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Series / Under the Umbrella Tree

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"In your imagination, you'll find an invitation...."

This was a live-action children's series that aired on CBC from 1986 to 1993, and also the Disney Channel in the early 1990s. The setting was an upscale apartment in Canada, and the main characters were freelance artist Holly Higgins and her three young animal friends (actually portrayed by puppets): Gloria the Gopher, Iggy (short for "Ignatz Julio") Iguana and Jacob the Bluejay.

Under the Umbrella Tree was a pretty entertaining series overall. Gloria, Iggy and Jacob essentially have the minds of children (well, mostly; see Ping Pong Naïveté below), so the plots did get a bit Anvilicious — but the scripts were so well written that they were nowhere near as bad as they could have been. The three animal friends were also funny, largely because they seemed to believe they were actually people.

Occasionally, guest stars (both human and "animal") would drop by the apartment for visits.

After Disney's rights to the show expired in 2005, its creator Noreen Young began selling DVD's of the series independently through the official site. The YouTube channel Encore + also has official uploads of the series.

Under the Umbrella Tree provides examples of:

  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: In the episode "Sweet Dreams," a big dinner full of strange recipes causes Gloria, Iggy and Jacob to sleepwalk and have strange dreams: Jacob dreams that he grows buffalo horns, Gloria dreams that she turns into a butterfly, and Iggy dreams that he grows into a giant.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Jacob goes though this in "Jacob's Victory" after he wins a relay race. His roommates bring him down a peg by swamping him with requests for help with chores because he's "perfect" enough to handle them all.
  • Alliterative Name: Several characters, especially Gloria (see Overly Long Name below)
  • Bandage Mummy: In one episode, Gloria, Iggy and Jacob do this to themselves for minor injuries, just because they have so much fun using Holly's new first aid kit.
  • Big Eater: Iggy, especially if it's turnips.
  • Bizarre Beverage Use: At the end of "Twins", this is discussed when Gloria and Jacob ask Holly for tomato juice so they can neutralize skunk spray.
  • Catchphrase: Jacob, when corrected on something, would always say: "I knew that!" In one episode he Lampshaded this by listing his hobbies as "flying, playing with my friends and saying 'I knew that.'" He also sometimes exclaims "Wazoo!" when he's excited, and whenever he shows off one of his talents, he calls it his "spécialité."
  • Christmas Episode: "Christmas Under the Umbrella Tree" is a 30-minute Christmas episode that had a Special Edition Title and saw the gang partake in Christmas activities.
  • Clip Show: "Gloria's Magic Piano," "Picture It," "Singing in the Tub" and "The Song Book" are all about remembering songs from previous episodes.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Jacob, though in certain areas he's a Genius Ditz too.
  • Compressed Vice: Sometimes the characters fall into these. For example, in the episode "Private!" Jacob suddenly starts invading everyone's privacy in every way.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In the earliest episodes, Iggy talks more slowly and has a breathier voice than in the rest of the series, and Jacob's voice is slightly lower too. The first two years of the show's run also had different opening credits.
  • Easy Amnesia: This happens to Iggy in the episode "Who Am I?" when he falls and bumps his head. Another head-bump brings back his memory in the end.
  • Failures on Ice: As shown in the Christmas Episode, Holly slips a lot when ice skating.
  • Family Theme Naming: The Chickadee family are named Chester, Charlene, Chelsea, and Chuck.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: In some episodes, Holly and the puppets would put on plays of fairy-tales, which were usually at least a little bit fractured: for example, "The Princess and the Pea Soup," where the princess is a truck driver named Diesel and a can of pea soup is put under her mattresses instead of a pea.
  • Free-Range Children: Furthermore, they did live by themselves until Holly came (as explained in one flashback episode).
  • Genius Ditz: Jacob doesn't have much in the way of common sense and often gets things wrong, but he's very knowledgeable about flying and recognized as somewhat of an authority on the subject, even among other birds. He also knows how to take good care of a bike, which he likens to taking good care of his feathers so he can fly, and he successfully becomes a crossing guard and teaches the others about road safety.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Gloria has them.
  • Halloween Episode: In "Halloween", Iggy hurts his leg, doesn't know whether it's broken or not, and has to stay at the animal shelter until his x-ray is ready, which means he has to miss the Halloween party at the apartment. In the end, Holly, Jacob, Gloria and the party guests all come to the shelter and bring the party to him, and it turns out his ankle is just sprained and will soon be fine.
  • Hiccup Hijinks: The episode "Hiccups" has Holly get hiccups on the day she has to go to a job interview.
  • I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham: In one episode, Jacob is convinced he won't like zucchini, but once he finally tries Holly's zucchini loaf he loves it.
  • Insomnia Episode
    • "Gloria Can't Sleep." It turns out she can't sleep because she's grown too big for her bed and can't get comfortable.
    • "Wake Up, Holly!" has Holly purposefully kept awake through the night by her roommates to sabotage her job interview the next morning, because they're afraid that if she gets the job she'll move away. (They misunderstood a remark she made – she'll only be going on a trip, not moving.)
  • The Klutz: Iggy's Cousin Emmet used to be hopelessly clumsy. In his debut episode, flashbacks to his last visit show all kinds of accidents that he caused, and Holly, Gloria and Jacob are terrified by the thought of him visiting again. But it turns out that he's gotten over his clumsiness and even effortlessly catches a whole bunch of things that Holly drops.
  • Knew It All Along: Jacob's Catchphrase.
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: Despite essentially becoming Holly's "kids" (once she moves in), Gloria, Iggy and Jacob have lives of their own. Not only do they occasionally receive visits from their animal relatives, they also have animal friends such as Mitzi the dog and Chuck Chickadee, and the Very Special Episode described below establishes that there are other animal residents in the neighborhood too.
  • Literal-Minded: In "Laundry Day," when Iggy tells Jacob to put "the whole box" of laundry soap in the washer, Jacob puts it in box and all. Then when Iggy tells him "Take the soap out of the box before you put it in," he takes the soap out, then puts the box back in.
  • Long-Lost Uncle Aesop: There was the time that Gloria's wealthy "Aunt Gloxinia" moved to Alaska and Gloria inherited the services of her butler. This butler was a Well-Intentioned Extremist who constantly shadowed her and forbade her to do many things (such as eat ice cream, for example) because "Your Aunt Gloxinia never [did X]." This eventually drove Gloria to scream in frustration: "My Aunt Gloxinia isn't me!" The problem was eventually resolved when the butler quit his job, admitting that even he had become sick of all the social pretension.
  • Lovable Lizard: Despite his slightly creepy appearance (think something that Jerry Garcia might dream about after eating too much pepperoni pizza), Iggy was the most lovable and relatable of the roommates.
  • Monkey Ball: Although usually The Comically Serious, Holly could be counted on to get herself humiliated from time to time for a cheap laugh. A notable example was an episode when she dressed in a gorilla suit and went around the neighborhood performing singing telegrams in order to make extra money — but got mistaken for an actual gorilla, captured by zookeepers, and was taken to a local zoo where she was locked in a cage for several hours! And in an episode where one of Iggy's relatives visits from the Southwest, Holly undergoes a Humiliation Conga that includes her sitting on a cactus and burning her mouth on some spicy chili.
  • Motor Mouth: Chuck Chickadee and his parents.
  • Nice Girl: Holly treats Gloria, Iggy and Jacob with a ton of love, care, and support.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Iggy's favorite actress was a pert-lipped, pompous British reptile named "Elizardbeth Taylor".
  • Overly Long Name: Gloria's full name is Gloria Gladys Grace Gabrielle Gardenia Glenda Gale Gopher.
  • Odd Couple: Gloria and Iggy had trouble getting along when they first became roommates because Gloria was too serious while Iggy was too much of a jokester, and because Iggy liked to stay up late and sleep in while Gloria preferred "early to bed and early to rise," and they kept each other awake. But Jacob was already their mutual friend, and for his sake they finally gave each other a chance, and then they became best friends too.
  • Origins Episode: "How It All Began" reveals how Jacob, Iggy and Gloria came to live in the apartment.
  • Ping Pong Naïveté: Gloria, Iggy, and Jacob swung from being sophisticated pseudo-adults to hapless waifs whenever the plot demanded it. Sometimes the difference was outlandish: for example, Gloria got a job as a radio reporter in "Gloria the Reporter," but in "Hanky Panky" needed to be taught how to blow her nose like a toddler.
  • Power Outage Plot: In "The No-Power Hour", a storm knocks down the power line, causing the house's power to go out. Holly teaches the gang about electricity and antique objects, like kerosene lamps.
  • Precocious Crush:
    • One of the plot lines of the Valentine's Day special revolves around Jacob's crush on a library employee named Megan.
    • In "Iggy Loves Nancy," Iggy has a crush on a woman named Nancy.
  • Sick Episode: Several, including "Hanky Panky" (Gloria, Iggy and Jacob all have colds), "Gloria Iguana" (Iggy has a cold, so Gloria disguises herself as him for a special event), "The Circus" (Gloria has a cold and can't go to the circus), and "Speak Up!" (Holly has a sore throat and loses her voice).
  • Smelly Skunk: Identical twins Sparky and Spunky. In their introductory episode, Holly and Iggy spend their whole visit on edge, trying not to startle them so they won’t spray. But then Jacob crash-lands and triggers a spray from both of them.
  • Shout-Out: In "Gloria Iguana," when the sick Iggy asks Gloria to give his speech at the reptile club for him, she objects "But I'm a gopher!" Iggy replies "Well, nobody's perfect."
  • Species Surname: Gloria Gopher and Iggy Iguana. Jacob Blue is a half example.
  • Stargazing Scene: "Stargazing" is a full episode of this.
  • Team Mom: Holly. Gloria was likely this before Holly moved in.
  • Through a Face Full of Fur: Or rather, through a face full of scales in Iggy's case. Later in "Christmas Under The Umbrella Tree", he's revealed to have turned blue and he's shivering from the chilly, icy water after Jacob accidentally sprayed him with a water hose.
  • Totem Pole Trench: In an episode, the three main puppets attempted to do this with Gloria on top.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Jacob's is banana smoothies and Iggy's is turnips, especially turnip casserole.
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: In "Iggy Moves Out," Iggy decides to move out of the apartment after his friends complain about his noisy, inconsiderate behavior. He goes to live with their grandmotherly neighbor Mrs. McMertree, and proceeds to be just as noisy and inconsiderate with her. So Mrs. McMertree starts acting just like Iggy and teaches him how obnoxious he's been.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance:
    • Iggy has an identical cousin named Emmet.
    • In one episode, Holly's Irish cousin Lorraine comes to visit, played by Holly Larocque in an auburn wig and glasses. Lampshaded when Iggy thinks at first that Lorraine is Holly playing a trick on them.
  • A Very Special Episode: During an episode that took place in December, "The Great Goldberg," Holly and the gang visited a new shopkeeper who outed himself as Jewish by saying he was getting ready for Hanukkah. This shopkeeper is also a retired stage magician, who doesn't want to perform anymore because he thinks he's lost his touch, but Holly and friends convince him to perform again by reminding him of the Hanukkah story and its message of faith and never giving up.
  • Word Salad Title: The titular "umbrella tree" is a tropical plant that Gloria actually lives "under", but was rarely referenced.