WordGirl is an American children's educational animated television series produced by the Soup2Nuts animation unit of Scholastic Entertainment for PBS Kids. The show began as a series of shorts entitled The Amazing Colossal Adventures of WordGirl that premiered on PBS Kids Go! on November 10, 2006, usually shown at the end of Maya & Miguel; the segment was then spun off into a new thirty-minute episodic series that premiered on September 3, 2007 on most PBS member stations. All four full-episode seasons each have twenty-six episodes, while the preceding series of shorts had thirty.
|Also known as||The Amazing Colossal Adventures of WordGirl|
|Created by||Dorothea Gillim|
|Directed by||David SanAngelo|
|Theme music composer|
|Opening theme||Word Up, It's WordGirl!|
|Ending theme||Word Up, It's WordGirl! (Instrumental)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||8|
|No. of episodes||130 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Soup2Nuts |
|Picture format||4:3 Fullscreen (SDTV) (Season 1)|
16:9 Widescreen (HDTV) (Season 2–8)
|Audio format||Dolby Digital 5.1|
|First shown in||2006|
November 10, 2006– August 7, 2015
|Related shows||Maya & Miguel|
By late 2014, most PBS stations from coast to coast had stopped airing WordGirl. New episodes appeared only on the PBS Kids website or PBS Kids video app. The series ended with the two-part episode "Rhyme and Reason", which was released online on August 7, 2015.
The show was created for children ages 4 to 9, even though it has a TV-Y7 rating in the U.S.
The show's creator, Dorothea Gillim, believes that children's shows often underestimate children's intelligence:
Part of my mission is to make kids' television smart and funny. I feel as though we’ve lost some ground there, in an effort to make it more accessible. WordGirl's focus is on great stories, characters, and animation. If all those elements are working, then you can hook a child who may come looking for laughs but leave a little smarter.
Gillim says she created the show, in part, with the idea that parents would watch the show with their children to support their learning.
Each eleven-minute segment in each episode (except for the first three episodes) begins with verbal instructions to listen for two words that will be used throughout the plot of that episode. The words (examples include “diversion,” “cumbersome,” and “idolize”) are chosen according to academic guidelines. The reasoning is that children can understand words like “cumbersome” when told that it means “big and heavy and awkward.”
PBS NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer agreed to do a mock interview with WordGirl. Jack D. Ferraiolo, who developed the series with Gillim and served as the series' head writer in Season One, received an Emmy for his work on WordGirl.
Much of the show’s cast particularly consisted of experienced voice actors and actresses, and stand-up and improvisational comedians, with Chris Parnell for instance being hired after previously working on Saturday Night Live. In addition, guest stars for the show were common, with even a minor role being voiced by someone who wasn’t a regular.
The series stars WordGirl, a girl with superpowers whose secret identity is Becky Botsford, a student. WordGirl was born on the fictional planet Lexicon (also a term referring to the vocabulary of a language or to a dictionary) but was sent away after sneaking onto a spaceship and sleeping there when she was 4. Captain Huggy Face, a monkey who was a pilot in the Lexicon Air Force, piloted the ship, but lost control when WordGirl awoke, and crash-landed on Earth (more specifically in Fair City), a planet that affords WordGirl her superpowers, including flight and super strength. WordGirl utilizes these powers to save her adoptive home, using her downed spacecraft as a secret base of operations. WordGirl and Captain Huggy Face fight crime together.
WordGirl was adopted and provided an alter ego by Tim and Sally Botsford, who gave her the name "Becky". While in her alter ego, she has a younger brother, TJ, obsessed with WordGirl, but still unknowingly a typical sibling rival to Becky. The Botsford family keeps Captain Huggy Face as a pet, naming him "Bob". Becky attends Woodview Elementary School, where she is close friends with Violet Heaslip and the school newspaper reporter Todd “Scoops” Ming.
WordGirl tries to balance her superhero activities with her "normal" life. She battles against an assortment of villains who are all prone to malapropisms. At the same time, she must worry about maintaining her second life as Becky, keeping people from discovering the truth and living normal family situations.
Often, short animated segments are shown in between and at the end of episodes. "What's Your Favorite Word?", ostensibly hosted by Todd "Scoops" Ming, is a series of vox populi interviews asking random children what their favorite words are and why. A short game show segment called "May I Have a Word?" airs following each eleven-minute segment. This segment features the game show host, Beau Handsome, asking three contestants the definition of a particular word. The segment was created by Kelly Miyahara, Barry Sonnenfeld, and Ryan Raddatz. Yet another segment features the interstitials announcer (Rodger Parsons) asking Captain Huggy Face for a visual demonstration of a certain word (such as "pensive" or "flummoxed"). When Captain Huggy Face correctly demonstrates the meaning of the word, a definition is given, followed by a victory dance by the chimp sidekick.
During the four-part episode, "The Rise of Miss Power", a four-segment "Pretty Princess Power Hour" sketch is shown between acts, filling in for the average two-segment "May I Have a Word?" sketch, presumably to fill the double-length (52 minutes) time slot.
The companion site to WordGirl lives on PBS Kids, and was built by interactive firm Big Bad Tomato. It contains vocabulary-building games, a section where children can submit their favorite word, a video page with clips from the show (only available in the U.S. due to legal reasons), a "Heroes and Villains" section with character biographies and activities, and a PBS Parents section with episode guides, lessons, a site map, and more activities to play at home.
|Dannah Phirman||Becky Botsford/Wordgirl, Claire McAlester, Chuck's Mom, Edith Von Hoosinghaus, Female Police Officers, Pretty Princess|
|James Adomian||Bob/Captain Huggy Face, Hal Hardbargain, Candlestick Maker, Timmy-Tim Bo, Raul Demiglasse, Hunter Throbheart|
|Chris Parnell||Narrator, Henchmen #1, Museum Security Guard, Exposition Guy, David Driscoll, Mazo-Racer Driver|
|Ryan Raddatz||Todd 'Scoops' Ming, Tim Botsford|
|Maria Bamford||Violet Heaslip, Sally Botsford, Leslie, Energy Monster|
|Tom Kenny||Dr. Two Brains, TJ Botsford, Brent the Handsome Successful Everyone Loves Him Sandwich Making Guy, Warden Chalmers, Steve McClean, Razzmatazz, Beau Handsome(Tell Her What She's Won/Victoria is the Best...Wordgirl?)|
|Fred Stoller||Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy|
|Jack D. Ferraiolo||The Butcher|
|Patton Oswalt||Tobey McCallister III, Robots, Zachary Zany(Royally Framed/Wordgirl vs. Tobey vs. The Dentist)|
|Cree Summer||Granny May|
|Jeffrey Tambor||Mr. Big, Mr. Birg|
|Grey DeLisle||Beatrice Bixby/Lady Redundant Woman, Ms. Question, Mrs. Ripley|
|John C. McGinley||The Whammer|
|Pamela Adlon||Eileen/The Birthday Girl|
|Daran Norris||Seymour Orlando Smooth, Nocan the Contrarian|
|Kristen Schaal||Victoria Best, Mrs. Best|
|H. Jon Benjamin||Invisi-Bill, Reginald the Jewelry Store Clerk, Museum Curator|
|Larry Murphy||Amazing Rope Guy, Reporter Stu Brisket, Mr. Best, Dave, Principal, Male Bank Teller, Reporter Anthony, Officer Jim|
|Mike O' Conell||Bill the Grocery Store Manager, Used Car Salesman, Joe the Guard, Big Left Hand Guy|
|Danielle Schneider||Reporter Loretta-Sanchez Johnson|
|Ron Lynch||The Mayor|
|Jen Cohn||Ms. Champlain, Rich Old Lady, Female Bank Tellers|
|Amy Sedaris||Miss Davis, Rhyme|
|May I Have a Word Cast||Characters|
|Ryan Raddatz||Beau Handsome|
|Jane Lynch||Miss Power|
|Ed Asner||Kid Potato|
|"Weird Al" Yankovic||The Learnerer|
|John Henson||Captain Tangent|
|Brian Stack||Captain Tangent (The Penny, the Pony, and the Pirate), World Record Judge|
|Ned Bellamy||The Coach|
|Brian Posehn||Glen Furlblam|
|Matt Besser||Zachary Zany|
|Chris Williams||Judge (Tobey Goes Good)|
|Josh Fadem||Victor Best|
|Elliott Gould||The Masked Meat Marauder|
|Amanda Plummer||Lady Redundant Woman(Lady Redundant Woman/A Game of Cat and Mouse)|
|James C. Mathis III||Tiny Big|
|James Urbaniak||Nick Michols|
|Tim Conway||Bampy Botsford|
|Ellie Kemper||Rose Franklin|
|William Mapother||Guy Rich|
|Jack McBrayer||Rex/Kid Math|
|Stephen Root||Professor Robert Tubing|
|Kevin McDonald||The Baker, Magic Pony, Judge (Vocab Bee)|
|Robin Reed||Ms. Libri|
|Brian Doyle-Murray||Police Officer(Earth Day Girl/A Hero, a Thief, a Store, and its Owner)|
|A.D. Miles||Auctioneer, Police Commisioner (Swap Meat)|
|Wayne Knight||Police Commissioner(The Wrong Side of the Law)|
|Rose Abdoo||Great Granny May|
|Judy Greer||Mrs. Dewey|
|Jim Gaffigan||Mr. Dudley|
|Al Roker||Sonny Days|
|Nick Kroll||Reuben Grinder|
|Jill Talley||The Babysitter|
|Alfred Molina||Patrick Needlemeyer|
|Peter Graves||Mr. Callihan|
|Sergio Cilli||Royal Dandy(Wishful Thinking/Lady Redundant Woman Gets the Blues)|
|Paul F. Tompkins||Royal Dandy(Royally Framed/Wordgirl vs. Tobey vs. The Dentist), Flash Clocktormocktor|
|Carl Reiner||Blue Blazer|
|First aired||Last aired|
|Shorts||30||November 10, 2006||c. 2007|
|1||26||September 3, 2007||January 2, 2009|
|2||February 4, 2009||July 20, 2010|
|3||13||September 7, 2010||July 8, 2011|
|4||September 5, 2011||June 11, 2012|
|5||September 10, 2012||June 14, 2013|
|6||August 5, 2013||September 26, 2014|
|7||August 4, 2014||June 10, 2015|
|8||August 7, 2015||October 8, 2015|
Common Sense Media rated the show four out of five stars, and graded the show as one for ages 5 and up. Emily Ashby, who reviewed the show for Common Sense Media, stated in her review, "There's a little bit of cartoon violence, but that pales in comparison to the fact that kid viewers will unknowingly expand their literary repertoire while enjoying the empowered young super heroine's adventures."
The show has received seven Daytime Emmy nominations, winning four for "Outstanding Writing in Animation" in 2008, 2012-2013 and Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program in 2015.
- 2008 Television Critics Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming, awarded July 19
- 2008 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Writing in Animation
- Learning Magazine 2009 Teacher's Choice Award for Families
- 2009 iParenting Media Award
- Featured at the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival 2009
- NY Festivals' 2009 TV Programming and Promotions award
- 2012 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Writing in Animation
- 2013 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Writing in Animation
- 2015: Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program
- WordGirl (August 6, 2015). "Facebook post". Facebook. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
- PBS Kids (August 8, 2015). "WORDGIRL | Rhyme and Reason, Part 1/Rhyme and Reason, Part 2 | PBS KIDS - YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
- Jensen, Elizabeth. The New York Times, September 2, 2007, "A New Heroine’s Fighting Words".
- Jensen, Elizabeth (2007-09-02). "A New Heroine's Fighting Words". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-23.
- Bynum, Aaron H. (2007-06-18). "'The Adventures of WordGirl' Animation Emerges on PBS Kids". Animation Insider. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
- Spero, Johannah (2008-06-18). "Local man lands Emmy for 'WordGirl'". Wicked Local Newburyport/The Newburyport Current. GateHouse Media, Inc. Retrieved 2008-06-23.
- Volume ? Coalition of Malice
- Volume ? The Incredible Shrinking Allowance
- Volume ? Word Up
- Volume 4 Fashion Disaster
- 21 July 2008 press release