The Tao of ‘Bluey’: The Magic of the Show That Captivates Both Kids And Parents

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“Bluey” on Disney+ is the most streamed kids show in the US. But it’s not just kids that are watching.

Popular Disney+ character Bluey with her family
The "Bluey" family (Chris Smith/TheWrap)

The second most popular TV show in all of streaming for 2023 wasn’t a blockbuster Netflix series or a quirky sitcom or even a long-running procedural. It was a cartoon about a blue dog with an Australian accent who delights in playing with her sister, mother and father.

“Bluey”, which airs in 160 countries, is a global phenomenon that American viewers spent 43.9 billion minutes streaming on Disney+ in 2023, according to Nielsen’s streaming ratings — eclipsed only by “Suits” with 57.7 billion. That’s all the more impressive given that “Bluey” is doled out in seven-minute episodes. Roughly 1,160 hours of “Bluey” exist now compared to more than 8,000 hours of “Suits.”

The episodes, which are also screened in the U.S. on Disney Jr. and Disney Channel, are so short that when a 28-minute special titled “The Sign” aired in April, it was given the fanfare of a blockbuster movie premiere — and now an actual “Bluey” movie could be on the horizon, an individual with knowledge of the discussions told TheWrap.

“Bluey” isn’t some mindless kids show that parents begrudgingly play over and over to assuage their children’s begging (looking at you, “Cocomelon”). The show is a gentle, silly, Peabody award-winning program that’s adored by kids and parents alike. If “Shrek” was groundbreaking in the way it infused naughty jokes that would fly over kids’ heads and delight parents, “Bluey” is the compassionate flip side of that coin. It’s full of subtle messages about the anxieties of parenting, the complex relationship between parents and kids and it even tackles subjects like infertility in ways that regularly reduce parents to a blubbering mess.

As Disney is set to roll out seven “Bluey” minisodes —  20 one-to three-minute shorts — this summer, Disney is pushing the show’s Australian creators to consider a feature-length movie. The House of Mouse is also exploring whether the brand can expand into theme parks and further TV seasons. The brand’s value has rocketed, with estimates now at around $2 billion, according to Richard Haigh, managing director of Brand Finance, who told Bloomberg it could be as valuable as “Peppa Pig” whose parent company, Entertainment One, sold to Hasbro in 2019 for $4 billion.

Insiders say “Bluey” producers are already in huge creative demand and a movie would mean a likely hiatus from the popular cartoon — especially since creator Joe Brumm writes every episode himself.

Ostensibly made for preschoolers, “Bluey” follows the playful antics of a family of blue heeler dogs (Australian cattle dogs): The inexhaustible six-year-old Bluey, her curious and sensitive four-year-old sister Bingo, and her parents, the fun-loving dad Bandit and warm-hearted mom Chilli.

Marc de Rosnay, a professor of child development at the University of Wollongong, told TheWrap that the show “expresses something and demands something of the viewer that 1,000 developmental psychology or parenting books would struggle to do as well.” Rosnay added that if a couple asked him for parenting advice, he would tell them to watch “Bluey.”

Brumm’s philosophy for the show is to reflect a six-year-old’s imagination and emotional growth through play without over-moralizing — and where parents create a safe and empathic environment where learning and overcoming problems is genuine and compassionate. “Kids love it because it’s silly and it reminds them of themselves — whereas I think it makes parents get emotional because having kids is emotional and it’s just a mirror to you,” Brumm said in a 2023 interview. “You’re not crying because of Bandit’s love for his kid, you’re crying because of how much you love your kid and he just reminds you of that.”

That secret recipe has made it one of the most valuable properties on the planet.

A screenshot from animated kids show "Bluey" showing kids Bluey and Bingo hugging their mom Chilli
Bluey and Bingo hugging their mom Chilli (Ludo Studio)

The show, which is produced by Ludo Studio in Brisbane, flows almost exclusively from the mind of Brumm, who writes, produces and directs all the episodes, which total 145 and counting, not including the upcoming minisodes.

Brumm spent 10 years in the U.K. as an animator on shows such as CBeebies’ “Charlie and Lola” before he and his British wife Suzy moved back to Australia to create an answer to “Peppa Pig.” Brumm grew up in Brisbane around blue heelers, One was called Bluey whom he described as a “wild” pet that gave other canines hell. He and Suzy had two girls, which became the inspiration for the “Bluey” pilot.

“Bluey” premiered in 2018 and was originally a huge hit in its home country, Australia, where it broke viewing records on ABC. It also plays to massive audiences in the U.K. on the BBC — its commercial arm BBC Studios controls the lucrative global distribution and licensing and merchandising rights.

Disney had explored a buyout of the brand, according to Bloomberg, to acquire the rights from BBC Studios. Disney did not comment on this to TheWrap.

There is “Bluey” merchandise, a stage show, books, upcoming games, multiple Facebook pages — including one just for dads — and podcasts. Bluey has also featured as a balloon in the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving parade.

A ratings juggernaut

American viewers have spent 32.82 billion minutes streaming “Bluey” on Disney+ since Sept. 25, 2023, according to Nielsen’s streaming ratings. That’s about 2.4 billion more minutes than viewing of Super Bowl LVIII — the most watched single telecast in American TV history on CBS in February. 

“Bluey” engagement in 2023 doubled its viewing time from 2022 to 43.9 billion viewing minutes, enough for it to overtake YouTube’s “Cocomelon,” which was viewed for 36.3 billion minutes last year and was the top program for kids in 2021 and 2022, according to Nielsen. (“Cocomelon” features animation videos of babies and toddlers with traditional nursery rhymes and their own songs.)

“Bluey”’s 28-minute episode “The Sign,” which aired on April 14, was one of the most discussed and anticipated episodes of a preschool series of all time, gathering more than 10.4 million views worldwide during the week after it was released — the biggest for a Disney Junior title ever. The episode explores the family’s feelings as they prepare to leave their home to move to another city. It incorporates a simple version of Taoist philosophy, an ancient Chinese belief system based on trying to exist in harmony with the universe.

Bluey’s Australian production company Ludo, which also produces live-action drama, made Time Magazine’s Most Influential Companies of 2024, along with Amazon, Google and TikTok. An Adult Bluey Fans group on Facebook has more than half a million members, and a Bluey podcast made by two fan moms has 1.6 million downloads.

Even Ryan Reynolds’ company Maximum Effect created a Zillow ad based on the “Bluey” episode “The Sign” about selling your home. Dan Brumm, the voice of Uncle Stripe on the show, narrates the spot.

Not just for kids

bluey-episode
Bluey and sister Bingo with their fun-loving dad Bandit (Ludo Studio)

“Bluey” has even charmed the critics. The New York Times called “Sleepytime” — an episode which has reduced many parents (including this writer) to tears — one of the best TV episodes of 2020. “In just seven minutes, this ‘Bluey’ segment captures the gorgeous vastness of childhood imagination, a dreamy outer-space ballet” and “the ineffable grief within the mortality of parenthood,” the Times wrote. The Guardian called it “the best television show in the world.” Even Rolling Stone included “Bluey” on its list of the Top 100 Sitcoms of All Time.

“There’s this beautiful lightness to ‘Bluey’ that I think that a lot of people need nowadays,” Aria Gastón-Panthaki, research coordinator for children’s development at Harvard University, told TheWrap.

It’s the family interactions and free play that form the bedrock of “Bluey” episodes, said Meryl Alper, an associate professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern University.

“Much of the magic of ‘Bluey’ is due to how it invites co-viewing with its jokes that operate on both kid and adult levels. It talks down to neither kids or parents,” Alper said. “It creates a space for parents and kids to make magic together; that is, to discuss, joke, play about, and repeat what they have seen and heard.”

 A clip from one of the upcoming “Bluey” minisodes “Burger Dog” (Credit: Ludo Studios)

She added that “what makes good educational TV ‘educational’ isn’t just about the time spent watching it, but what happens with that material afterwards.”

Many adults cry viewing the episode “Sleepytime,” where Bingo has trouble sleeping and ends up traveling through the solar system — to the soundtrack of Gustav Holst’s “Jupiter,” “Venus” and “Saturn” — before approaching the sun, where her mother’s voice could be heard saying, “Remember, I’ll always be here for you, even if you can’t see me, because I love you.”

The episode “does a masterful job at reflecting on an ephemeral moment in the relationship between parents and children,” Alper explained. “Parenting is hard, but the joys are unlike any other joy. Amidst all of the movement and noise, gentle stillness (like morning and nighttime snuggles) is fleeting.”

The Australian show also resonates with children and parents “because it portrays how fun and meaningful young childhood can be,” Molly Scott, the associate director of the Active Playful Learning project and a research scientist at Temple University, told TheWrap.

“We see Bluey and Bingo playing in practically every episode, meaning, we are also watching them learning about life in every episode,” she said.

The show encourages creativity in the way it depicts the Heeler family playing with household objects instead of fancy toys. “Children are encouraged to use their imagination, creativity skills, and critical thinking ability when their play materials are simple and their brain does a majority of the ‘work’ in their play,” Scott said, adding that “Bluey”makes her cry even though she’s not a mother. The show’s writing illustrates “what it means to be a big human around little humans.”

Bandit and Chilli recognize how precious and fleeting Bluey and Bingo’s childhoods are. In “Rug Island,” Bingo and Bluey let Bandit live on an imaginary tropical island and when he finally leaves the island, Bingo offers him a gift. When Chilli asks, “What did she give you?” Bandit answers, “Everything.”

“That makes me tear up every time,” Scott said. “His daughter gave him everything and I think most adults find that sentiment touching.”

Stars love “Bluey” too

Animated character Bluey wish his sister Bingo and a friend wearing flower headbands
“The Sign” has been watched more than 10 million times since its April 14 debut. (Ludo Studio)

The show isn’t short of well-known guest star cameos, including Joel Edgerton, who plays a German shepherd police dog; Natalie Portman, a nature show narrator; Lin-Manuel Miranda, who played a talking horse called Major Tom; and Eva Mendes, a yoga instructor.

Actress Rose Byrne plays Chilli’s sister Brandy, who has fertility problems.

“It’s such a gentle but effective show,” Byrne told Drew Barrymore. “And it’s a great example of good parenting weirdly, but not to the point of hitting you over the head.”

Byrne added that another element makes the series special is composer Joff Bush’s music. “The music is very emotional and very dramatic,” she said. “It’s not music you would necessarily associate with a children’s cartoon… I played Chilli’s sister Brandy and my episode is about a woman who can’t have kids, but it’s told through the eyes of the kids.”

Byrne added that she’s cried “many times” watching the show, noting that “it does, to a point, sort of transcend age for that childhood gap before they hit teenagers.”

Bluey
The “Bluey’ family (Ludo Studio)

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