If you thought I was done talking about my favorite television network as an adolescent then you are sadly mistaken. After four articles about their primetime and weekend programming, enough time has now passed to explore a whole different spectrum of Nickelodeon. In my classic Disney Channel article, I brought up also viewing Nick Jr. on days where I didn’t have school or took sick days during the school year. Remember when we would wake up at the crack of dawn to watch our favorite cartoons? Well, if you were to tune into Nick during the hours of 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM every weekday morning then you were treated to Nick Jr., a block of shows targeted to the even younger demographic of pre-schoolers. These shows boasted positive messages and gave to the younger generation.
To me, there are two editions of Nick Jr. The one that actually pre-dates the programming block and were around during its early stages and the one from the early to late 90s that was hosted by a colorful character named Face (more on him later). Nowadays, Nick Jr. is actually its own separate network so let’s look over the timeless programming children like me viewed as adolescents for those six hours Monday through Friday.
Eureeka’s Castle (1989-1995)
This was the very first program I remember watching on Nick Jr. and it wasn’t until years later that I was shocked to see who actually brought it to television. Long before he was scaring kids with his immensely popular horror book series, Goosebumps, R.L. Stine created this unique and wacky show reminiscent of the mind of Jim Henson. Sorceress, Eureeka, lives in a wind-up castle with all her friends including one of my personal favorite children’s show characters, the friendly dragon, Magellan. Magellan sported a goofy grin, long tail, hawaiian shirt, pants, and sneakers. He was as lovable as they come despite being very physically imposing. The castle’s inhabitants would all get together and have a ball each episode. I vividly recall the exciting Christmas and Halloween specials that would air every year and how much I looked forward to each.
Back when there was a Hardees in my neighborhood, one of their kid’s meal toy prizes were Eureeka’s Castle finger puppets. To this day, I still have the Eureeka and Magellan ones floating around at my mother’s house.
I distinctly remember this one from my early years on this earth. This was actually a Japanese anime that was later dubbed over and brought to air on Nickelodeon in the U.S. It stars a koala named Roobear and his fellow critter comrades living down under in oceana. A favorite character among my family by far was the bunny, Floppy, because of his crazy ideas and short temper.
Maya the Bee (1990-1992)
This was another Japanese anime from the 80s that started broadcasting on Nick in the early 90s. The American incarnation was actually produced by Saban, of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers fame. This one focuses a young, female, honey-loving insect named Maya and her companion, Willy, as they soar among the trees seeking adventure. Funnily enough, this show was beloved of my older brother. Go figure.
Via Netflix, I discovered that Maya the Bee was rebooted in 2012 with a new CGI animated series which later ended up in rotation in my nephew’s daily cartoon viewing so it’s pretty cool to see it exposed to a whole new generation of kids. A 2014 film followed with Maya being voiced by Oscar-nominated actress, Jacki Weaver.
This anime first premiered in 1980 but wouldn’t make its way to the states until over a decade later. Along with Maya the Bee, Saban Entertainment brought The Littl’ Bits to Nick. This featured a group of elves living in their own secluded village who help each other out in time of need. Only 26 episodes were produced but the show ran for four years with repeats airing almost weekly.
Now by the time 1994 rolled around, Nick Jr. really started to gain its identity and went through a big makeover. This is the Nick Jr. I recall more of since I was a bit older by this point. With this change, the character, Face, came on board to host.
This playful persona was characterized by two eyes with a big smile that would intro and wrap up the block’s programming. He’d tell jokes, turn different colors, and make sound effects. He would also comment on certain scenes in the shows he would introduce to let the kiddies know he was paying attention as well! He came one of the more familiar personalities of Nick Jr.
A picture perfect portrayal of the trials of life seen through the eyes of a toddler. That was Allegra’s Window summed up to a T. Join Allegra, a purple puppeted young girl with Medusa-like hair and her colorful gang as they tackle the world conquering new experiences.
The animated literal works of Richard Scarry came to life on the small screen in this cartoon. The residents of Busytown all try to overcome their predicaments with the help and strength of their friends and neighbors. The show’s mascot was a worm named Lowly who was joined by his best friend, a cat named Huckle. A legendary character produced on the cartoon was a handy fox named Mr. Fixit who always saved the day with his fine craft. Three shorts would span each half hour and were filled with tons of adventures, some even international.
Gullah Gullah Island (1994-1998)
This live action program was created by Ron and Natalie Daise based on their home of St. Helena Island in South Carolina. The pair also starred on the show where them and their three children interact with the other parents and kids in the neighborhood, each with a different ethnic background, as they learn about family values as well as the Gullah culture. Gullah refers to the African Americans who originated from the coastal sea towns of the southeastern United States.
Joining them was a very large, yellow animal named Binyah Binyah who hops around and sounds like he’s choking when he tries to speak. Quickly though, he shows he’s very friendly. Another full-sized puppet arrives in later seasons named Chansome, a loud-mouthed pelican.
Blue’s Clues (1996-2006)
The immensely popular Blues Clues came around in the late 90s and became one of Nick Jr.’s most successful shows. Each episode starred a young man named Steve and his animated dog, Blue. Each episode would open with Steve trying to solve a riddle left by Blue who drops clues for him to gather throughout the program. At the end of each installment, Steve would piece the three clues together and solve the mystery. Along the way, the pair encounter some of their chums including Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper, a married couple of condiment dispensers. The puzzles, even to a young child, were wickedly easy but that didn’t stop us from tuning in everyday!
One of the most famous change-ups from Blues Clues happened in 2002 when Steve Burns abruptly left the show to pursue music. For years, kids everywhere wondered “Where’s Steve?”. Needless to say, his replacement, Donovan Patton, didn’t share even an ounce of the charisma that Steve did but the show still ran for several years after, ending 2006 after 10 whole years on the air.