|Created by||Vivian Horner|
|Opening theme||"Welcome to Pinwheel House" (1977-1979)|
|Ending theme||"Goodbye from Pinwheel House" (1977-1979)|
"Pinwheel Theme" (and since 1979, it's followed by an instrumental arrangement)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||260|
|Executive producers||Vivian Horner |
|Production locations||Columbus, Ohio (1977–79)|
New York City (1979–84)
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Production company||Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment|
|Original release||December 1, 1977 –|
|Followed by||Eureeka's Castle|
Pinwheel is an American children's television show and the first to air on Nickelodeon, as well as the first to appear on Nickelodeon's Nick Jr. block. The show was aimed at preschoolers aged 2–5. It was created by Vivian Horner, an educator who spent her earlier career at the Children's Television Workshop, the company behind Sesame Street. The show was geared to the "short attention span of preschoolers," with each episode divided into short, self-contained segments including songs, skits, and animations.
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 called Nickelodeon. Pinwheel continued to air on the network until 1990. From 1988 to 1990, Pinwheel was aired exclusively during the then-new Nick Jr. block. It was gradually phased out in favor of another preschool series, Eureeka's Castle. The Los Angeles Times called Eureeka's Castle a successor series to Pinwheel.
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. Beginning on 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."
In 1979, Channel C-3 was expanded into a national network called Nickelodeon. 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. There were a total of 260 Pinwheel episodes recorded from 1977 to 1984. For international distribution, Nickelodeon edited Pinwheel into a package of half-hour episodes. It aired in Canada on Superchannel (from 1983 to 1988) and TVOntario (from 1990 to 1993). In the UK, Pinwheel was aired on Channel 4 and later on The Children's Channel.
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. To promote Pinwheel on the block, Nickelodeon ran a series of commercials where the Nick Jr. logo took the shape of two pinwheels. Pinwheel continued to air as a staple of Nick Jr. until July 6, 1990, when the show aired its final rerun. Another puppet series for preschoolers, Eureeka's Castle, was made to replace it. In an article titled "Nickelodeon's New Lineup for Preschoolers," the Los Angeles Times called Eureeka's Castle the successor to Pinwheel.
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 actors interact with puppets, discussing various 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.
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. Nickelodeon acquired a package of children's shorts from Coe Film Associates, which were shown as inserts between the show's usual puppet/human segments. These 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.
The New York Times wrote that Pinwheel had "attracted praise from critics," and The Chicago Tribune called the show a "highly acclaimed Nickelodeon cable series for preschoolers." 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.'"
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.