Aussie cartoon talks about premature birth to honour animator's personal journey

The much-loved ABC television cartoon Bluey has won a place in the hearts of families all around Australia. 

The acclaimed animated children’s cartoon features the home-life of a family of Blue-heeler dogs living in Queensland. With the laid-back and fun-loving traditional Australian demeanour on full display, the cartoon is delighting children and adults alike. It has fast become the ABCs most downloaded show.

One reason the cartoon is so revered is because it echoes the lived experiences of many families. It tries to be inclusive in its storytelling and introduces a variety of elements such as parenting styles, family values and experiences. This includes the experience of having a premature baby.

Season two of Bluey features an episode titled ‘Early Baby’. It focuses around the children in imaginative play at a daycare. Some of the kids are pretending to be pregnant and give birth to their babies. One of the girls mirrors the experience she had with her baby sister and explained that sometimes babies come early and they need to spend time in the hospital. The children place the tiny baby doll into an upturned fishtank and act out the distraught mother having to leave the baby in the hospital while she goes home.

This sort of scene is representative of what a sibling of a premature baby may display in play with their friends to help them share their experiences and normalise it with their peers.

We thought it was a progressive and inclusive storyline to see presented, not only in a children’s animation, but an Australian based one as well. We wondered what the story was behind deciding to include this premature baby experience in the storyline.

Miracle Babies Foundation spoke with Bluey Animation Director, Mark Paterson who has been with the show since the beginning. He explains how the Early Baby Episode came about and its links to his own personal journey.

“I’ve worked with Joe from the beginning of Bluey when it was just a short pilot that we made as a small team. Along with Joe I helped design and animate the characters,” says Mark.

“During this time my daughter was born at 34 weeks in a fairly complicated way.  My wife had placenta previa and a prolapsed cord but thankfully our baby was born healthy enough and spent 3 weeks in hospital before we could take her home.

“I remember telling Joe about the daily routine we had at the hospital during that stressful and emotional time.  The beeping of machines, changing nappies through the holes in the incubator, not being able to sleep overnight in the hospital and leaving our baby there - and of course the constant washing of hands with hand sanitiser which when I smell it now instantly transports me back to that time!

“Once Joe started writing scripts for Bluey, he wanted to include an early baby thread into a story to honour our experience.

“When I saw the finished episode of Early Baby with my now 3-year-old daughter she asked if she was the early baby which choked me up a bit. 

“For me it was cathartic to see it played out as part of a story in a kids show. Hopefully other parents that have been through a similar experience feel the same.”

Mark and the Bluey team are humbled by the popularity of the cartoon by both families and experts alike.

“The response to Bluey has been amazing," says Mark.

"We were confident it would resonate with kids, but what’s been really pleasing is the way adults have taken to the show. The way Joe writes these scripts is for parents’ entertainment as well, so for that to be recognised is great. Like everything Joe writes for Bluey, he researches a fair bit to be sure it comes from a real place.  The fact it’s also being celebrated by parenting experts and child psychologists is a testament to this."

Bluey family.PNG

Author

Miracle Babies Foundation

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