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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.
  • Tolee, a koala with an unhealthy obsession with pandas.
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  • 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.


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.
  • Absentee Actor: Lulu was absent from "Wait, Hoho, Wait!", "Kai-Lan's Campout" and "Safari Pals".
  • 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.
  • An Aesop: Every episode has morals.
  • 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 never to hit anyone and vocalize his frustrations. The problem is that Hoho was standing between two friends a moment ago yelling - not saying, yelling - "I CAN'T GET ANY OF THE THINGS I WANT! I JUST WANTED THE YELLOW PAINT!" and Kai-Lan and Rintoo just stood there ignoring him. The episode's Use Your Words moral seems stupid in light of this, as does Rintoo saying he had no idea Hoho was even mad even though the monkey stood two feet from him and jumped up and down yelling about his anger.
    • It's symptomatic of the show's use of That Makes Me Feel Angry. The characters often show in words or actions exactly why they're frustrated or upset. Yet viewers are still told that "We gotta, gotta try to find the reason why," even though anyone with even the most basic empathy should have already figured it out.
  • 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.
  • Cry Cute: The characters (except Lulu) does this in some episodes.
  • 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).
  • "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.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Dinosaurs are Kai-Lan's favorite animal, so they appear every once in a while. 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.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Hoho is a monkey and one of the main characters.
  • 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. 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 the 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.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Rintoo often acts before he thinks, which has landed him and his friends in hot water on several occasions.
  • Licensed Game: One was made for the Leapster, titled Ni Hao, Kai-Lan: Beach Day.
  • 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.
  • No Fourth Wall: Kai-lan (and occasionally other characters) regularly interact with the audience.
  • Off-Model: The animation in the first episode, "Dragon Boat Festival", is noticeably less stable than in later episodes.
  • Once an 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.
  • 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.
  • Panda-ing to the Audience: Tolee (a koala) is obsessed with panda-themed accessories.
  • 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.
  • Reality Ensues: In the forgiveness episode, since his painting was torn, Tolee still remains upset, as an apology (or fixing the object) doesn't change or get rid of that it happened.
  • 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 boat race and gets extremely upset and angry about it, and kicks the boat onto the roof.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Dora the Explorer. Little ethnic girl and her monkey sidekick teach kids a foreign language while hanging out with other animals.
  • Static Character: Out of all the characters, Kai-Lan changes the least throughout the show. Because she's got it all together, she doesn't get angry or upset as often as her friends and almost never has to learn the daily lesson.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


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