|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)|
|Composer||Eggplant Productions Inc.|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||8|
|No. of episodes||130 (250 segments) (list of episodes)|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production companies||Soup2Nuts |
|Distributor||PBS Distribution (United States)|
Scholastic Entertainment (worldwide)
|Picture format||NTSC (season 1)|
HDTV 1080i (seasons 2–8)
|Related||Maya & Miguel|
Time Warp Trio
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. The series 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. The series of shorts consisted of thirty episodes, with 130 episodes in the full half-hour series.
WordGirl creator Dorothea Gillim felt that most children's animation "underestimated [children's] sense of humor" and hoped to create a more intellectual show for young audiences.
By June 2014, many PBS stations had stopped airing WordGirl, opting to air more popular series throughout the summer. However, new episodes continued to air on select stations, with streaming options on the PBS Kids website and video app. The series ended with the two-part episode "Rhyme and Reason", which was released on August 7, 2015.
The show was created for children ages 4–9. By 2022, the show had gained a cult following through social media.
WordGirl began in 2006 as a series of shorts airing immediately after Maya & Miguel, becoming an independent show in September 2007.
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.
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.
The series follows 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. 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.
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 "strenuous" or "flummoxed"). When Captain Huggy Face correctly demonstrates the meaning of the word, a definition is given, followed by a victory dance by the chimpanzee 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 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 April 2022, the website is still active.
|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||Steven Boxleitner / 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||Grandolyn May / Granny May|
|Patton Oswalt||Tobey McCalister III, Robots|
|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)|
|Candi Milo||Becky Botsford / WordGirl (Website Version) (replacing Dannah Phirman), Ms. Champlain (Season 9)|
|Ryan Raddatz||Tim Botsford, Scoops, Oscar, 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||Shelly Smalls / 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, Big Left Hand Guy, 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 2-8)|
|Stephen Root||Professor Robert Tubing|
|Ron Lynch||Mayor of Fair City|
|Amy Sedaris||Miss Davis, Rhyme|
|John Henson||Captain Tangent|
|Ed Asner||Kid Potato|
|Ned Bellamy||The Coach|
|Jack McBrayer||Kid Math|
|Amanda Plummer||Beatrice Bixby / Lady Redundant Woman (1st Time)|
|Jim Gaffigan||Mr. Dudley|
|Brian Posehn||Glen Furlblam / Dr. Three-Brains|
|"Weird Al" Yankovic||Learnerer|
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:
Main article: List of WordGirl episodes
|First aired||Last aired|
|Shorts||30||November 10, 2006||October 10, 2007|
|1||26 each||September 3, 2007||January 2, 2009|
|2||November 4, 2008||July 20, 2010|
|3||13 each||September 7, 2010||July 8, 2011|
|4||September 5, 2011||June 11, 2012|
|5||September 10, 2012||June 14, 2013|
|6||August 5, 2013||June 6, 2014|
|7||August 4, 2014||February 20, 2015|
|8||June 10, 2015||August 7, 2015|
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.
The series was positively received. Emily Ashby of Common Sense Media described the series as having a "brainy heroine [who] uses vocab to outwit bad guys." She also called it an "entertaining animated series" with some cartoon violence and said that it is an "excellent...choice for young grade-schoolers."
In 2022, Collider attested that the "non-white, little girl superhero" protagonist of WordGirl began a superhero trend. The article attests that the generation who grew up watching WordGirl later demanded new and diverse Marvel heroes, such as Captain Marvel.
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