Here’s a TV show whose target audience may have trouble even pronouncing the title. Fortunately, the lead character has a nickname – Zoboo (Zah-BOO) – and a simple message about meeting and appreciating the world’s other creatures.
Zoboomafoo, which begins running at 10:30 a.m. today on WJCT TV-7, is the unlikely name for this ambitious new series. The weekday half hour is a wildlife program designed specifically for preschoolers and their parents. The message is to care for and respect animals, and the format combines humor, high energy and pure inquisitiveness.
The hosts are Martin and Chris Kratt, creators and hosts of the popular Kratts’ Creatures, which has had a similar mission for older children. In fact, that PBS show has also acquired a following on the college circuit and among adults since it began airing in 1996. Zoboomafoo is about that first opportunity for a child and an animal to meet.
The action is centered in Animal Junction, an outpost where the Kratt brothers hang out with Zoboo, a playful lemur from Madagascar. Zoboo is seen on screen as both a real animal and puppet as well as in clay animation. Each day, Zoboo and his human friends greet an assortment of animal visitors who stop by their friendly watering hole.
In today’s episode, the Kratts go exploring in a bat cave, which attracts the attention of a baby elephant named Toothbrush. She couldn’t help but smell the twosome, which leads to a celebration about what a cool feature a nose is. On Tuesday, the gang talks about seeing and being seen when a pair of black jaguar cubs visit.
Future episodes will feature river otters, nocturnal animals, wolves, beavers and porcupines, to name a few. Most of the 40 shows have a theme, such as one called ”Running” that takes a look at an emu, a gecko, a cheetah and a crab.
The fact that Zoboo is a rare lemur native only to Madagascar is a very deliberate choice as the show’s animal sidekick, Martin Kratt said. Eight years ago, he and his brother spent two months filming lemurs.
”Zoboo is about relationships with animals,” said Chris Kratt. ”It’s about baby humans meeting baby animals. It’s about preschoolers making friends with animals just like they would make friends with a kid in their day care.” It helps, he added, that lemurs are little known, endangered animals that happen to look so much like puppets anyway.
Zoboo gives perspective and insight about the visiting creatures, said the producer/hosts. The two humans at Animal Junction give the facts.
”The Trip” is a regular feature in which the Kratts go on expeditions to discover animals in their natural habitats.
Still, Zoboomafoo is also about taking precautions. The threesome often say, ”This only happens in Animal Junction,” which is a magical safe place where it’s possible to really get up close. There is a safety message which says, ”When you see a new animal, make sure you know the animal before you approach her unless you have an adult with you.”
Martin Kratt said the show will try to balance having fun with setting a good example and not going too far. ”Like there was one scene where we were eating with puppies out of a dog bowl that we did cut.”
On the show of Zoboomafoo, when talking about an animal, Chris and Martin always refer to an animal as he or she, they never
call the animal “it.” They both claim that it helps kids and even adults individualize animals and give them their own personalities. It also helps people not see animals as just mere objects by changing the way they talk and refer to them.
Chris Kratt states “What we found out is there are more similarities between animals and us. We are more like them, but they have such special abilities we can’t match. We have to use all sorts of trucks and special equipment to keep up with animals.”
Some of the main lessons they taught on their show was to always give an animal her space, no matter what animal she happens to be. If you find a small animal under a rock or a log Chris and Martin Kratt always encourage kids to place the rock or log beside the animal and let the animal find his way as to not crush him if placing the rock back on top of the animal.
I always enjoyed Kratts Creatures as a kid and have enjoyed watching Zoboomafoo as well. I do encourage any youngsters to enjoy this wonderful tv series as it gives so many positive lessons to children on how to treat, approach, and respect animals.
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