|Created by:||Josh Selig|
|Country of origin:||United States|
|# of episodes:|| 47 shorts|
26 full-length episodes
|Running time:|| 3 minutes (shorts)|
22 minutes (full-length)
|Original run:||April 7, 2003 - February 11, 2005|
Oobi is an American children's TV series created by Josh Selig, who is known for his work on Wonder Pets! and Sesame Street. It stars a cast of bare-hand puppets played by performers from the Jim Henson Company. Its concept is based on a technique used by puppeteers learning to lip-sync, in which they use their hands and a pair of ping pong balls instead of a puppet.
Oobi was the only preschool series created by Noggin while both the Jim Henson Company and Sesame Workshop controlled the channel's programming. The two companies' influence over Noggin led to the cast of Oobi consisting entirely of Muppet alumni. Creator Josh Selig had worked on Sesame Street since its first season and later became one of the main writers. He left the show to create what he envisioned as his own version of Sesame Street, which ended up being Oobi.
The series ended with 47 shorts and two waves of full-length episodes (26 in total). It is currently available as part of the Noggin mobile subscription service.
The idea for Oobi was conceived while watching performers audition for the Polish Sesame Street co-production Ulica Sezamkowa. It also drew inspiration from hand-themed Sesame sketches, such as "There Once Was a Hand". Early promotional statements for Oobi referred to the characters as "furless Muppets" and the show was filmed at Kaufman Astoria Studios, where Sesame Street has been taped since 1993.
Oobi was originally commissioned as interstitial programming for Noggin. Forty-seven shorts and twenty-six full-length episodes were produced. The premiere of the "Uma Preschool!" episode on September 6, 2004 posted a 2.35 Nielsen rating among the preschool age group, making it the highest-rated premiere of a Noggin original series. Production ended in 2004 and reruns of the series continued to air until the Noggin channel's closure. It was also seen on the Nickelodeon base channel for a brief period of time in 2003, as part of the Nick Jr. block.
The show has been described as "a puppetry purist's puppet show" by actress Cheryl Blaylock. Elements of the series were made as simple as possible to emphasize the puppetry and fully engage young viewers.
On the thought process behind Oobi, Selig says: "I was convinced that children's television had gotten too busy. I wanted to see what would happen if I distilled every element of a show - from the puppet design to the language - to its essential elements...it was an experiment, and I'm delighted to see that it seems to have worked."
The series focuses on a bare-hand puppet named Oobi, his sister Uma, his best friend Kako, and his grandfather Grampu. Every character speaks in simplified sentences so that children learning to speak and listen will be able to comprehend them easily.
- Oobi is the protagonist of the show. He is a young male hand puppet in grade school, and a very curious character.
- Uma is Oobi's younger sister. She wears a purple-and-blue barrette in the full-length episodes.
- Kako is Oobi's slightly arrogant best friend. He is supposedly of Spanish descent and can usually be found wearing a red hat.
- Grampu is Oobi's wise, caring, and sometimes rather unlucky grandfather. He often says "Lovely!" and is an excellent role model.
- Inka is Oobi's piano teacher, who speaks with a thick accent and usually wears jewelry. She has never interacted with Uma.
- Angus is one of Oobi's friends. He is almost always nervous and talks in a nasally voice.
- Mrs. Johnson is a senior citizen living in the same neighborhood as Oobi. She has a cat named Kitty, whom she cares for deeply.
- Maestru is the director of the local community center's singing group. He can seem strict at times.
- Frieda is a young foot, first introduced in the "New Friend!" episode. Unlike most other characters in the series, she is not a hand puppet.
- Tim Lagasse as Oobi
- Tyler Bunch as Grampu
- Stephanie D'Abruzzo as Uma and Inka
- Noel MacNeal as Kako
- Kevin Clash as Randy
- Matt Vogel as Angus
- Pam Arciero as Mrs. Johnson
- James Godwin as Maestru
- Cheryl Blaylock as Frieda the Foot
- Heather Asch as Moppie
- Lisa Buckley as Bella
The series was given a 5-star rating by Common Sense Media. The review stated that "when it comes to preschool programming, Oobi really breaks the mold, succeeding in its simplicity." The show has received a variety of awards and nominations from organizations such as Parents' Choice, Prix Jeunesse, and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.