Review: ‘Oswald’

Oswald

Parents looking for a safe yet stimulating haven for preschoolers will gladly welcome "Oswald," a friendly and contemplative blue octopus, into their homes. Created by illustrator Dan Yaccarino and voiced by Fred Savage, show is an appealing addition to a TV schedule too often populated with unsuitable children's characters.

Parents looking for a safe yet stimulating haven for preschoolers will gladly welcome “Oswald,” a friendly and contemplative blue octopus, into their homes. Created by illustrator Dan Yaccarino and voiced by Fred Savage, show is an appealing addition to a TV schedule too often populated with unsuitable children’s characters.

This new animated series bows in prime time but will air weekdays at 10:30 a.m. as part of the net’s Nick Jr. programming block. CBS will also air the show weekend days beginning Sept. 15. Using a similar, non-threatening approach as Mr. Rogers and targeting the same pre-preschool audience as “Tellytubbies,” Oswald works as nice segue into the world of television entertainment.

The show is devoid of heavy-handed messages or high glam animation. Instead, it favors simplicity and playfulness. Yaccarino, who has penned popular bed time books such as “Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! I’m Off to the Moon” and “An Octopus Followed Me Home Today” has translated his colorful and beguiling animal characters into an immensely appealing show.

The subtle lines and calming hues are carefully crafted to create a soothing atmosphere. Similarly, the background and scenery is fairly minimalist but provides an appropriate home for the playful characters that live in Big City. Big City is populated with diverse creatures including Oswald and his pet Weenie the wiener dog; Henry, a slightly neurotic penguin; Madame Butterfly and her daughter Catrina the caterpillar and Daisy, the free-spirited flower who often leads group adventures.

There’s very little drama or conflict, just a few minor problems to be solved or maybe a lesson to be learned. Supervising director Christine Kolosov keeps a deliberate pace to the show, which celebrates the simple joys of childhood. Viewers experience the thrill of the visiting ice cream truck and the excitement of pitching a tent for camping, even if it’s only in the living room.

As the voice of Oswald, Fred Savage is an unexpected source of warmth and personality, intoning the octopus with charm and exuberance.

Other voice talents are equally effective including “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Laraine Newman as Madame Butterfly and “Laverne and Shirley’s” David Landers, as Henry the penguin. In future episodes, Tony Orlando will have a recurring role as Sammy Starfish, a popular singing TV star.

Whimsical music by The Lounge Lizards’ Evan Lurie appropriately reflects the playful mood while using repetition to instill familiarity. Although Oswald lacks the flash and cult hit potential of other Nickelodeon cartoons, tech credits reflect the same high standards and dedication to detail.

Oswald

Nickelodeon; Mon. Aug.20, 8 p.m.

Production

Originating in New York and Los Angeles by Nicktoons/HITEntertainment. Supervising producer, Steve Socki; creator and producer, Dan Yaccarino; supervising director.

Crew

Christine Kolosov; story editor, Frederick Stroppel; production manager, Jason Edward; music, Evan Lurie. 30 MIN.

Cast

Voices: Oswald - Fred Savage Henry - David Lander Weenie/Catrina - Debi Derryberry Daisy - Crystal Scales Madame Butterfly - Laraine Newman

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