Around the World
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April 18, 2006.
When you mention the fab four, most people
think of long hair and the 60's. But, if you have children under five,
then you know there are only four fab musicians that matter to your
kids. Those are without a doubt the brightly-colored Australian
exports, The Wiggles!
Starting in 1991
as sort of a hobby, the Wiggles went from classroom educators to
educating performers. They met at Macquarie University in Sydney, while
studying to be teachers. Anthony Field recruited fellow students Greg
Page and Murray Cook, along with former bandmate Jeff Fatt from a band
called the Cockroaches. They all got together to help write and record
some songs for children. The rest is history and fifteen years later,
the guys just keep getting bigger and bigger with the hip sippy-cup
generation. The numbers don't lie. Sales of over 17 million videos and
over four million CD's prove unmistakably that the Wiggles are striking
a cord with preschoolers worldwide.
No one sounds more
surprised by their tremendous success than lead singer Greg Page. "It
was just supposed to be one album," he says. "It all just grew from
there. I think because we didn't have high ambitions or great
expectations for it, we were able to keep focused on what we were doing
rather than what we were trying to achieve in the long term."
Page – the yellow
Wiggle – became lead singer of the group by default. "During our first
CD, the idea was that we would all share the singing but after that I
think the other guys didn't really want to do it. So they made me,"
Page jokes. "It's fine with me though. I love singing and I don't mind
doing it all, but I think it was just the other three deciding [that] I
either did it better or they didn't want to so I became the lead
The Wiggles have
come a long way since the early days, singing behind a cardboard
cut-out of a Big Red Car. Nowadays, the guys from down under proudly
parade around in their trademark real, functioning
Big Red Car and love being dubbed the #1 preschool band. They create a
perfect mix of music, comedy and education. This way they keep kids
interested and still teach them. Their philosophy is to use the stage
as a classroom.
are entertainers, believe it or not. Some people probably look at that
and think how can that be? But it's true. To educate a child, you need
to have their attention or you'll lose them. We use a lot of the same
strategies that we did as teachers to keep the children's attention.
When you become a teacher you learn all these management strategies to
manage children and get them to do what you want them to do – by
creating interest in what you are doing. Most parents will see that in
their own children. If you don't have their attention and they are
obviously distracted and doing something else, you can't teach them and
you can't show them anything about life or learning. That is what we do
with the Wiggles. We get them interested in singing and dancing and
hold their attention."
The Wiggles burst
into the US and their popularity exploded in 1999, thanks to their
valuable relationship with the Disney Channel. "I think the
relationship with Disney began after we performed at Disneyland in LA,"
says Page. "The relationship for us has been a great one. Disney is
such a good partner for the Wiggles because we have very common goals,
objectives and philosophies about what we do. And once we started with
the Disney Channel, that's when we noticed that if we were walking down
the street in America that people would stop us and say, 'Hey aren't you
in the Wiggles?' And that is a measure of the reach of the Disney
distinct shirt colors, each member of the Wiggles has a gimmick to
differentiate themselves. Greg, the yellow Wiggle, loves to sing and do
magic tricks. Anthony, the blue Wiggle, loves to eat good food. Murray,
the red Wiggle, loves music and playing his guitar. Jeff, the purple
Wiggle, loves to sleep. In true wiggly fashion, kids get involved in
the shows by helping the Wiggles wake ole sleepy Jeff up. 1-2-3...
WAKE UP JEFF!!!
Kids also love the
Wiggles’ friends – Captain Feathersword, the friendly pirate, and the
costumed Dorothy the Dinosaur, Henry the Octopus and Wags the Dog. At
Wiggles’ concerts, children flock to the stage with roses for Dorothy
(her favorite treat) and dog bones for Wags.
To kids, some of
the attraction of the Wiggles is their songs – with catchy titles like
"Wiggly Party," "Move Like an Emu" and "Fruit Salad, Yummy, Yummy." The
band uses music to reach out to their young audience, entertain them,
involve them and teach them about subjects including animals, healthy
food, sleep and friends.
When asked how
they keep the music, shows and videos exciting for kids while still
making it instructional,
Page says, "I guess that is a challenge. Some people say the Wiggles
are not educational and that they are just singing and dancing. But
really, behind every song there is an educational element and there is
always something we are thinking about. Because we are teachers, no
matter what the song is. Even if it's just about going for a drive in
the car or eating food, there is a reason why we are singing it."
inspiration behind their music comes from their own families, their past
teaching experiences as well as important points
they want to share.
"My kids and
Murray's kids are a bit older now," says Greg. "But Anthony has a young
girl who's two years old and he's certainly using her for inspiration
now. There are also recollections of things that happened when we were
teaching children, and you might remember something a child did and
think – well we should do a song about X, Y or Z. Or it might just be a
certain message you want to get across. So, there is a range of thought
processes we go through when we write a song. As times goes on, it
really gets more difficult to write songs though. You don't want to
repeat things you've done before in terms of a message or concept. We
don't want to be repetitive."
The members of the
Wiggles collectively decide on what they want to share in a song or
video – things like brushing your teeth twice a day or looking both ways
before crossing the street.
"One of us might
have an idea for a song and we'll present it to the others and we'll
discuss it and why we think it should or shouldn't be used. It might be
something that our child is interested in and we'll think
okay, let's write about that. It may be
something that is particular to our child and the others will say ‘No,
it's not worth writing a song about that’ or ‘How about we change it to
this because it's more general and would apply to more people rather
than being so specific.’ So, it is definitely a group process unless
someone comes up with such a great idea and we just say, ‘Yep, you got
it. That'll be great. Let's do it.’”
With cartoons and other programs geared to
preschoolers these days usually displaying some sort of violence, the Wiggles are a welcome change for parents who
want to show their offspring a kinder, gentler
world. "The Wiggles are all about showing children a positive
experience and making them feel safe and not threatened," says Page.
"I'm sure some people say, ‘The Wiggles, that's a utopian sort of
philosophy to think the world is like that.’ But, the world could be
like that if we were all brought up to believe violence is not necessary
and that there are other ways to deal with situations. Violence isn't
necessary and it isn't appropriate. And our dream is to keep showing
our audience this and hope a lot of people see it.
"We never say
don't hit anyone," continues Page. "It's just in the way that we
interact with each other. It's all polite and it's courteous and it's
through modeling those kind of things that children learn behaviors.
That's where parents need to know that their
behavior in front of their children is very, very important as well, and
some people just don't understand that unfortunately. It's so important
because however you want your children to behave is how you behave in
front of them."
for the Wiggles has become a family affair. While Page points out that
they employ many people that they didn't know previously, the Wiggles'
payroll also includes plenty of relatives and
friends. It is most important to the Wiggles that their employees are
trustworthy and share their same love and enjoyment of kids and the
dream of teaching while entertaining them.
"We have been very
fortunate to find new employees as well as family and friends who have
that common goal, objective and interest.
It does make it a very good experience
when you can involve people like that with you," Page says.
As they embark on
yet another world tour for 2006, the Wiggles have a busy schedule
planned throughout the US and Europe. Parents everywhere will be
standing in lines at ticket agencies, dialing feverishly or logging on,
trying to get their little ones the best tickets possible for the
hottest show around for preschoolers. The first of three legs of the US
tour starts in April and visits cities like Seattle, Portland, San
Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and finishes up in
"It's a bit of a
road trip and we do quite a few miles in four or five weeks but that's
part of the excitement. We break it up that way because we find that
periods of four or five weeks is the longest you want to be away from
home at one time. So, we go over and come back, go over and come back,"
says Page. "Unfortunately, sometimes we just get to see the hotel, the
bus and venue and that can be frustrating. But you do get to cover a
lot of country and that's quite an amazing feat when you travel so far
And don't worry
parents, the Wiggles will be back in August to tour the Midwest and then
in October/November to delight their little fans along the East Coast.
obviously enjoy performing for children in
concert as much as their wide eyed audience loves seeing them. "I love
performing, I love being on the stage and I love being able to see the
kids reacting to what we are doing. When we write songs, perform them
and record them on video or CD we never get to see an audience or how
they are going to react. For me when you are performing live and see
the audience's reaction firsthand it's really a great experience to have
that connection. Children are so spontaneous and full of life and you
just think if you could capture their innocence, the world could be
like that. So, we are very blessed to be able to do what we do and are
genuine and sincere about it and hope it comes across on stage.
We really are very lucky to be working in the type of environment where
you get to see such happiness and joy."
It is impossible
to overstate the popularity of these musical Aussies but perhaps reports
that came out last year put it all into perspective. In early 2005, it
was announced that the Wiggles were the highest paid entertainers in
Australia, even beating out huge stars like Nicole Kidman and Russell
Crowe. Not bad huh?? "It was very surreal when that came out," says
Page. "I mean, I don't know if it's true and I have no idea what
Russell and Nicole make, but to be in their company whether it's true or
not is a real honor."
With the show,
movies, videos and music being such a big hit, kids can’t seem to get
enough of the wiggly merchandise – begging parents worldwide for
everything from Wiggles dolls, cars, guitars, drums and books to
toiletries, clothing and bedding. Always donning their trademark colors
yellow, blue, red and purple, the Wiggles merchandise is often a mystery
to the band members.
“We don’t see it
often because someone else takes care of that for us. But when they do
run it past us we think it’s very exciting. Now we even have cartoon
likenesses, which is quite funny since it’s not necessarily us anymore.
It could be anyone who kinda looks like that. So it’s quite bizarre,
but we know it’s based on us and it’s a real thrill to see that people
want to purchase the merchandise and have it as part of their lives.
Being in the Wiggles you don’t really appreciate how much of somebody’s
life we are until you see that and think, ‘Wow, you know it’s really
hitting a mark with these children and hopefully affecting them in a
positive way.’ It’s probably driving the parents mad, but the kids are
enjoying it,” Page jokes.
So, you might
wonder what's on the horizon for this favorite toddlers’ quartet.
Other than continuing work on their popular TV show, the Wiggles will
finish out 2006 on the road while working on a new educational series of
videos. The guys are very proud of this venture and hope that it will
silence any naysayers who think the Wiggles are just entertainers. The
educationally based videos – entitled Wiggle and Learn – were
born from their teaching background and will deal with concepts like
mathematics, language and literacy, social development, physical
development and emotional development.
"These videos are
specifically educational while still be done in a wiggly way," says
Page. "They are very educational and very entertaining. If you want
your children to learn these certain concepts, the Wiggles will teach
them in a wiggly fashion." The Wiggles have currently completed taping
of the first two videos in the series and they should be out in early