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TV Critic Reviews "Higglytown Heroes"
As an aunt to a preschooler and an aspiring voiceover actress (I knew all those hours of watching Bugs Bunny would come in handy), I know every kid’s show as well as every kid’s DVD out there.
In my opinion, there is no better way for celebrities to make back their outrageous salaries than to entertain and sometimes educate children. And They Might Be Giants gets a “cooler than Elvis” vote for singing the theme song to one of Playhouse Disney’s new hits, “Higglytown Heroes,” which is also on their children’s CD/DVD, “Here Come the ABCs” .
For those of you unfamiliar with all things Higgly (an adjective that’s used as much as “Smurf” but not, thanks Higgles, as a verb), the series centers on a small town and four boys named Eubie, Kip and the his brothers Wayne and Intermittencia. Think “South Park” with better art and no foul mouths. The strongest language is “Aw, pickles,” which is often uttered by Twinkle (pinker than Trista Rehn Sutter!) after Fran, a friendly squirrel voiced by Edie McClurg, has her fanciful ideas for solving children’s dilemmas pinched gently
In each two-episode half-hour show, the Higgly Kids experience common and innocent childhood events, such as finding a caterpillar, throwing a TV party for the Happy Hairy Higgly Monster Primetime Special, losing a tooth, Kip’s grandfather being locked in the bathroom or caring for an unhappy bird. The kids try to solve their problems, guided by Fran, who is the voice of reason, helped by their loving families and the ever-enthusiastic Bill and Ted-ish Pizza Guy… plus someone special. Then comes the inevitable song…
“Someone special, who could it be?
This work is too big for you and me.
We need help!
But never fear,
Sounds like a job for a… Higglytown Hero!
A Higglytown hero!”
Some of the heroes are natural choices, especially after 9/11: female police officer, firefighter, etc. But how many of us think of sanitation workers, electricians, plumbers, gardeners, postmen (voiced by Kathie Lee Gifford) and farmers as heroes? Or a telephone operator (voiced by Cyndi Lauper)? Although the heroes have celebrity voices, the Higgly Kids discover that the real stars around them are the people who solve problems every day.
Some of the dilemmas get a little ridiculous from an adult perspective. For example, when Kip climbs a tree to save a beloved neighborhood cat and her kittens, his friends help him. Why, when he gets stuck, can’t they help him back up? Um…when was the last time you tripped and panicked? You need help in your own life every day without even thinking about it.
The beauty of “Higglytown Heroes” is that it celebrates working together, “having fun together,” and the Higgly Kids, as well as their families, never take the Heroes in their lives for granted. The electrician (Lance Bass) is invited to participate in the “Higgly Monsters” TV party after repairing the circuit in Kip’s house. The fireman (Donald Faison) who pulls Kip out of the tree shares a birthday party for the neighborhood cat. How many of us go out of our way to thank the people who make our lives easier? Sometimes we forget to see them as people with needs and feelings.
We even forget to see our own families as heroes. Kip’s grandmother (voiced by “Golden Girl” Betty White, with a Rose Nylund-like hairstyle) knits the boys’ sweaters. Kip’s real estate agent Bitty acts like the soul of 1950s domesticity, but is rewarded when Kip and friends make her a payback card. Wayne’s mom, Plunkie, shows the kids a caterpillar and takes them to the beach, while Wayne and Twinkle’s Uncle Lemmo makes them breakfast at his cafe and, in the Christmas special, takes Wayne and Twinkle on his sleigh.
Interestingly, Higgly families are not always nuclear families, something that Disney portrays as normal without drawing attention to it. Kip’s family is the proverbial nuclear family, with twin sisters, a baby sister, a mother and father, Fripp, (who runs a hot dog cart), and two grandparents who either live in Kip’s big house or visit constantly. Twinkle and Wayne’s mother appears to be a single parent (even though they’re all African-American, no one has screamed racism yet), and Eubie is apparently being raised by her Southern-accented Aunt Mellie and Uncle Zooter, with visits from their Southern accent. Grandpop Crank (a farmer).
In many ways, Higglytown is idealized. No one seems to care about work, money or status. People go to the library and a librarian is a Higglytown hero! The kids “work really hard” and take responsibility (gasp) by thinking of ways to help themselves and their families, and in every episode there are little lessons and moral advice (take care of your pets, don’t use too much electricity, smile to anyone) to show kids how they can grow up to be… Heroes of Higglytown!
Cynics and naysayers deride this as childish pablum. I call it a refreshing dose of reality and a tribute to the heroes around us. The Disney animators are Higglytown Heroes for creating this show.
Author’s Note: After this review originally circulated on the web, actor Rory Thost, who provides the voice of “Kip,” was kind enough to be a “Higglytown Hero” and spend the day telling me about him and the cast. I liked the review. Para todos aqueles que pensan que os nosos fillos son completos alborotadores, o mozo mestre Rory Thost ten trece anos: http://imdb.com/name/nm1191277/?fr=c2l0ZT1kZnxteD0yMHxzZz0xfGxtPTIwMHx0dD1vbnxwbj0dD1vbnxwbj0dD1vbnxwbj0dD1vbnxwbj0dD1vbnxwbj0dD1vbnxwbj0dD1vbnxwbj0wfHE9912000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000011 A súa carreira no espectáculo xa é máis longa que a miña ! More importantly, in a world where celebrity bad behavior is unfortunately the norm, this young man remains polite, mature, well-mannered and well-grounded.
Author’s Note II: This series just keeps getting better. Continuity is even on par with most prime time shows. Kip adopted a dog named “Shadow”, who makes guest appearances; we meet Fran’s parents after seeing them in the Christmas special; Eubie’s grandfather becomes a Higglytown hero; Eubie’s Flappy Bird makes appearances from time to time. The Fireman returns. The electrician proposes to the teacher, and Pizza Guy and Fran become Higglytown heroes!
Author’s Note III: Disney created Higglytown Heroes Toys. This series has, uh, legs!
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