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Series / The Pajanimals

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We're the Pajanimals! From left to right, Cowbella, Apollo, Squacky and Sweetpea Sue.

The Pajanimals is a preschool children's series made by The Jim Henson Company and featuring Muppet-style characters. The series was originated as a set of approximately two minute shorts featuring songs focused on issues related to bedtime, such as being afraid of the dark, having a scary dream, or waking up at night. Based on the success of the original shorts, a full-length series was created and began airing on Sprout in 2011. The new series features the same characters and basic style, but adds guest characters and an expanded focus. While bedtime issues are still tackled, the series also addresses concerns of a more general nature to youngsters, such as fear of speaking in front of a class and concern about taking an extended trip away from home.

The show was made in part with the help of Jill Spivack and Jennifer Waldburger, creators of a commercial product called The Sleepeasy Solution, and the two serve as content consultants for the show and appear in parental guidance spots created for the program. The original shorts, along with the parental guidance spots, are available on DVD, but have not been shown on television since the full-length series began airing.

The full series formerly also aired on weekends on NBC stations as part of their NBC Kids block. Its second season began airing in October 2012 and ended in March 2013.

In the UK, the show aired on Nick Jr. and Tiny Pop, but with British English child actors' voices dubbing over the American English voices. The dub is currently Lost Media, with only the theme song and a few snippets having been recovered.

As of February 2023, the complete series is available on both Youtube and Prime Video.

The Pajanimals contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming: There's a hedgehog character called Mr. Happy Birthday who can never get the collective name of the Pajanimals correct, referring to them variously by such names as "The Pajunipers" and "The Pajolopies."
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Come on. Dogs in real life aren't green, ducks aren't blue, horses aren't orange and pink, and cows don't have purple spots.
  • Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better: Between Apollo and Sweetpea Sue in "I Can Do It Better".
  • Aside Glance: In "Stay in Bed, Put on Your Sleepy Head," when Squacky gets up for like the third or fourth time, Apollo gives a look that seems to clearly indicate "Can you believe this guy?"
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Squacky is the youngest of the group. "I Was a Baby?" is about him being upset because he can't do some of the big kid things that the other Pajanimals can do, like reading, or tying his shoes, or drawing a decent picture.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: In "One Teacup, Two Friends," Cowbella realizes that she's sad that Sweetpea Sue is sad that she wouldn't share her teacup with her. She says that she's not going to share the teacup with her... she's going to give it to her, because they're family and she cares about how she feels. Sweetpea Sue, however, decides that they should just share it, so that they can play together.
  • Baths Are Fun: The Pajanimals have a "Bathtime Boogie" song they perform while in the bath.
  • Blanket Fort: Apollo and Squacky build a blanket-and-pilllow fort in "Team Fort," though Squacky says at first that they're "building a fork." They later end up in a fight because they borrowed Sweetpea Sue and Cowbella's blankets and pillows, and the two want them back to build their own fort.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: In "We're Going Camping," Apollo asks the other Pajanimals to guess what their mother told him they're going to do that weekend. Sweetpea Sue guesses that they're they're riding on a firetruck, which is wrong. Cowbella guesses that they're going to the beach, which is wrong. Squacky suggests that maybe they'll be riding a firetruck to the beach.note 
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the full series, the characters that the Pajanimals visit do this at the end of each episode to summarize the episode's aesop (though they always comment "But you probably already knew that, didn't you?") and also sometimes do it even during the main show.
  • Catchphrase: Whenever the Pajanimals visit Mr. Happy Birthday and explain their problem to him, he likes to say "This moves straight to the top of the list!"
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Mr. Happy Birthday and Ella the Octopus vanish after season one (With Granny Pearl taking Ella's place).
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Squacky. He keeps a collection of dustballs and decides to give Apollo a rock for a birthday present because he thinks that "Apollo rocks!"
  • Cool Old Lady: Granny Pearl.
  • Cuddle Bug: Jerry the bear of the Friendly Forest. "Bear hug!" And Ellie Octopus as well, with her "octopus huggles."
  • The Dreaded Pretend Tea-Party:
    • "Super Squacky" opens with Cowbella, Sweetpea Sue and Apollo all playing tea party, and Apollo moaning and groaning. When Cowbella asks him if "Poodlepants" wants sugar in his tea, he bemoans the name "Poodlepants" and says that what he really wants is to stop playing tea party. When she presses him, however, he asks for "two lumps of sugar, please."
    • In "Mind Your Manners," Cowbella invites Apollo and Squacky to one, but neither want to play because they're busy playing a space game involving alien ducks. Then Sweetpea Sue walks in with cookies, saying that their mom made for the tea party. Suddenly both race over to join, Squacky saying that they love tea parties and asking when it starts.
      Apollo: We want cookies!
  • Duck!: In "Mountains of Messiness," the beaver Hank welcomes the Pajanimals to the Land of Build It by saying "Welcome to the Land of... Duck!" which excites Squacky because, of course, he is a duck. However, he means for them to duck, as there's a big log that's being used to construct a lodge swinging their way, courtesy of the beaver Frank. Fortunately, they duck in time.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: In "An Octopus Hug," when the Pajanimals find a picture of an octopus in a picture book, they marvel at its many legs and large eyes. All except for Sweetpea Sue, who seems like she would be worried except for the fact that, as she says, "Octopuses aren't real, are they?" They tell her that they are, in fact, real and she becomes genuinely worried, so they take her into the ocean to meet a real octopus named Elle.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: "Pajanimal Dance Party" from the full series, in which the Pajanimals don't visit anyone else and instead have a dance party in their playroom. That night, at bedtime, they perform the full "La La Lullaby" themselves, rather than their mother performing a shortened version.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: In one episode, where the kids play house. Apollo is the dad, Sweetpea is the mom, Cowbella is the puppy, and Squakcy is the, well, Squacky.
  • Furry Confusion: Apollo is an anthropomorphic dog, but in the episode "Puppy Love," The Pajanimals take care of a puppy named Fluffy.
  • Furry Reminder: Squacky has been known to quack when overly excited or when sad/frustrated and Apollo is heard barking at the end of one of the shorts. There is also Otis the Owl in the Friendly Forest, who can't help but hoot loudly when he gets excited.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: The Pajanimals are the boys Apollo and Squacky and the girls Cowbella and Sweetpea Sue.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: Apparently goggles allow the Pajanimals to survive underwater, because they're the only thing they wear when they go to visit Elle the octopus or Granny Pearl deep in the ocean.
  • Go-to-Sleep Ending: After the Pajanimals resolve the issue of the day, each installment ends with the Pajanimals finally settling down to bed and being sung to sleep with the "La La Lullaby" song by their mother.
  • Gratuitous Italian: Cowbella would sometimes invoke this in the original shorts, even saying "good night" to mom in Italian.
  • Halloween Episode: Two so far - "A Super Sweet Night" and "Spooky Costumes".
  • Happy Dance:
    • One of the show's songs is called this and features the characters doing one.
    • Squacky has one of his own and will sometimes say "Gotta do my happy dance" and start dancing.
  • Happy Place: Sometimes, when one of the Pajanimals needs cheering up, they'll all sing a song called "Happy Thoughts."
    Apollo: Mom and Dads' hugs.
    Apollo and Squacky: Happy thoughts.
    Cowbella and Sweetpea Sue: Happy thoughts.
  • In Case You Forgot The Founder And Namesake Of The Company Who Produces The Series: Whew. That's a mouthful. But seriously, guess.
  • Interspecies Adoption: The Pajanimals are a dog, a horse, a cow and a duck, but there is only mother and father, albeit as off-screen voices.
  • It's All About Me: Cowbella sometimes suffers from this, which can also result in Green-Eyed Monster, such as in "Apollo's Special Day" when she's jealous of Apollo's birthday and wants a party for her.
  • I've Heard of That — What Is It?: In "Puppy Love," Apollo says that their Mom and Dad told them that it's their responsibility to care to take care of the puppy, Fluffy. Squacky shouts "We get to be presponsible, hooray!", then asks "Wait, what does that mean?"
  • Keet: Squacky.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: The Pajanimals don't appear to have teeth except when they brush them.
  • The Leader - Sweetpea Sue, who encourages the other characters to "stick to the plan" and not mess around when it comes to getting ready for bed.
  • Leitmotif: Each character gets a bit of one in "Lights in the Dark."
  • Limited Wardrobe: All of the Pajanimals always wear their iconic pajamas, save for being shown naked only at the top during the "Bathtime Boogie" song number. Even in "A Super Sweet Night," in which they're dressed up in Halloween costumes, the costumes are just accessories such as a firefighter's hat and a superhero mask. As follows:
    • Apollo wears a purple shirt and pants with a pattern of Jupiter and a rocket ship.
    • Cowbella wears a purple button-up shirt and pants with alternating diamonds of lighter and darker purple and pink and white striped cuffs.
    • Squacky wears a light blue jumpsuit with yellow polka-dots bordered by white throughout and darker blue on the cuffs and in the button-up center.
    • Sweetpea Sue wears a light pink onesie with a pattern of a colorful flowers in circles throughout and darker pink on the cuffs.
  • Looped Lyrics: "Morning Time" is the cumulative song version, in which Squacky keeps waking up in the middle of the night, asking if it's morning time yet and the other Pajanimals tell him that it isn't. "How do I know if it's morning time?" he asks repeatedly and with each verse, they add to the list of signs that it's morning time - "Can you smell buttered toast? The jam you love most? Can you hear Mommy talk while her fuzzy feet walk? Do you hear birdies sing? Is your dad gargling? Is the sun shining in so the day can begin?" Squacky is forced to admit that none of those things are true at the moment, so the Pajanimals tell him to go back to sleep until it's morning time.
  • Malaproper: Squacky, at times
    Squacky: It's an oc-a-pus, that's what it is!
    Apollo and Cowbella: An oc-a-pus?
    Apollo: Oh! It's an oct-o-pus, Squacky!
    Squacky: Yeah, that's what I said. An oc-a-pus.
  • The Musical: Pajanimals Live: Pajama Playdate was to be this, with a 50 city tour in 2013, but it was canceled for unexplained reasons.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: There's a magician named Edwin who is always doing a different job in each episode he's seen in.
  • Potty Dance: In "Accidents Can Happen," Cowbella instructs the other Pajanimals that "Cowbella says dance like crazy," during her Cowbella Says game. Squacky points out that he only dances like Cowbella is doing when he has to go to the potty, but she insists that she just likes dancing that way and that it's part of the game. Almost immediately afterwards, she has a Potty Failure.
  • Potty Emergency: In "Accidents Can Happen," after Cowbella and Sweetpea Sue go to see the Pajanimals' mom after Cowbella has her potty failure, Squacky talks about how hard it can be get to the bathroom in time sometimes. He then darts off in a manner that suggests that he really needs to go the bathroom himself.
  • Potty Failure: Cowbella's is the catalyst for the events of "Accidents Can Happen," though it happened before the episode begins. Then in "Oops," it happens to Squacky when goes to bed for the first time without his diaper.
  • Same Language Dub: A British English dub of the series was aired on Nick Jr. in the UK and Ireland. Curiously, this is also the version you get if you watch the series via the Henson Family TV app in the United States. However, somebody forgot to replace the closed-caption feed, so when the characters use British terms (or other subtle changes in dialogue that can likely be attributed to the voice actors not matching exactly to the original script), the closed-captioning still reads as if it were the U.S. version, i.e. Squacky saying "diaper" instead of "nappy."
  • Silent Treatment: In "I'm Sorry, Really Sorry," Sweetpea Sue and Cowbella decide to give each other the silent treatment; Sweetpea Sue because Cowbella got paint on her daisy puff toy, and Cowbella because Sweetpea Sue won't accept her apology or forgive her.
  • Sleep Aesop: This was essentially the whole point of certain installments, especially the shorts, which included ones such as the "Ode to Sleep," also known as "Sleeping Makes Me Feel Alright."
    Hey, I want my body strong / I love to sleep all night / Sleeping makes me feel alright.
  • Sleepyhead: Bedtime Bunny from the Land of Hush, not inappropriately. She always nods off in the middle of her conversations with the Pajanimals and has to be shaken awake.
  • Speech Impediment: Squacky sometimes speaks with a lisp.
  • Strictly Formula: The original shorts were each presented as the Pajanimals singing a song about something related to bedtime. Each episode of the full version series follows this pattern- the characters are shown in their playroom just before bedtime. Their parents tell them its time to get ready for bed and they do so. After this, they are shown in bed, but one or more of them has a problem that is keeping them from getting to sleep. They all hop into one of the characters' beds together and "Bundle up, snuggle up, buckle up and go!" and the bed takes them to some sort of Magical Land, such as the Land of Hush, or The Land of Games. There, they talk with the episode's selected guest character, who gives them advice to help them solve their problem. They return home and the mother sings the "La La Lullaby" song, then the episode ends with the guest character briefly reappearing and Breaking the Fourth Wall to recap the episode's Aesop.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: Squacky does this sometimes, such as muttering "more popcorn" the night before the Pajanimals are going to see a movie. He also sometimes quacks in his sleep, and Apollo is heard barking in his sleep at the end of the "Ode to Sleep" song from the shorts.
  • Team Spirit: In the full version series, there's a walrus character named Coach Whistler who is big on this.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: A frequent plot. The characters often have to work out their feelings about each other, and will express them out loud. The full series has a song called "I'm Mad" that features Apollo in one installment, Squacky and Cowbella in another, and Sweetpea Sue the final time that it's used.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: The series began as a series of songs of approximately two minutes in length. The full-length series keeps to these origins by featuring at least one song in every episode.
  • Theme Tune Roll Call: Though, curiously, the character traits described change from the original shorts to the full version series. In the original, "Squacky's picked a book to share with all of you," but in the full version series "Cowbella shares a story with all of you."
  • This Is My Side: This is done with the bathroom sink in "Team Fort" after an argument over borrowed blankets and pillows.
  • Title Theme Drop: An instrumental version of the show's main title theme is played as the Pajanimals settle down to bed in each episode of the full-length series.
  • Title Theme Tune
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: The Pajanimals can get to whatever magical lands they want or wherever, such as clouds that are close enough for them to talk to the moon, in just as long as it takes to "bundle up, huggle up, snuggle up and go!"
  • Two Shorts: Used in a somewhat odd way. Even when the show is presented in a half-hour block, the ending theme with "La La Lullaby" is still presented at the end of the first short, then the opening credits are used leading into the second short. Though when the series was made available on Amazon, they chopped "La La Lullaby" and the credits roll from the first short, only airing at the very end.
  • The Voice: The mother and father are only ever heard talking off-screen. It's also stated in a couple of episodes that it's the mother who sings the "La La Lullaby" song at the end of the full-version series.
  • Waking Non Sequitur: Both Squacky and Bedtime Bunny invoke this from time to time.
  • Weird Moon: One of the guest characters that the Pajanimals can visit is the Moon, and he always seems to be full. He has his own song— "I'm Your Light in the Night Sky."
  • What Are Records?: This is Apollo's reaction in "A Present for Mom" when Mr. Happy Birthday offers him a jazz record as a present for the Pajanimals mom's birthday.


Video Example(s):


Pajanimals - Sir Poodlepants

In "Super Squacky" from "The Pajanimals," Cowbella, Sweetpea Sue and Apollo are playing tea party, but Apollo would rather not. He isn't happy either about being called "Sir Poodlepants," but finally gives in and requests two lumps of sugar.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheDreadedPretendTeaParty

Media sources: