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Western Animation / Ni Hao, Kai-Lan

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Chinese-American Dora the Explorer.note 

"You make my heart feel super happy! Ni rang wo hao kai xin (你让我好开心)!"

Ni Hao Kai-lan (2007-2011) is a preschool Edutainment Show that aired on Nickelodeon, adapted from a 2004 series of Nick Jr. interstitials called Downward Doghouse. The show's primary function is to teach children Mandarin Chinese. According to the show's website, it also "teaches children how to identify and cope with their feelings."

The show chronicles the adventures of Kai-lan, a young Chinese-American girl, and her various friends and family:

  • Ye-Ye is Kai-lan's grandfather, the only parental figure on the show.
  • Rintoo is a small tiger with a slight lisp who tries everything with reckless abandon. He proclaims everything as "awethome!", and often gets into trouble with his headstrong nature.
  • Hoho, a three-year-old monkey who likes to play around, and is a fan of the Monkey King.
  • Tolee, a koala with an unhealthy obsession with pandas.
  • Lulu, a pink rhinoceros who flies via a balloon tied to her horn.
  • Mr. Sun is the sun, who smiles and shines all the time. He sometimes releases "sun fuzzies" that can tickle or form props.

It basically comes off as a cute, albeit somewhat trippy kid's show.

While perhaps never formally canceled, the show ceased production in 2010. The program currently only airs in the evenings on the Nick Jr. sub-network, having apparently never quite caught the fire that Dora the Explorer did. It got a Licensed Game that was a crossover with Dora the Explorer called Dora and Kai-Lan's Pet Shelter Fun wherein you helped Dora, Kai-Lan, Diego and Yeye take care of pets at a pet shelter.

This show contains examples of the following tropes:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: In "The Place Where We All Live", the ants are animated in CGI at one point as they are riding their bicycles.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: In "Sports Day", Rintoo wins all the dinosaur games and becomes extremely egotistical about it. He brags about it and rubs his victory in everyone's faces, alienating his friends.
  • Adults Are Useless: It's always Kai-Lan and her friends being the ones helping other friends instead of the adults around them. Subverted in "Kai-Lan's Playhouse" where Yeye disciplines Hoho for hitting Rintoo.
  • An Aesop: Every episode has morals. In particular, though, the series is a rare preschool show that tells kids that it's okay to feel negative emotions, and not everything has to be happy and upbeat all the time. It also teaches children how to deal with negative feelings in a constructive manner, predating shows like Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Esme & Roy, and the older-skewing Steven Universe and Infinity Train.
  • Agitated Item Stomping: In "Beach Day", Tolee gets angry and stomps his friends' sand castle after a wave knocks down his own sand castle three times.
  • Alliterative Title: This show began as a short series called Downward Doghouse, which repeats the letter "D".
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Lulu the rhino is pink.
  • Animals Not to Scale: Lulu is awfully small for a rhino, being about the same size as Tolee the koala and Rintoo the tiger cub.
  • Animesque: Just look at the animation style! You'd be forgiven if you thought it was an anime series at first.
  • Balloonacy: Lulu floats around in the air using a balloon tied to her horn.
  • Beach Episode: In "Beach Day", the gang goes to have some fun at the beach. Tolee gets upset, however, when a wave knocks down his sand castle, causing him to angrily stomp on the sand castle his friends were building.
  • The Big Race: The first episode, "Dragonboat Festival", is about the gang participating in a race where they row dragon boats to Dragon Lagoon, where they get to meet Mr. Dragon.
  • Blush Sticker: Tolee, Lulu, and Hoho are always drawn with these on their faces.
  • Broken Aesop: In Kai-Lan's Playhouse, Hoho learns to vocalize his frustrations and never hit anyone just because he's upset. The problem is that Hoho was standing between Kai-Lan and Rintoo yelling about his frustration, and they just stood there ignoring him. This makes the episode's message of "people will listen if you use your words" come off as "use your words, but you can't get angry if people don't listen to you".
  • Catchphrase:
    • "You make my heart feel super happy!"
    • Rintoo's "I love <topic-of-the-moment>!" also counts, and doubles as a Mad Libs Catchphrase.
    • Also, Rintoo's favorite expression appears to be "AWESOME!".
    • Tolee's "Ai ya!"
  • Character in the Logo: Mr. Sun appears in the logo.
  • Characterization Marches On: In Kai-Lan's Playhouse, Hoho is obsessed with bananas and hits Rintoo over him hogging the banana shaped stickers. He never acts this way about bananas again, actually preferring apples over them in a later episode.
  • Cool Old Guy: Kai-lan's grandpa, Ye-Ye. His feats include building racing canoes, setting up camping trips, and going rollerskating. In Kai-Lan's Playhouse, he builds a house-sized building perfectly proportioned to Kai-Lan and her friends using only his bare hands and the help of some sentient ants.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Tolee prepares for a group hiking trip with a backpack that's twice his own size.
  • Crying Critters: Kai-Lan's animal friends are known to cry sometimes. For example, in the episode "The Moon Festival", Hoho cries when the moon festival is ruined by a cloud blocking the moon, and in the episode "Pandy's Puddle", Tolee cries when his panda plush Pandy has to be washed in the washing machine.
  • Cute Little Fang: Rintoo and Lulu both have a fang (seems funny in Lulu's case, as people thought that rhinos were vegetarians).
  • Dislikes the New Guy: Rintoo was this to Stompy in "Safari Pals" because he's bigger and gets more attention than him.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In "Princess Kai-Lan", there are two Kingdoms fighting, the Bears in the Foxes which feels like a big reference to The Hatfields and The McCoys.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: Kai-Lan sings most of the theme song.
  • Dysfunction Junction: These kids have personality issues. They're headstrong, impulsive, and have short tempers. Kai-Lan is the Only Sane Woman of the gang, and so she rarely ever has a personal problem to solve.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first two episodes, "The Dragonboat Festival" and "Everybody's Hat Parade", feature thicker outlines on the characters and more saturated colors compared to the rest of the show, as well as more Off-Model animation. There was also a considerable gap between "Everybody's Hat Parade" (November 2007) and "Hoho's Big Flight" (July 2008).
  • Edutainment Show: In much the same way as any other preschool show, this show teaches the language or a lesson in a fun way for little kids to understand.
  • Every Episode Ending: At the end of every episode, Kai-Lan says "You make my heart feel super happy!" while making a heart shape with her hands, before saying goodbye.
  • The Face of the Sun: Mr. Sun has a visible face.
  • Fake Interactivity: The show does this when it comes to the character development of the episode, encouraging the audience to say the answer and acting as if they heard.
  • Floating in a Bubble: In the episode "Lulu Day", one of the things Kai-Lan and Lulu do on their playdate is to blow bubbles and float around in them.
  • Forgiveness: "Playtime at Tolee's" has Tolee refusing to forgive Rintoo for tearing his painting. The lesson of the episode is that you should instantly forgive somebody for wrongdoings so they don't have to feel guilty about it.
  • Friendly Tickle Torture: Most episodes begin with Kai-Lan greeting the viewers, noticing Mr. Sun is sleeping, and asking the viewers to help her tickle him to wake him up.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Specifically Chinese, but it's not so gratuitous since it's a major point of the show. But there is relatively little Chinese used in the show anyway, considering that the idea is to teach it to children (as well as about Chinese culture and general kid topics).
  • Green Aesop: The episode "The Place Where We All Live" is about Kai-Lan and her friends learning the importance of taking care of the environment when they forget to throw away the wrapping paper for the kites Ye-Ye gave them.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: In "Safari Pals", Rintoo gets jealous of Stompy the Elephant because his friends are playing with Stompy instead of Rintoo.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Basically all of Kai-Lan's friends can qualify for this trope, as they get extremely angry and upset at the slightest provocation. Justified, as they are little kids.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Tolee wears a sweatshirt and slippers, but no pants.
  • Halloween Episode: In "Ni Hao, Halloween", Rintoo accidentally sprains his ankle on a rock on Halloween, forcing him to miss trick-or-treating with his friends. His friends don't want to trick-or-treat without him, however, and try to find a way for him to still be able to trick-or-treat with them.
  • Heroic BSoD: "Kai-lan's Big Surprise"; when a gust of wind knocks down the decorations for a surprise party Kai-lan was holding for Ye-Ye, she falls into one of these. So far it's been the only time where she's the one who needs help.
  • Holiday Episode: There are two episodes where the characters celebrate Chinese holidays, specifically one about Chinese New Year and one about the Moon Festival.
  • Hurt Foot Hop: In "Kai-Lan's Playhouse", Hoho gets angry when he notices all the banana stickers are gone and hits Rintoo in the leg because of it, causing Rintoo to hop around on his hurt leg for a second.
  • Injured Limb Episode: In "Ni Hao, Halloween", Rintoo accidentally trips on a rock and sprains his ankle, which won't heal for a few days meaning he has to miss trick-or-treating. His friends try to come up with a way for him to still be able to go trick-or-treating with them with a sprained ankle.
  • I've Heard of That What Is It?: In "Kai-lan's Sleepover," Kai-lan declares that the group is going to play "Flashlight Funny Faces." Rintoo says that he loves "Flashlight Funny Faces", then asks Kai-lan how to play it. Later in the same episode, Tolee suggests a game of "Pass the Panda" with his stuffed toy Pandy. Rintoo says that he loves it, then asks what it is.
  • Kids Love Dinosaurs: Kai-Lan's favorite animal is the dinosaur, to the point that a lot of items given to her are themed around them. For example, in "Lulu Day", Ye-Ye blows Kai-Lan a bubble shaped like a dinosaur, and in "Tolee's Turn", Kai-Lan's boat is made to look like a dinosaur.
  • Last-Minute Baby Naming: The baby panda in "Kai-Lan's Trip to China" gets his name at a special party; once there, he gets the name of "Xao Xi Gua" (little watermelon).
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Rintoo often acts before he thinks, which has landed him and his friends in hot water on several occasions.
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: The human Kai-Lan is friends with an anthropomorphic tiger, monkey, koala, and rhino.
  • A Lizard Named "Liz": Tolee's stuffed panda toy is named Pandy.
  • Magnetic Hero: Kai-Lan meets and makes friends with every single character on the show, and she solves all of their problems.
  • Naming Ceremony: "Kai-Lan's Great Trip to China" features a literal naming party which Kai-Lan and her gang must get the baby panda to in order for him to announce his name.
  • No Fourth Wall: Kai-lan (and occasionally other characters) regularly interact with the audience.
  • Once per Episode:
    • Usually one of Kai-Lan's friends suffers a negative moment and has a problem, and has to be solved.
    • The solution to the problem is told through a jingle.
    • Once someone is suffering the issue of the day, usually Kai-Lan asks the viewer to help her find out why that friend is upset, which triggers the "find out why" segment where she thinks back to what happened before the problem so she can get answers.
  • One of the Boys: Kai-Lan is a tomboy and all of her closest friends are boys. Her only female friends are Lulu and Mei Mei, who don't hang much.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Normally Tolee is polite and understanding, but in one episode, when Rintoo accidentally ripped Tolee's painting, Tolee refused to forgive him. Adds bonus points that he wouldn't forgive even though Rintoo fixed it. That is when Kai-Lan had to teach him about forgiveness so Rintoo doesn't feel bad.
  • Parental Abandonment: Never addressed in the show itself, but a regular viewer of the show might well wonder where Kai-lan's parents are. It gets extra awkward when other family members are featured, but the parents remain absent and unmentioned.
  • Parental Substitute: Ye-Ye is one to Kai-lan. Neither one of her parents is ever seen.
  • Perspective Magic: In every episode, Kai-Lan tickles the sun, even though the sun is logically too far away in the sky to touch.
  • Player Elimination: This is the central problem of "The Hula Duck Dance Party." The characters play musical chairs, but Tolee is upset because he keeps finding himself "out" because of losing the game, which means he doesn't get to play with his friends. They find a way to change the game so that everybody gets to keep playing.
  • Rage Quit: Rintoo suffers this in "Dragonboat Festival" after losing the first race to Hoho and Lulu, prompting him to quit and whack the boat to the top of a gazebo in anger. Kai-Lan had to help him calm down so he can retrieve the boat before the final race.
  • Recycled In Space: Dora the Explorer BUT CHINESE!
  • Rejected Apology: In "Playtime at Tolee's", Tolee refuses to forgive Rintoo for ruining his panda painting, even when he fixes it for him. This upsets Rintoo because Tolee forgave him for the previous mistakes he made earlier in the episode.
  • Secret Handshake: Rintoo and Kai-Lan have a secret handshake that can be seen in the theme song to the show.
  • Signing Off Catchphrase: Every episode ends with Kai-Lan telling the viewer, "You make my heart feel super happy! Zài jiàn! note " In later episodes, she says it in Chinese as well ("Ni rang wo hao kai xin!").
  • Sore Loser: In "The Dragonboat Festival", Rintoo loses the first boat race of the festival and gets extremely upset and angry about it, and kicks the boat onto the roof.
  • Spoiler Title: A double-length special is entitled "Princess Kai-Lan", which is what Kai-Lan indeed becomes in the ending.
  • Stock Animal Diet: Hoho is a monkey and loves bananas.
  • Strictly Formula: Is the case of many episodes. Kai-Lan and her friends go about their lives, then an event sets up the episode. During the event, something goes wrong and one of the friends suffers a negative influence which initiates the problem. Kai-Lan has the viewer help her find out why, and she finds out what to do via the episode's moral. Using said lesson, the friend overcomes the negative influence and solves the problem.
  • Swapped Roles:
    • In "Kai-Lan's Big Surprise", Kai-Lan and her friends plan a surprise thank you party for Ye-Ye, but when a big wind messes everything up, she gets upset and begins to cry. Thus her friends have to help her this time, when it's normally the other way around.
    • In "The Dinosaur Balloon", Kai-Lan is the one who suffers the problem of the episode, thus Rintoo takes Kai-Lan's position in the "find out why" segment.
  • Swiper, No Swiping!: In "Tolee's Turn," Rintoo won't give Tolee a turn at steering a boat. Kai-lan and Hoho tell him that everyone feels happy when they take turns, but he's still not convinced, so the viewers are asked to tell him "Give Tolee a turn."
  • Take a Third Option: How Kai-Lan resolves the Fox King and Bear Queen's feud in "Princess Kai-Lan". The Bears are bothered by the Foxes' singing, while the Bears' dancing disrupts the Foxes; Kai-Lan decides they compromise and sing and dance together once a day. This in turn leads to their kingdoms becoming the Kingdom of Friends and Kai-Lan becomes their princess and ruler.
  • Talking Animal: Most of the of the animals talk, the most obvious cases being, Hoho, Rintoo, and Tolee. The animals that didn't was the dragon in the Chinese New Year Episode and Lulu mostly makes noises (more often than not).
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Used heavily, as the show is about exploring and identifying feelings.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: In "Playtime at Tolee's", Kai-Lan and their friends cause a few mishaps during their playdate with Tolee but are quick to forgive each other. But when Rintoo accidentally rips Tolee's panda picture, he is too upset by this mishap that he does not forgive him this time, leaving Rintoo depressed.
  • Through a Face Full of Fur: The anthropomorphic animals Tolee, Lulu, and Hoho are constantly blushing.
  • Token Human: Kai-Lan is the only human in her circle of friends.
  • Tomboy: Kai-Lan is a little girl who enjoys sports, dragons, and rollerskating. Exemplified in "Lulu Day", where Kai-Lan wants to play pirates while Lulu wants to play tea parties.
  • Vacation Episode: "Kai-Lan's Trip to China" is a double-length episode that's Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: Notable in the Chinese segments. Repetition is actually a good way to learn a language.
  • Washy Watchy: In "Pandy's Puddle," Tolee sits sadly and crying at times in front of the washing machine watching Pandy get washed after accidentally dropping Pandy in a mud puddle.
  • Weird Moon: A cloud that covers only the moon in "Kai-lan's Moon Festival."
  • Wham Episode: A minor example would be "Kai-Lan's Trip to China", where she gives the baby panda her heart box and she no longer has it.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Tolee doesn't forgive Rintoo after he accidentally rips Tolee's painting and then Rintoo fixes it right after.


Video Example(s):


Tolee is Out

In "The Hula Duck Dance Party" from "Ni Hao, Kai-Lan," Kai-Lan and her friends all play a game of musical chairs. Tolee, however, gets so caught up in the music that he doesn't stop to even to try to find a chair and finds himself "out." Tolee doesn't like being out because it means he can't keep having fun playing with his friends.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / PlayerElimination

Media sources: