The Wiggles (Contemporary Musicians)
Children's music group
Image Pop-UpThe Wiggles.
The Australian group the Wiggles started as an R&B act called the Cockroaches in the late 1980s, but reemerged in the early 1990s as an Australian platinum-selling children's group with a hit television show on the Disney Channel called Lights, Camera, Action, Wiggles! and a series of popular videos whose music, dance, and humor appeal to the discerning preschool set. The colorful four-man group has scored millions of young fans around the globe with albums like The Wiggles, Here Comes a Song, Yummy Yummy, Big Red Car, and Wiggly Wiggly Christmas. "Wiggles stage shows and videos don't seem to abide by the rules of entertainment," according to writer Belinda Luscombe in Time. "Their dancing seems corny, their costumes loud and their sidekicks oafish." Still, toddlers embrace the group wholeheartedly. "The language is very simple," Wiggle Anthony Field explained in Time. "The songs are unapologetically repetitive It empowers them." This simple formula has made the Wiggles "gods among preschoolers," according to People.
The Cockroaches existed as a successful R&B group for 12 years; they even scored a top-ten hit. When the group broke up in 1991, however, members Anthony Field and Jeff Fatt decided to venture off into a very different direction, and began writing songs for children. Field and Fatt, both preschool teachers, teamed up with fellow teachers Murray Cook and Greg Page to form the Wiggles. Field, Cook, and Page originally met while studying early childhood education at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.
The Wiggles let their combined knowledge of child development guide their songwriting, with successful results. "A lot of what we do comes from a child's perspective," Fields notes on the Wiggles website. "It's got a lot to do with what songs are about and the language we use, and I like to think we know how to write pretty catchy tunes. Right from the start we gave a lot of thought to what was appropriate for children's music." They recorded a demo tape and submitted it to ABC Music, which immediately signed the group and released the full-length album The Wiggles in 1991. The album ultimately went on to achieve Australian platinum status for record sales and spawned a single, "Here Comes a Song," that went gold in Australia.
In 1999 the Wiggles got a huge break. The American distributor for Barney videos agreed to include Wiggles videos on the purple dinosaur's tapes. Since then, each of the Wiggles' albumsncluding Let's Wiggle, Yummy Yummy, and Wiggly Wiggly Christmasas earned Australian platinum status for sales. All told, the group has sold more than 2.7 million videos, audiotapes, and CDs.
The group's first performances were at daycare centers and birthday parties. Then they swept their native Australia, becoming a hit among children there. It's estimated that half of all Australian toddlers can sing along to the Wiggles' songs or has attended a Wiggles concert. The group has become phenomenally popular in Australiaore successful in their native country than movie stars Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman combined, according to Luscombe in Time.
"The four ultra-perky, middle-aged Aussies cause toddlers to wiggle their way through songs about yummy yummy fruit salads, hot potatoes, and wobbly camels," Rodney Ho wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The group tackles issues that are important to toddlers, such as exercise and nutrition. Their dances are "unsophisticated," their songs, like "I Climb Ten Stairs" are "simple," and their "props are embarrassingly low-tech," according to Suzanne C. Ryan of the Boston Globe. "But observers say the band is successful because it provides elements young children want in entertainment: fantasy, simplicity, and a human connection."
The Wiggles have a distinctive uniformach wears a different color "skivvy" or T-shirt. Vocalist, guitarist, and drummer Field wears blue, lead vocalist Page dons yellow, vocalist Cook is in red, and keyboard player and vocalist Fatt, who wears purple, is known for falling asleep onstage. When he does, kids in the audience all shout, "Wake up, Jeff!" Kids often wear their favorite Wiggles's color to concerts. The group also created the characters Dorothy the Dinosaur, Wags the Dog, Henry the Octopus, and Captain Feathersword (a friendly pirate who carries a sword made of feathers) to cavort onstage and in their videos and songs.
After a brief run on the Fox Television Network, the Disney Channel began airing the Wiggles in a series of 90-second test spots. In June of 2002 the network launched a 30-minute Wiggles program that runs at the prime toddler timeslots of 8:00 and 11:30 a.m. on weekday mornings.
According to the Wiggles website, "Fashion or fad does not drive the pre-school entertainment scene; it is an area of entertainment where integrity and longevity are the treasured hallmarks of success." That said, the Wiggles elbowed their way into the toddler market, even replacing a Disney mainstay in the hearts of children. "It's the most buzz on the playground I've ever heard," Alison Carter, mother to two preschoolers, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Nobody is talking about Disney on Ice. It's all, 'The Wiggles are coming! The Wiggles are coming!'"
After being well received as the opening act on Barney's 2001 tour, the Wiggles began to travel the world headlining their own tours. While the group regularly travels its native Australia and neighboring New Zealand, they have also performed in the United Kingdom twice and have had nine successful American tours. They also found a fan base in Japan and are considering an Asian version of the Wiggles. "We didn't really know what to expect," Fatt explained online at the Wiggles homepage. "Because of the language differences we didn't know what kind of response we'd get, but we went along anyway because we thought it would be fun for the kids. We needn't have worriedhe language barrier wasn't a problem at all, they were dancing and clapping along, it would have to be one of our most memorable shows yet." The group has also sold well in Brazil and Germany.
The Wiggles play more than 300 live concerts per year, most of them to sold-out crowds. As far as longevity is concerned, the group maintains their audience is unprejudiced about agell of the Wiggles are either approaching middle age or already there. "Children are very forgiving of waistlines getting bigger and hair going gray," Field told the Boston Globe. "You just have to stay animated." He elaborated in Time: "I'm never bored. Kids are so uninhibited. I'll do it forever if my body can still wiggle."
Let's Wiggle, Lyons Group, 2000.
Wiggly Wiggly Christmas, Lyons Group, 2000.
Yummy Yummy, Lyons Group, 2000.
Toot Toot!, Lyons Group, 2001.
Wake up, Jeff!, Lyons Group, 2001.
Hoop-Dee-Doo! It's a Wiggly Party, Lyons Group, 2002.
Wiggly Safari, Lyons Group, 2002.
Yule Be Wiggling, Lyons Group, 2002.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 11, 2002, p. E10.
Billboard, February 9, 2002, p. 49.
Boston Globe, June 17, 2002, p. B7.
Daily News, June 5, 2002, p. U4.
People, December 30, 2002, p. 140.
Time, February 18, 2002, p. 71.
Washington Post, November 23, 2002, p. C1.
"The Wiggles," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 15, 2003).
The Wiggles Official Website, http://www.thewiggles.com.au (January 15, 2003).