WordGirl
Title card
Also known asThe Amazing Colossal Adventures of WordGirl
Created byDorothea Gillim
Developed by
  • Dorothea Gillim
  • Jack D. Ferraiolo
Directed byDavid SanAngelo
Steve Young
Voices of
Narrated by
Theme music composer
  • Steve D'Angelo
  • Terry Tompkins
Opening themeWord Up, It's WordGirl!
Ending themeWord Up, It's WordGirl! (Instrumental)
ComposerEggplant Productions Inc.
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons8
No. of episodes130 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
  • Dorothea Gillim (2007–09/Seasons 1–2)
  • Deborah Forte (2009–15/Seasons 2–8)
Producers
  • Will Shepard (2007–09/Season 1)
  • Danielle Gillis (2009–15/Seasons 2–8)
Running time30 minutes
Production companiesSoup2Nuts
Scholastic Entertainment
DistributorPBS Distribution (United States)
Scholastic Entertainment (worldwide)
Release
Original network
Picture formatNTSC (Season 1)
HDTV 1080i (Seasons 2–8)
Original release
  • Shorts: November 10, 2006 (2006-11-10) – Early 2007
  • Full series: September 3, 2007 (2007-09-03) – August 7, 2015 (2015-08-07)
Chronology
Related showsMaya & Miguel
External links
Website
Production website

WordGirl (stylized as W✪RD GIRL) is an American children’s flash-animated superhero television series produced by the Soup2Nuts animation unit of Scholastic Entertainment for PBS Kids.[1] 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.

By December 2014, many PBS stations from coast to coast had stopped airing WordGirl on TV.[citation needed] Newer episodes could only be watched on the PBS Kids website or PBS Kids video app for computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets. However, when the national PBS Kids 24/7 channel was introduced, the previously web-exclusive episodes were added to rotation.[2] The series ended[3] with the two-part episode "Rhyme and Reason", which was released online on August 7, 2015.[4]

The show was created for children ages 4 to 9.[5]

Background

WordGirl began in 2006 as a series of shorts airing within Maya & Miguel, becoming an independent show in September 2007.[5]

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.[6][7]

Gillim says she created the show, in part, with the idea that parents would watch the show with their children to support their learning.[5]

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.”[6]

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.[8]

Rather than hiring writers experienced with children's television, the show's original writers' previous credits included The Onion and Family Guy. Narrator Chris Parnell had previously worked on Saturday Night Live.[5]

Synopsis

The series stars WordGirl, a girl with superpowers whose secret identity is Becky Botsford, 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. Captain Huggy Face, a chimpanzee 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 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 that include but are not limited to The Butcher, Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy, Dr. Two-Brains, Granny May, Mr. Big, Tobey McCalister III, and Whammer. The villains 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.

Format

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?" (stylized as MAYIHAVEAWORD in the text bubble on Beau Handsome's wall) 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.

Companion website

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 US 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. As of August 2021, the website is still active.

Voice cast

Cast
Dannah Phirman Becky Botsford/WordGirl, Claire McCallister, Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy's Mother, Edith Von Hoosinghaus, Pretty Princess (season 1-8), Female Police Officers
Chris Parnell The Narrator, Unnamed Dr. Two-Brains Henchman, Exposition Guy, Sergeant Henderson, Museum Guard
Tom Kenny Dr. Two-Brains, TJ Botsford, Warden Chalmers, Brent the Handsome Successful Everyone-Love-Him Sandwich Making Guy, Steve McClean, Razzmatazzm, Beau Handsome (in "Tell Her What She's Won")
Cree Summer Granny May
Patton Oswalt Tobey McCalister III, Checkmate 3000, Chronos, Tobeybot 9000, Robo-Tobey
Fred Stoller Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy
Jack D. Ferraiolo The Butcher, The General
Pamela Adlon Eileen/The Birthday Girl
Maria Bamford Violet, Sally Botsford, Leslie, Johnson (season 1-8), Mrs. Best, Energy Monster (in "Dinner or Consequences"), Pretty Princess (season 9)
Ryan Raddatz Tim Botsford, Scoops, Handy Man Todd, Scott Wild, Gold Store Clerk (in "Chuck!"
James Adomian Captain Huggy Face/Bob, Timmy Tim-Bo, Harry Kempel, Chip Von Dumor, Hal Hardbargain, The Candlestick Maker, David Driscoll, Raul Demiglasse, Hunter Throbheart
Grey DeLisle Beatrice Bixby/Lady Redundant Woman (2nd Time), Ms. Question, Mrs. Ripley, Johnson (season 9)
Daran Norris Seymour Orlando Smooth, Nocan the Contrarian
Kristen Schaal Victoria Best
Jeffrey Tambor Mr. Big, Mr. Birg
John C. McGinley Whammer
H. Jon Benjamin Reginald the Jewelry Store Clerk, InvisiBill, Museum Curator
Mike O'Connell Bill the Grocery Store Manager, El Mysterioso, Ed the Used Car Salesman (season 1)
Larry Murphy Amazing Rope Guy, Mr. Best, Stu Brisket, Dave, Anthony, Officer Jim, Zookeeper, Principal (in "A Few Words from Wordgirl"), Ed the Used Car Salesman (season 2-present)
Ron Lynch Mayor of Fair City
Amy Sedaris Miss Davis, Reason
John Henson Captain Tangent
Ed Asner Kid Potato
Ned Bellamy The Coach
Amanda Plummer Beatrice Bixby/Lady Redundant Woman (1st Time)
"Weird Al" Yankovic Learnerer
J.D. Cerna Beau Handsome on May I have a Word? segments

Comics

A series of WordGirl comics were also released by Boom! Studios new KaBOOM! line. The names of the volumes and the stories within them are:

Series overview

Main article: List of WordGirl episodes

Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
Shorts 30 November 10, 2006 (2006-11-10) October 10, 2007 (2007-10-10)
1 26 September 3, 2007 (2007-09-03) January 2, 2009 (2009-01-02)
2 February 4, 2009 (2009-02-04) July 20, 2010 (2010-07-20)
3 13 September 7, 2010 (2010-09-07) July 8, 2011 (2011-07-08)
4 September 5, 2011 (2011-09-05) June 11, 2012 (2012-06-11)
5 September 10, 2012 (2012-09-10) June 14, 2013 (2013-06-14)
6 August 5, 2013 (2013-08-05) June 6, 2014 (2014-06-06)
7 August 4, 2014 (2014-08-04) July 29, 2015 (2015-07-29)
8 June 10, 2015 (2015-06-10) August 7, 2015 (2015-08-07)

Awards

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:

2009:

2012:

2013:

2015:

References

  1. ^ Perlmutter, David (2018). The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 706–707. ISBN 978-1538103739.
  2. ^ "TV Schedules - AZPM".
  3. ^ WordGirl (August 6, 2015). "Facebook post". Facebook. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  4. ^ PBS Kids (August 8, 2015). "WORDGIRL | Rhyme and Reason, Part 1/Rhyme and Reason, Part 2 | PBS KIDS – YouTube". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 1, 2015. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d Jensen, Elizabeth. The New York Times, September 2, 2007, "A New Heroine’s Fighting Words".
  6. ^ a b Jensen, Elizabeth (September 2, 2007). "A New Heroine's Fighting Words". The New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  7. ^ Bynum, Aaron H. (June 18, 2007). "'The Adventures of WordGirl' Animation Emerges on PBS Kids". Animation Insider. Retrieved June 25, 2008.
  8. ^ Spero, Johannah (June 18, 2008). "Local man lands Emmy for 'WordGirl'". Wicked Local Newburyport/The Newburyport Current. GateHouse Media, Inc. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  9. ^ "Volume ? Coalition of Malice".
  10. ^ "Volume ? The Incredible Shrinking Allowance".
  11. ^ "Volume ? Word Up".
  12. ^ "Volume 4 Fashion Disaster".
  13. ^ "21 July 2008 press release".