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Western Animation / Katie and Orbie

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"Far away out past the moon, came a little pink friend all alone...
There's a house with a girl inside, such a nice end to his ride,
Katie sees a friend in need, Orbie!"
Opening theme

Katie and Orbie is a Canadian slice-of-life and (not exactly) animated series for preschoolers, based on a series of books created by famed cartoonist Ben Wicks and his daughter Susan, which were focused on protecting the environment by doing age-appropriate tasks such as saving water and recycling. The series aired on Family Channel and reruns were also seen on the local Playhouse Disney/Disney Junior channel, while also being seen in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Spain and Latin America, among others.

The backstory is about a small, polka-dotted extraterrestrial that has been sent away from his planet because pollution has made it a place where life can no longer be sustained. The little alien lands on the backyard of a friendly five-year-old girl, who immediately befriends him and gets adopted by her family. Together they have adventures and discoveries alongside their other human friends. The characters do not speak, and all the action is described by an off-screen narrator.

The series had two different runs: one from 1994 to 1996, and another from 2001 to 2002, producing a total of 78 half-hour episodes in six seasons. Reruns still aired in Canada until 2012, while other countries stopped airing it by the Turn of the Millennium (except for Latin America, where it did not even premiere until 2008).

Not to be confused with Katie Morag.

This show provides examples of:

  • Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: Orbie does not wear any clothes unless it's raining or snowing.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Orbie goes through this in "Orbie in Snow," when he gets to be the model for a sculpture in a snow-sculpting contest.
  • Adaptation Expansion: A series based on a brief and obscure line of environment-themed books.
  • An Aesop: Most stories have one. For example, the holiday episode Happy Winter has the lesson that people can be very different from each other, and it's important to respect that, but it's just as important to recognize the ways that people are the same.
  • All There in the Manual: Both the books on which the series is based, as well as the blurb of a VHS release of the series, reveal that Orbie was sent away from his very polluted home planet and that's how he got to Earth and met Katie.
  • Amicably Divorced: Andy's parents. His father and stepfather even greet and chat with each other normally.
  • Animation Bump: In this case, a character design and coloring bump. Noticeable as the series progresses. In the first two seasons, the series was cel-painted; in the third, it switched to digital ink and paint, which is even more brighter, clean and noticeable in seasons four to six (the series' second run).
  • Babysitting Episode: "Babysitting Megan" has Katie, Orbie and their mom taking care of their neighbors' baby. Several episodes also feature Katie and Orbie being babysat, either by their college-aged neighbor Tom or by their grandparents.
  • Ballet Episode: "Katie's First Dance Class" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The narrator often does it at the end of each story. A notable example occurs with the last line of the very last story (I Really Love You):
    And, one last thing, Katie and Orbie asked me to tell you that they really love you, too...
  • Bumbling Dad: Often Katie and Orbie's dad acts like this when playing with them.
  • Broken Treasure: Used twice. In "I Didn't Break The Lamp," Orbie accidentally breaks one of the glass leaves off of Mom's ornate new lamp and spends the rest of the episode trying to keep his family from finding out, while in "Katie's Music Box," Katie obsessively insists that her friends be careful with her new music box, only to accidentally drop it and break it herself in the end.
  • Came from the Sky: As shown in the intro, Orbie came into Katie's life this way.
  • Cheerful Child: Most of the kid characters, but especially Katie, who is not often seen in a mood other than a happy one.
  • Chickenpox Episode: In "Chicken Pox Party," Katie catches the chicken pox on Halloween.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Several characters seen at the beginning of the series, and others who are introduced later, just vanish after a few appearances (or even just one) and are never mentioned again.
  • Disembodied Eyebrows: Orbie's eyebrows float above his head, while Katie's eyebrows are always over her hair.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The early episodes showed that Orbie could change the color of his polka dots or even his whole body depending on his mood, but this was gone after the first season. In the very first episode, Katie's skin color is paler than normal, and the overall coloring is a bit darker than the rest of the series. Also in that episode, there are references to "an Orbie" and "Orbies," as if Orbie's name is also the name of his species; for the rest of the series, it's just his name.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Most episode titles are exactly what the episodes are about.
  • Expository Theme Tune: Unusual for a Western animated series, the theme song lasts a full two minutes.
  • Fear of Thunder: The very first episode, "The Thunderstorm," revolves around this.
  • Fire-Breathing Diner: Downplayed in "Katie's First Sleepover", when Katie's face turns ripe red after tasting spicy Indian food.
  • Friend to All Children: Tom, the characters' college-aged babysitter, as well as his girlfriend Polly and old lady neighbor Mrs. Parette.
  • Green Aesop: All the original books are about taking care of the environment, and while the TV series drops this overarching theme, it still has a few environmentalism-themed episodes, most notably "Katie and the Sad World" from the first season.
  • Happily Adopted: Orbie, by Katie's family.
  • Happily Married: Katie and Orbie's parents. They take special care to assure the kids of this in the episode where they learn about Andy's parents' divorce, as well as in another episode when the kids overhear them having an argument and fear they don't love each other anymore.
  • Halloween Episode: "The Chicken Pox Party" combines this with Sick Episode. When Katie catches the chicken pox, it looks like her Halloween party will need to be canceled, but fortunately it turns out that most of her friends have had the chicken pox already, so they can have the party after all.
  • Innocent Aliens: Orbie is so innocent that practically no one even cares that he's an alien.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Between Katie, a human, and Orbie, an alien.
  • Kids Are Cruel: One episode has some bullies at a playground mocking Micah, a boy with Down syndrome. He stands up to them while his mom appoints Katie and Orbie as "guardians against ignorance", and two of the three bullies even become their friends by the end (the other just leaves the playground).
  • Limited Animation: Technically there is no animation, the scenes fade into each other as if it were a slideshow or electronic storybook. This process was referred to by the series' producers as "picture-mation". Some episodes, however (particularly those from the first season), do have short bits of fluid animation. Each half-hour episode is composed of only about 600 drawings (200 per individual story).
  • Limited Wardrobe: Most characters. Katie is almost always seen with a green and white striped T-shirt and blue overalls (or variations of it, such as a blue skirt or short pants) during the day, and a green nightgown at bedtime.
  • Literal-Minded: Justified as the title characters are only five years old.
    • In one episode, as his parents tell Orbie that spring is "right around the corner", he runs to the street corner looking for it.
    • In another, when Katie gets chicken pox, she believes she will turn into a chicken.
    • And in another, when Mrs. Parette tells Katie about how everybody gets the blues sometimes, she looks at her hands believing they have turned blue.
    • In "Burnt Toast," Mom asks Orbie to watch the toast in the toaster oven for her. Orbie doesn't get the implication that he should call for Mom when the toast is ready, so he just watches it until it burns and sets off the smoke alarm.
  • Meaningful Name: The family cat is named Chance, after she was rescued and adopted by a family that gave her the chance of staying with them.
  • Narrator: None other than Leslie Nielsen. Usually addresses the audience at the end of each episode and even laughs at Katie and Orbie's antics.
  • Name and Name: Katie and Orbie.
  • New Year Has Come: "Happy New Year." Katie and Orbie try to stay awake until midnight, but fail.
  • One-Steve Limit: Lampshaded in "The New Baby", as Orbie mentions he and Katie have a friend named Megan, which is also the titular baby's name.
  • Opening Narration: Each story opens with a variation of the following:
    It had been an (adjective) day, Katie discovered (something), Orbie found out (something), and they both learned (something).
  • Parental Abandonment: Orbie was sent away from his planet by his biological parents.
  • Parental Substitute: Katie's parents for Orbie.
  • Picky Eater: In the episode "Stone Cold Soup," Katie is reluctant to try minestrone soup for the first time. Unusually for a kids' show episode with this theme, she still doesn't like the soup even after she tastes it in the end, and her parents respect this and don't make her finish it. It isn't as bad as she thought it would be, though, and she still learns the Stock Aesop about at least giving new foods a try.
  • Plot Allergy: "Does It Have Eggs In It?" revolves around the egg allergy of Katie and Orbie's friend Bryn, while in "Wild Flower Bouquet," Dad can't stop sneezing and everyone thinks he has a cold, but it turns out he's allergic to the wildflowers Katie and Orbie just picked.
  • Precocious Crush: In one episode, Orbie gets one on Polly, the older (and human) girlfriend of his babysitter Tom.
  • Remember the New Guy?: A particular example occurs in one episode that deals with Kerry, Katie's "best friend" having to move to another town and trying to run away with Katie. Kerry had never been seen or mentioned before, and after both girls say their goodbyes, she is never acknowledged again.
  • Ruptured Appendix: This happens to Yee Ping in the episode "Yee Ping's Appendix."
  • Satellite Character: From all of Katie and Orbie's friends, Phoebe, the younger sister of Bryn, a girl with an egg allergy, is this since she is never shown without Bryn and there isn't any particular focus on her like other characters.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • Chance the cat's gender changes from female in the series' 1994-1996 run to male in the 2001-2002 run.
    • Likewise, Micah's horse Spirit is first introduced as a male during the show's first run, but in the second run not only becomes female, but gives birth to a foal!
    • Polly's appearance also changes drastically: from being white-skinned and red-haired to brown-skinned and black-haired.
    • In Season 2's "Bugs," Mom is afraid of spiders but Katie has no qualms about them, but in Season 4's "Spider," Katie is afraid of them.
  • Signature Sound Effect: Katie's happy laugh (although it is a stock effect instead of one made specifically for the series) and Orbie's chirp-like sounds and honks made with his nose.
  • Smelly Skunk: In the episode "Peeheew!" Orbie gets sprayed by a skunk. It takes repeated tomato juice baths to get rid of the smell.
  • Straight to the Pointe: Downplayed in "Katie's First Dance Class" in that Katie is the only one in the class who's wearing pointe shoes.
  • Suburbia: The main characters live in a nice, friendly one, apparently far from a major city. When they visit their grandparents in the big city, it's like visiting a new world.
  • Through a Face Full of Fur: Orbie early in the series. At least, it's just his spots that changed color along with his moods. But in the "Park Swings" episode, he began having green spots due to an illness. Later in the same episode, he got worse when he tried using a park swing and ended up being entirely green with blue spots, so he was now more sick and sad than before.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Katie wears a tomboyish outfit, favors lively outdoor games and doesn't care for playing with dolls, but she does like playing dress-up, takes ballet classes, and keeps her mom's pretty childhood doll on her dresser.
  • The Tonsillitis Episode: "Sore Throat" is an unusual variation. Katie comes down with tonsillitis, but doesn't have a tonsillectomy; it's just treated as an ordinary Sick Episode. As the trope page explains, this is more often Truth in Television than the surgery nowadays.
  • Title Drop: Many episodes mention the activity, thing or question for which they are titled.
  • Too Smart for Strangers: "Don't Talk to Strangers" has this Stock Aesop.
  • Token Minority: Among their friends: an Indian girl, a Chinese girl, a Native-American boy, an African-American girl in a wheelchair, and a girl newly arrived from an unstated African country. Their babysitter Tom and his girlfriend Polly are also African-American, and the store clerk that appears in some episodes seems to be Muslim.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: An almost extreme example. Nobody, even persons who meet Katie and Orbie for the first time, seem to care that they are seeing a pink, spotted alien who communicates by squeaks and honk sounds walking around. Those who are surprised by him at first glance, eventually get to like him after seeing how innocent and well-meaning he is.
  • Unnamed Parent: Katie and Orbie's parents actually do have names, but they are only mentioned once throughout the entire series. They are named Wayne and Susan (the latter likely after the characters' creator). On the other hand, their surname is never mentioned.
  • Very Special Episode: Though never promoted as such, there are several. Katie and Orbie met and befriended children with deafness, asthma, food allergies, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. Another episode focused on their friend Andy having "two fathers" (a father and a stepfather) as his parents are divorced, with a nice and straightforward explanation of why a divorce occurs. This was in a time when talking about divorce or disabilities in a children's animated series was almost a taboo (just a few years prior, a Sesame Street episode about divorce was shelved due to negative reactions from test audiences).
  • Would Hit a Girl: In his first appearance, Arthur, who was a kid with a short temper, smacked Katie on the arm just because he wanted the toy car she was playing with. He later attempts to hit her again but is stopped by Katie's mother.