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Series / Panda Bear Daycare

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The human cast and the titular character. Clockwise: Ms. Whelehan, Hannah, JP, Nathan, Panda, Sophie, Zach, Ben.

Every morning, just past breakfast
We zip down to start our schooling
Laugh and learning, fast as lightning
We never miss it, we’re not fooling
Black and white and always true,
Looks like I’ll be going to,
This here Panda Bear Daycare!
— The show's theme song

Panda Bear Daycare is a Canadian Preschool Show produced by Radical Sheep, the guys responsible for The Big Comfy Couch. Like its sister show, it premiered on YTV, specifically its preschool branch YTV Jr., and aired on the channel from 1998 to 2001.

As the title implies, the show takes place in a daycare, managed by Ben and Ms. Whelehan, whose relationship with each other is unknown. The titular panda bear is a stuffed toy that comes to life when the adults aren’t watching, and spends each episode interacting with the five preschoolers attending the daycare and teaching them life lessons with his Panda Poems. Sometimes, he even learns something himself.

The five preschoolers in question are:

  • Sophie, the resident Cloudcuckoolander with a selfish streak that is never seen without her favourite toy, a ragdoll named Button.
  • Zach, an energetic but unserious boy with an interest in vehicles and sports.
  • Nathan, a neurotic but knowledgeable introvert whose luck is less than stellar.
  • Hannah, the most responsible of the children whose more serious nature tends to clash with the other kids.
  • JP, the literal Baby of the Bunch whose inability to understand the world around him makes him the most mischievous kid in the daycare.
Other characters include anthropomorphic objects such as Coolidge, a fridge, Mrs. Dickory, a clock, Doc, a mouse that lives inside Mrs. Dickory, and Wally Chagally, an artist that lives inside a painting.

This series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: Panda only wears a red bowtie. Doc only wears glasses.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: In the Feast Day episode, Nathan brings Mandelbrot, which is a type of cookie found in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": A stuffed panda bear named “Panda”.
  • An Aesop: Obviously, since it’s a preschool show.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: JP, as pointed out above, is a literal example.
  • Beary Friendly: Panda is a wise and patient teddy bear.
  • Black Bead Eyes: All the characters except the anthropomorphic objects (Panda, Coolidge, Mrs. Dickory) have those.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Even when compared to her peers, Sophie is in her own little world. She is never seen without her doll, Button, and treats it like an actual living being. She has a tendency to stay a long time in the bathroom to play in it, often creating a mess with toilet paper in the process. She is the kid that has the most trouble remembering numbers, and during playtime, she tends to have a hard time compromising with the other kids’ visions of the game they’re playing.
  • Cowboy Episode: One episode is about “Cowbear Day”, where everyone in the daycare partakes in G-Rated Wild West-themed activities such as wearing cowboy hats, riding stick horses, lassoing, drawing horses, and talking like stereotypical cowboys. Panda even spends the episode acting like a sheriff.
  • Every Episode Ending: Each episode ends with Panda declaring how much fun was had at daycare today, and hoping that he wishes to see the viewer again soon.
  • Fear of Thunder: Zach, normally the most adventurous of the kids, doesn’t want to go out for a puddle walk in one episode because he’s scared of thunder and lightning.
  • Foreshadowing: In the episode about fears, Panda tells Zach that he’s afraid of being “high up on tight ropes, or ladders…”. Later in the same episode, Ms. Whelehan puts Panda on the highest corner of the staircase after vacuuming him, and Panda is unable to come down because he’s scared.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Hannah has these.
  • Gratuitous French: After being visited by her aunt from Paris, Sophie spends one episode spouting random French words, predictably misusing or mispronouncing them. She even acknowledges it as “pretend French”. Later in the same episode, JP spouts his usual baby gibberish, but properly pronounces certain French words and expressions, such “s’il te plait” (please), and “change ma couche” (change my diaper).
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: In the episode about taking turns, Sophie accidentally locks herself in the bathroom while pretending to be busy out of anger.
  • Interspecies Friendship: The human children are friends with Panda, a plush toy, Coolidge, a fridge, Mrs. Dickory, a clock, and Wally, a live painting. Likewise, Panda is on good terms with his fellow daycare denizens.
  • Karma Houdini: JP often ruins games, breaks things, and even puts himself in danger, but is never punished for it. Justified since he’s the youngest kid at the daycare, being in diapers and unable to walk and talk properly, so he’s oblivious to his actions’ consequences.
  • Leitmotif: A mischievous jingle plays whenever JP is about to mess with the other kids’ plans.
  • Lying Finger Cross: In the episode about manners, Hannah prevents Zach and Nathan from picking a book to read because Sophie hasn’t picked one yet due to being in the bathroom and ladies have to go first. When Zach complains that Sophie takes forever in the bathroom and only goes there to make funny faces in front of the mirror, Hannah denies it, but the camera zooms into her crossed fingers, then fades into Sophie proving Zach right.
  • Most Writers Are Adults: The kids act childish, but they form perfectly coherent sentences that actual preschoolers can only dream of saying, aside from Sophie’s occasional mispronunciations. JP is the exception. He’s a baby and is treated as such.
  • Not Me This Time: Hannah brings chocolate cookies for Feast Day. Whenever she put a cookie on Zach’s plate, he would steal it and eat it when she wasn’t watching. She eventually catches on to what is happening, but accuses Panda of thievery when the cookies’ smell lure him into the kitchen.
  • Once per Episode: The Panda Poems, although the orange interior episodes (with Nathan and Hannah’s new performers) tend to have more than one poem.
  • Only Known by Initials: JP’s full name, if it isn’t his initials, is never revealed.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Zach’s full name is Zachary, but the only time he’s ever called that is when Ms. Whelehan asks him if he knows where Nathan’s inhaler is in the episode with Wally’s Feather of Happiness.
  • Only One Name: None of the characters' surnames are revealed. In Ms. Whelehan's case, only her last name is known to the audience.
  • Overly-Long Gag: In one episode about sharing, Hannah tries having Panda for naptime, but her attempts at napping are always somehow interrupted, either by JP’s smelly diaper or by one of her friends taking Panda away from her when she isn’t watching. A few minutes of the episode is spent showing Hannah trying to fall asleep with Panda, only for her nap to be interrupted, making her call Ms.Whelehan for help. This cycle occurs thrice.
  • Pandaing to the Audience: Goes without saying, especially since Panda talks to the viewer.
  • The Place: The show is named after its daycare setting.
  • Playing Doctor: One episode starts with Hannah and Sophie respectively pretending to be a doctor and a nurse in a mock hospital, only to not have any patients except for Button. Luckily for them, Panda has a cold…
  • Playing Sick: At the beginning of one episode, Sophie comes back from the doctor’s office with Ben and announces that she has an ear infection. She fakes poor hearing to get what she wants, which upsets Zach.
  • Primal Fear: Panda is revealed to be scared of heights in one episode, and the kids need to act like firefighters to save him when he is unable to jump off a spot that’s too high for him to move.
  • Spiders Are Scary: In one episode, Nathan brings his pet spider, Hank, who escapes his jar after Sophie drops and breaks it. Sophie is terrified because she thinks the spider is in her hair. Panda is especially startled when Hank ends up on his back.
  • Vague Age: A strange case considering the kids are preschoolers, but how old they are is never specified. JP is a year old at most considering his inability to walk on his own, and Hannah mentions that she is almost two years older than Sophie in one episode, which is bizarre considering they talk and act like they’re the same age. Sophie is often implied to be the youngest of the kids aside from JP because of her inability to pronounce certain words, understand certain concepts, and remember lyrics and numbers, but in one episode, Hannah is upset because Zach is preventing her from learning how to read with her audiobook. Nathan often knows things than an average preschooler would be completely unaware of, like acid rain, the exact distance between planets, and babysitting a rowdy child.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Zach and Hannah’s contrasting personalities often clash during daycare activities and they even argue during playtime, but they’re still good friends despite this.
  • Vocal Dissonance: The kids are preschoolers, yet some of them (Zach, Nathan when performed by Rob Mills, and Hannah when performed by Wende Welch) sound like older teenagers at least.