Brown Baldness: Sophie the baby, who only has a strand of blonde hair.
  • Circus Episode: "Pretend Circus!"
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Uma and, to a lesser extent, Kako.
  • Comical Overreacting: Uma, to pretty much everything.
    Stephanie D'Abruzzo, about Uma: "I wish I had the rights to the character, as I would love to do little videos with her where she gets frustrated by the world around her. I want to see her just try to open a sugar packet for two minutes, then end with her in a spotlight singing Sondheim's Losing My Mind."
  • Continuity Nod:
    • "Chez Oobi!", one of the last two episodes to air in America, features Oobi and Kako playing the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" song that was first used in one of the early shorts.
    • Mrs. Johnson's cat first appears in "Camp Out!", the first episode of season two. She shows up again in "Superheroes!", the last episode of the series.
  • Costume Evolution: The eye pieces and accessories for Oobi, Uma, and Kako were updated for every season.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Oobi and Kako try to figure out what job would be best for them in "Grown-Up!"
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Oobi, Uma, and Kako are out trick-or-treating with Grampu when they run into their friend Angus. "Mrs. Johnson house," he declares. "Good stuff!" Right...
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Maestru the maestro.
  • Disguised in Drag: Kako dresses as a female librarian and a female postal worker in "Neighborhood!"
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Maestru shows up in "Theater!" before being officially introduced in "Sing!" four episodes later.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first season of shorts used completely different sets of eyes for the kid characters and didn't feature any supporting characters. Also, none of the puppets had accessories, making it hard to tell Oobi from Uma.
  • Every Episode Ending: In seasons two and three, episodes always end with the line "Oobi, you, friends," coupled with a wave goodbye from every character on screen.
  • Expository Theme Tune: The intro introduces all of the main characters and their purposes.
  • Family Theme Naming: Oobi, Uma, and their aunt Oota all begin with the "oo" sound.
  • Fantasy Sequence: Quite a few happen throughout the series, like the kids' imaginary circus in "Pretend Circus!"
  • Funny Foreigner: Inka, who loves everything about her home country of France, and Bella, who talks in an exaggerated Italian accent.
  • Gag Haircut: "Haircut!" features Oobi dancing with a wig. He accidentally flings it across the room and onto Grampu's head.
  • Gasp!: Kako in "Build Fort!" when Oobi angrily tells him his fort is better than his.
    • He does it again in "Recital!" when Oobi accidentally plays the last note of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" wrong.
    • Oobi in "Oobi's Car!" when he finds his car broken.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Kako uses a lot of well-known Spanish phrases, the most notable one being his catchphrase "Perfecto!"
  • Growing Up Sucks: "Grown-Up!" features Uma convinced that kids are much cooler than adults.
  • Growling Gut: Happens to Uma at the beginning of "Make Pizza!"
  • Halloween Episode: "Halloween!"
  • Happily Married: Kako's parents, Mamu and Papu.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": Grampu. Everyone—even his girlfriend Inka and other adults like Maestru—calls him that, leading the viewer to believe that it must be his real name.
    • "Grampu Day!" has a scene where Oobi calls him the "best Grampu ever," opening up the possibility that Grampu is just the show's version of the word "grampa." That doesn't explain why everyone calls him by that name, though.
    • However, in "Uma Preschool" Grampu introduces himself to Uma's teacher by saying his name is Grampu and is Uma's grandfather which means that they do use the word "grandfather."
  • Iconic Outfit: Uma's barrette and Kako's hat. Oddly enough, these accessories weren't part of either character's design when the show first began.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode title ends with an exclamation mark, with the sole exception being "Uma Sick" (because, frankly, there's nothing exciting about being sick).
  • Invisible Parents: Oobi and Uma's parents are never mentioned.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Kako apparently has these.
    • "Share Pretzels!" has him wolfing down Oobi's pretzels noisily and messily.
    • At one point in the interview segments in "Asparagus!", he eats a girl's entire bowl of carrots, not only while making noisy gobbling noises, but also sending several carrots flying everywhere.
  • Joins to Fit In: Oobi in "Frieda Friend!"
  • Lampshade Hanging: Almost a running gag. There are a few episodes that specifically call attention to the characters being hands rather than people. The most obvious is "Chopsticks!", which centers around Uma trying (and failing countless times) to use chopsticks with her...face?
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: The third season has a lot more focus on the supporting cast and has much more vibrant sets than the early episodes.
  • Limited Social Circle: The shorts (season one) and most episodes in season two only feature the four main characters.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Played straight with the main characters, who only dress up when the plot demands it. Averted with Inka, who changes outfits regularly.
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: Humans exist in the Oobi universe, but only show up in interview segments and briefly in "Chopsticks!" as part of a photo. This raises the question: if the hand puppets coexist with humans, who have non-anthropomorphic hands, how in the world are the hand puppets sentient? (See Rule of Funny below.)
  • Long-Runners: Oobi has more episodes than any other Noggin show. It has 48 shorts and 52 long-form episodes: a total of 100 individual stories.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: The aforementioned "Itsy Bitsy Spider" song is played for at least a minute in the short of the same name. It's only played for a few seconds in "Chez Oobi!" as a gag.
  • Meaningful Name: Maestru, who is a maestro.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Averted to hell and back. The team at Little Airplane specifically made the show as simple and old-fashioned as possible because they were convinced that the kids' TV industry had gotten too commercial.
    • On top of that, authentic Oobi eyes and accessories were only given away at a couple of promotional events. The demand for actual merchandise was so high that an entire online catalogue of unofficial Oobi puppets was created in 2006 and operated until 2013.
  • Minimalist Cast: The first season of shorts only featured the four main characters.
  • Missing Mom: In addition to their Invisible Parents, Oobi and Uma's grandmother is never seen or mentioned. It's very clear that Grampu is single and even dating Inka, but since he has grandkids, he must have had other family members at some point.
  • Mistakes Are Not the End of the World: In one episode, Oobi has a piano recital and when he makes a mistake, he gets scared and runs off the stage. Kako reassures him that mistakes are no big deal and Oobi comes back and does it again, this time perfectly.
  • My Nayme Is: Grampu, Maestru, Mamu, Papu.
  • Mythology Gag: Photos of Oobi and Uma's designs from season one can be seen throughout the house in seasons two and three.
  • The Nicknamer: Randy the babysitter. To him, Oobi is "Oobi-Dude" and Uma is "Uma-Zooma."
  • Neat Freak: Angus.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted in "Garden Day!"; when the kids don't think that their plant is growing, Kako asks if the plant is "Dead?".
  • Non-Standard Character Design: Tyler Bunch, who plays Grampu, never shaved his arm so that Grampu would have arm hair and resemble a grandfather hand. This decision was made during production of the original shorts, which only featured the four main characters. More adult characters were added in the full-length episodes, but none of them have arm hair, making Grampu stand out.
  • No Peripheral Vision: Grampu never thinks to look up in "Make Pizza!" when the pizza dough clings to the ceiling and later falls down, covering him.
  • Object Ceiling Cling: The pizza dough in "Make Pizza!" True to the gag, it falls on Grampu when he comes by.
  • Once an Episode: Every episode of the second season featured interviews with real kids and a game segment. The games were dropped for season three.
  • Once a Season: There are two episodes focusing on Frieda the Foot, one in season two and one in season three.
  • One-Shot Character: Most season two episodes that aren't set at Oobi's house feature at least one guest character. Some of these one-offs, like Inka and Frieda, were brought back for the third season and became supporting characters.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Mamu and Papu.
  • Only Six Faces: Since all of the characters are hands, the crew had to find creative ways to make sure the characters didn't all have the same face. This led to some characters having their fingers extended, some having them curled, and others having a fist-like appearance.
    • The cast of the Iranian adaptation Dasdasi also includes fingers with faces.
  • Only Shop in Town: Bella's supermarket is the only store that the characters actually visit.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Oobi's freakout in "Oobi's Car!" is totally out of character for him, although that was the point.
  • Out of Focus: Many later episodes place Uma in the starring role rather than Oobi. The most prominent examples are "Uma Dreams!" and "Uma Preschool!" from season three. In both episodes, Oobi only shows up briefly at the beginning and at the end to give his signature "Oobi, you, friends!"
  • The Outside World: The interviews with real families/kids featured in every episode take place in the real world where humans are present. The actual stories take place in the show's fictional universe and never feature humans, with the exception of a photo in "Chopsticks!" that shows people in Shanghai.
  • Parrot Exposition: Whenever Oobi teaches Uma a new word, she tends to repeat it. A lot.
  • Potty Emergency: Oobi gets this at the end of "Uma Bathroom!".
  • Precocious Crush: Uma, on Kako. She even kisses him in "Neighborhood!" three times.
  • Product Placement: Averted; real-world products are never featured. "Halloween!" does, however, feature parody Sun-Maid raisin boxes with a hand puppet instead of the Sun-Maid Girl on the front.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
    • "Sleepover!":
    Uma: Uma... (sniff) miss... (sniff) Oobiii!!!
    • "Oobi's Car!":
    Oobi: Red... Car... OOBI'S?!?!note 
  • Rearrange the Song: The theme song was extended when the show became a full-length series.
  • Recurring Extra: There are a couple of unnamed puppets who make occasional appearances in the background.
  • Restaurant-Owning Episode: "Chez Oobi!" Is about Oobi and Kako turning the house into a fancy restaurant for Grampu and Inka, it surprisingly goes well, they even made fruit tarts for desert!
  • Retraux: One of the creators' goals was to make Oobi as simple and old-fashioned as possible while still making it charming and relatable for the kids of the mid-2000s. Below is a quote from Josh Selig on why he thinks the show was so successful:
    Josh Selig: "I think that the simplicity allows young children to enjoy the characters and storylines. It's a show entirely without clutter. Kids' television is like a big soda machine, and watching Oobi is like drinking pure rainwater."
  • Rule of Funny: The entire premise, which makes absolutely no sense when you start to think about it (do the hand puppets have feet? how do they eat? how do they use the bathroom?), could be summed up by the rule.
  • Running Gag: Uma's love of chickens (the animal, not food).
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: Employed often, usually when a character is talking to the audience and asking them to imitate something. For example, "Uma Bathroom!" has Uma asking the viewers to 'splash' along with her as she takes a mudbath.
  • Scary Shadow Fakeout: Near the end of "Camp Out!", after the kids finish the game segment, Grampu shows up and plays a prank on the kids, in which he scares them by making a giant spider shadow.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: In "Halloween!", when the gang arrives at Mrs. Johnson's house, Kako knocks on the door, but since he was still scared of Halloween at that time, he immediately tries to bail out afterwards, saying "No one home," but Uma stops him.
  • Sequel Episode: "Recital!" from season three, which continues the "Piano Lesson!" story from season two.
  • Shave And A Haircut: Used in "Playdate!", "Build Fort!", and "Kako Dinner!".
  • Singing in the Shower: "Uma Bathroom!" has Uma singing and dancing in the tub.
  • Spin-Off: While there was never a continuation of the show in the United States, an Iranian versio titled "Dasdasi" was created without the original puppeteers in 2012. It was shown throughout Asia until 2013, more than a decade after the original show began.
  • Sick Episode: "Uma Sick," which is also the only episode without an Excited Title.
  • Stealth Insult: Happens in the short "Animal Cookies!". After Oobi finds a pig cookie, Kako starts oinking and greedily eats all of the animal cookies, leaving none for Oobi. Annoyed, Oobi states "pig", both referring to what animal cookie he had, and as an insult for Kako.
  • Surprise Party: The appropriately-titled "Uma's Birthday!" features Uma's surprise party becoming too much about the pizzazz and less about her.
  • Talking in Bed: In the episode, "Uma Dreams!", Oobi is heard doing this, with his catchphrase, "Oobi, you, friends", no less.
  • Theme Naming: Almost all of the characters have O's or U's in their names: Oobi, Uma, Grampu, Mamu, Papu, Maestru, etc.
  • Third-Person Person: Every single character! For example, "Uma, school, first day" is said in place of "It's my first day of school."
  • Title, Please!: None of the season one shorts have title cards.
  • Title Theme Tune: "Oh, Oobi! Oobi, Oobi, Oobi, Oobi, Oobi! He's got a lot to see, he's got a lot to do."
  • Toilet Humor: Sophie poops her diaper in "Baby!"
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Uma and her best friend Moppie. "Uma Preschool!" even features Moppie pretending to be a princess and Uma pretending to be a king.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • Oobi apparently loves "Toasty Chunks".
    • Kako notes that he loves hot sauce in, "Grampu Day!"
    • Kako also notes that Grampu loves tuna and jam when making Grampu special food for the occasion in the same episode.
  • Tutti Frutti Hat: In the episode "Shopping!", Kako, then Grampu, are both shown wearing this.
  • Two Shorts: The long-form episodes, spanning about ten minutes each, are always paired with another when being broadcast.
  • Uncanceled: The final episodes of the original series aired in February 2005; Dasdasi premiered in December 2012 and wrapped up the following year.
  • Universal-Adaptor Cast: "Theater!" has the puppets playing characters from Little Red Riding Hood.
  • Unnamed Parent: Grampu, if you don't believe it's his real name.
  • Valentine's Day Episode: "Valentine!"
  • Vocal Evolution: In the early shorts, Oobi's voice is quieter and somewhat raspy compared to his more energetic voice in the later episodes.
  • Watch It Stoned: Due to the bizarre concept of hands as characters, the show has picked up somewhat of a reputation for being trippy, and thus a favorite of stoned college students. While it was airing, at least. This was even brought up in an interview with Kako's puppeteer, Noel MacNeal.
    Noel MacNeal: Some of our biggest fans became [college] kids coming back from parties, who were just like really stoned, and would just sit and watch Oobi.
  • White Void Room: Oobi and Grampu visit one in "Dance Class!" when Oobi needs to concentrate on perfecting his dance moves.
  • Younger Than They Look: Oobi and Kako sound and act a bit older than they are.

Oobi, you, friends! Bye!