Created byVivian Horner[2]
Directed by
  • Michael Bernhaut
  • James Colistro
  • Andrea Cvriko
  • Andrew Ferguson
  • Julian G. Lopez
  • Robert Ripp
  • Philip Squyres
  • Franci Anderson
  • Caroline Cox Loveheart
  • George James
  • Dale Engle
  • Arline Miyazaki
  • Betty Rozek
  • Lindanell Rivera
Voices of
Opening theme"Welcome to Pinwheel House" (1977–1979)
"Pinwheel Theme"
Ending theme"Goodbye from Pinwheel House" (1977–1979)
"Pinwheel Theme"
ComposerGeorge James
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes260
Executive producersVivian Horner
Lois Fortune
ProducerSandy Kavanaugh[3]
Production locationsColumbus, Ohio (1977–79)
New York City (1979–84)
Running time60 minutes
Production companiesWarner-Amex Satellite Entertainment
QUBE (1977–79)
Original release
ReleaseDecember 1, 1977 (1977-12-01) –
1984 (1984)
Eureeka's Castle

Pinwheel is an American children's television series that was the first show to air on the then-rebranded Nickelodeon, as well as the first to appear on its Nick Jr. block along reruns until 1990. The show was aimed at preschoolers aged 3–5.[1] It was created by Vivian Horner,[2] an educator who spent her earlier career at the Children's Television Workshop, the company behind PBS's Sesame Street.[4] The show was geared to the "short attention span of preschoolers,"[1] with each episode divided into short, self-contained segments including songs, skits, and animations from all over the world.

The series is set in a boarding house called Pinwheel House, which is powered by a pinwheel on the roof. The house's residents are a mix of live-action humans and puppets. Most of the show's songs are set to music in the style of a wind-up music box.

Pinwheel premiered on December 1, 1977, on Channel C-3 of QUBE's local cable system in Columbus, Ohio. In April 1979, Channel C-3 expanded into a national television network, now rebranded Nickelodeon. Pinwheel continued to air on the network until 1990, and exclusively during the then-new Nick Jr. block starting in 1988. It was gradually phased out in favor of another preschool series, Eureeka's Castle.[5] The Los Angeles Times called Eureeka's Castle a successor series to Pinwheel.[6]


Pinwheel was created by Vivian Horner and produced by Sandy Kavanaugh, two educators who had previously worked at the Children's Television Workshop. The show was created for QUBE, a local cable system tested in Columbus, Ohio. QUBE's developers wanted to offer a series for preschoolers, so they hired Horner and Kavanaugh based on their previous experience in preschool television. Starting in December 1, 1977, Pinwheel was shown on Channel C-3, one of the experimental channels offered to QUBE subscribers. The channel was cited as "the world's first TV channel geared strictly to preschoolers."[7]

In 1979, Pinwheel was expanded into a national network rebranded Nickelodeon (now part of Paramount). Pinwheel was reformatted as a series of hour-long episodes shown in three- to five-hour blocks, a format which eventually became the model for Nickelodeon's Nick Jr. block.[8] There were a total of 260 Pinwheel episodes recorded from 1977 to 1984.[9] For international distribution, Nickelodeon edited Pinwheel into a package of half-hour episodes. It aired in Canada on Superchannel[10] (from 1983 to 1988) and TVOntario (from 1990 to 1993). The series was also broadcast in the UK whereas it aired on the defunct children's cable and satellite television network The Children's Channel from 1985-1987[11] and was even shown in a few Eurasian countries, including Channel 5 in Singapore, TV1 and TV2 in Malaysia and ATV World in Hong Kong as part of their afternoon children's programming block Tube Time.

On January 4, 1988, Nickelodeon introduced the Nick Jr. block, a weekday morning block for preschoolers, to its schedule. Pinwheel was the first series that aired as part of the block.[12] Pinwheel continued to air as a staple of Nick Jr. until July 6, 1990, when the show aired its last rerun.[13] Another puppet series for preschoolers, Eureeka's Castle, was made to replace it.[5] In an article titled "Nickelodeon's New Lineup for Preschoolers," the Los Angeles Times called Eureeka's Castle the successor to Pinwheel.[6]


The show takes place in and around a large Victorian-style boarding house called Pinwheel House, which is powered by a pinwheel on one of the peaks. Live action casting interact with puppets, discussing several concepts familiar to children's programming like sharing, being considerate, the environment, and colors. All of the characters live and work in the various areas in and around the house. The Ohio episodes relied heavily on songs mostly performed by Jake. A package of children's shorts from Coe Film Associates were shown as inserts between the show's usual puppet/human segments.[14]

Pinwheel underwent several changes when it moved to national television in 1979. Taping of Pinwheel moved to Matrix Studios in New York City, where the set was rebuilt. Arline Miyazaki, Betty Rozek, and Dale Engel joined the cast as Kim, Sal, and Smitty. Craig Marin and Olga Felgemacher created new puppet characters. Coe Film Associates' collection of short films were also used as inserts for other early Nickelodeon shows, including Hocus Focus and By the Way.



The characters are ordered per the first season credits, with later cast members added to the end.


List of shorts

Nickelodeon secured the rights to a number of international short segments (usually acquired from Coe Film Associates), including those that were already written in English, such as the Franco-British children's show The Magic Roundabout. Pinwheel became a showcase for these acquisitions and featured a wide variety of both animated and stop-motion animation shorts or cartoons from each different country such as Europe.


The New York Times wrote that Pinwheel had "attracted praise from critics,"[16] and The Chicago Tribune called the show a "highly acclaimed Nickelodeon cable series for preschoolers."[17] Writing for The New York Times in 1982, Alexis Greene commended Pinwheel for catering specifically to preschoolers and called the show "a colorful, well-written mix of songs and skits, puppets and 'real people.'"[18]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Two-Way Cable-TV Makes Debut, Introduced by Warner Division" (PDF). Direct Marketing. December 1977. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 21, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Marks, Jill (1983). "Warner Communications". Cable Television Business. Vol. 20. Cardiff Publishing Company. Nickelodeon was the brainchild of Dr. Vivian Horner of WACCI, who created 'Pinwheel' for pre-schoolers while at the MSO's Qube system in Columbus, Ohio.
  3. ^ Denisoff 1988, pp. 9–10.
  4. ^ Patrick R. Parsons (5 April 2008). Blue Skies: A History of Cable Television. Temple University Press. p. 391. ISBN 978-1-59213-706-0.
  5. ^ a b Granville, Kari (28 August 1989). "Nickelodeon Flexing Muscles". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ a b Heffley, Lynne (September 4, 1989). "TV REVIEW: Nickelodeon's New Lineup for Preschoolers". Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ Preston, Marilynn (December 6, 1977). "Qube -- the TV system that brings the viewer into the picture". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 12, 2020.
  8. ^ Hendershot 2004, p. 28.
  9. ^ Blog, Classic Nickelodeon Fan (2014-07-23). "The Classic Nickelodeon Fan Blog: Interview with George James". The Classic Nickelodeon Fan Blog. Retrieved 2019-02-03.
  10. ^ "Cable TV, Tuesday: Channel 24, Superchannel". Times Colonist. April 16, 1987.
  11. ^ "Search".
  12. ^ "TV Watch: Monday, January 4, 1988". Reno Gazette-Journal. January 4, 1988.
  13. ^ "Friday, July 6, 1990 - Television Highlights". The Courier-Journal. July 6, 1990.
  14. ^ "Pinwheel C-3 (page 9)". On QUBE. May 1978.
  15. ^ a b c "My mother told me my favorite..." TV Guide. November 10, 2005.
  16. ^ Kerr, Peter (November 20, 1983). "Cable TV Notes; Is Children's Fare Paying Its Way?". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Stevens, Mary (June 24, 1988). "Time to Stock Up on Bargain-Priced Favorite Videotapes". The Chicago Tribune.
  18. ^ Greene, Alexis (April 25, 1982). "What Cable Offers Children". The New York Times.

Works cited