Filmmaker Joe Brumm, behind runaway hit Bluey, says he struggles with kids’ screen time just like all parents, Sheila Flynn writes
Cith nearly three full seasons of minutes-long episodes, children’s cartoon Bluey has won the hearts of parents and kids around the globe. For many, it’s hard to pinpoint a favourite plot line – and especially so for series creator Joe Brumm, who based the programme on his own family life.
But he points out an episode from the second season called Flat Pack when asked by O Independente to pick favourite that stands out. It depicts hilarious scenes instantly recognisable to any parents – or people – who have ever attempted to put together flat-pack furniture.
Protagonist Bluey and her sister play with the box and shipping materials, inventing imaginative play scenarios, as their parents, Bandit and Chilli, wrangle with the manual. Dad Bandit gets hurt and mutters as mom Chilli wrestles with the directions.
“I used to love making short films back when I was a student … it feels very much like a little short film to me,” Mr Brumm, 43, conta O Independente. “It’s got really beautiful music … [e] the little stories that it’s weaved in, I love what it’s trying to say – and it was a really satisfying one to write.”
Ele adiciona: “It’s something you don’t usually see in a kids series, eu acho, and I’m quite proud of that.”
Since Bluey debuted in Australia in 2018 and internationally in 2019, the series has gone from strength to strength, and Mr Brumm says he’s particularly proud of the programme’s emphasis on the importance of play in children’s development – especially when parents get involved in their kids’ fanciful worlds.
That’s what he wanted to showcase with Bluey. Since the beloved cartoon is dedicated to play, activity and imagination, Contudo, Mr Brumm admits that its status as a TV programme creates a tiny conundrum as parents struggle to limit screen time for young kids.
“There’s, eu acho, a central hypocrisy to it,” he tells O Independente. “The show is about play and getting out … and it is a TV show, at the end of the day. That’s just something I had to accept early on.
“It’s not a show that sits there pontificating about screen time … there’s a few episodes that do deal with that, and they definitely take the attitude of … trying to reduce” it.
But Mr Brumm says he’s definitely not trying to be preachy about how to parent with his beloved Bluey.
“I’m never trying to teach anything, especially not to the adults and definitely not the kids,” he tells O Independente, adding that he simply wanted to share sweet moments from his own family life and the project grew from there.
“Just sort of putting that up there, fairly honestly, is what people are connecting to," ele diz. “It’s not about them getting browbeaten by my views on the world; it’s just sharing my experience – and I think that’s probably the thing that, as a parent, you do sometimes feel – like you’re the only one going through this.
“And then this moment when you do connect with someone and realise this is normal and they go through that too … [Essa] are usually the moments that cut through the most. And that’s sort of what this show is about.
His “favourite parents” that he and his wife have met since having kids, ele diz, are the ones who are more fluid – people who believe “everyone’s going to do what they want [e] we’re not judging you – outwardly, anyway,” he laughs.
And that brings us back to screen time lessons incorporated into an on-screen show.
On Bluey episodes, ele diz, “we don’t show kids in front of TVs a lot of the time, because it’s not a particularly entertaining cartoon if they’re sitting there watching TV – but you do what you’ve got to do.
“My kids watch TV and they’ve got ipads and, Quero dizer, they’re on it too much – and I’m wrestling with it the same as every parent these days.”
His experience with other parents is definitely coloured by his status as the Bluey creator, Apesar, he tells O Independente – mostly in lovely, positive ways.
“People definitely want to come up and tell you what their favourite episode is and talk to you about the show – so that’s been quite sweet," ele diz, adding that he’s had parents, “on occasion, tell me how much the show means to them; maybe they don’t usually let their kids watch TV, but they let them watch Bluey, and they all watch it together.
“I’ve had stuff like that that is quite satisfying, because it’s probably someone I wouldn’t have got to meet if it wasn’t for the show. Sometimes people come up and say, ‘Thanks to you, I’ve been forced to play Daddy Robot for the last two hours,’” he laughs.
While people often assume that Bandit might be modelled on Mr Brumm and his parenting, since he’s the show’s creator, he tells O Independente he’s more like Bluey’s uncle.
“Uncle Stripe is voiced by my little brother Dan, who also works and does sound design on the show," ele diz. “And Uncle Stripe, arguably, is shown as still coming to grips with some of the aspects of fatherhood.
“I think Dan, my little brother, sometimes probably feels like … ‘Why is Bandit the perfect dad?’ Well, he’s not,” Mr Brumm tells O Independente.
He says: “Stripe is sort of based on me; Bandit’s more of the sort of idealistic, in a lot of ways, dad – whereas Stripe is probably more accurate with my actual fathering.”
He’s thrilled with the show’s popularity and global resonance, though he maintains that connecting with young viewers remains his focus – and he tries “not to think about impact or anything like that” too deeply.
“Part of my job is just keep the show funny and keep it entertaining – and everything else has to fall by the wayside," ele diz.