“Bluey,” an animated series about a playful family of Australian cattle dogs, has become Disney’s first hit kids show of the streaming-TV era.
The program, which began airing on the Disney Junior cable channel and the Disney+ streaming service in 2019, surged in popularity last month when the third season came out. “Bluey” briefly passed longtime kids streaming leader “CoComelon,” which airs on Netflix, generating more than 900 million minutes of viewing the week of Aug. 8 alone, according to Nielsen data.
The show has grown so popular, Disney will release later this year an episode, unedited, that it banned because of jokes about flatulence. The company had to give audiences a chance to acclimate to the “Bluey” characters and the show’s sense of humor before putting it on its channels.
A kids hit is a financial feast – for the studios that make them, the networks that carry them and companies that sell plush toys and other knickknacks. Licensed merchandise sales of all kinds hit a record $316 billion globally last year, with entertainment characters being the largest piece. With “Bluey,” the BBC controls the merchandise rights, while Disney gets a royalty. The show led to a 9% increase in the BBC’s consumer-product sales last year. Moose Toys, an Australian company, is the main toy licensee.
“The franchise is hitting all of these categories in the toy department,” said James Zahn, senior editor of the Toy Insider, which offers industry news and reviews. “That’s when you know it’s a true hit.”
“Bluey” is produced by Ludo Studio, an Australian company that got initial funding for the show from the BBC, local governments and the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Disney acquired the rights to air the program in all but a few countries, most notably Australia and New Zealand, edging out other media companies. In Britain, “Bluey” appears on Disney+ and later on some BBC outlets.
The show has struck a chord with viewers. The episodes, just a few minutes in length, show the dog parents and pups playing games and being silly. “It’s good for kids, but it’s also very funny for adults,” said Mariel Monteagudo, an actress from Staten Island who watches the show with her 8-year-old son.
In the first episode, Bluey and her sister, Bingo, play a trick on their dad that leaves him frozen with a garden hose spraying him in the face. Another episode portrays the parents as hung over from a night of partying. The show is so cheeky Disney and the BBC have prompted a fan uproar for sometimes censoring the content.
Disney has been promoting “Bluey” in short clips on YouTube and has run marathon sessions on its cable networks. The company has also been scheduling “Bluey” in the afternoon and nights, so older kids and families can watch.
Joe Brumm, the animator who created “Bluey,” said he wanted to make an Australian version of “Peppa Pig,” the British cartoon. Its parent company, Entertainment One, was sold to toymaker Hasbro for $4 billion in 2019. Brumm modeled the dog family after his children, adopting what he calls a “grounded yet wild tone.” He said he’s a little surprised by the success of the series, “though it’s testament to the fact that kids are pretty similar the world over.”
In Australia, where young children now go to bed with “Bluey” stuffed animals, the program is the No. 2 behind “Paw Patrol” in the preschool toy category, according to market researcher NPD. In the United States, it ranks fifth. An album of music from the show was the first kids record to hit No. 1 in Australia last year.
Normally a hit program at Disney would lead to merchandise being sold at its theme parks, website and stores, but the company hasn’t given “Bluey” that extensive a push in those outlets. That may be because Disney doesn’t own the brand, notes Zahn, the Toy Insider editor.
The BBC has announced a big licensing push this year, however. The dogs have been popping up on holiday toy shopping lists from Walmart, Target and Amazon. Items include a $90 “Bluey” playhouse from Moose Toys and a $20 Hasbro Monopoly Junior game. Odette Welling, vice president for merchandising at retailer Party City, expects a new line of “Bluey” Halloween costumes to sell out. “It’s been a breakout hit for us,” she said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter
Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.