Bluey’s Beach Epic

Bluey is a six year old Blue Heeler puppy. She lives in a house on a hill in Brisbane with her four year old sister, Bingo, their mum, Chilli, and dad, Bandit. Together, they play and sing, dance and do dishes, and work their way cheerfully and creatively through life.

Bluey, the show that bears her name, is a charming animated show, made by Ludo Studio. My four year old nephew, Harry, is one of the millions of children who love the show. He quotes it frequently. He can do the floss dance like Bluey and Bingo, and has tried to show me how to do it. Like their granny, I’ve had to have a few goes before getting it right.

It’s a terrific show. Each 7-minute episode takes a warm but realistic approach to the fun and challenges of being a kid, and also of being around kids. I’m glad that my nephew likes it. He pretends to give people injections, after watching Bluey and Bingo play ‘hospital’ with their dad, saying ‘Sting!! Brave boy.’ His siblings talk about ‘dollarbucks’ and ‘dollarydoos’ when pretending to play shop. And so on.

Nothing much Classical there, though the puppies have a singing teacher called Calypso, and Bandit does call himself ‘Telemachus’ when he plays a patient in the hospital episode. I wrote to the creator, Joe Brum, asking him where that reference came from–he replied it came from his own childhood, watching Ulysses 31. Cultural moments like that pop up from time to time, but the main emphasis is on the here and now. Rather than being mythical or fairytale figures, the children play at being spies, and cooks, nurses, doctors, fruitbats and naughty grannies. And the setting is firmly Australian–a great pleasure of the show is seeing a lush Queensland landscape and wildlife beautifully animated.

Every now and then, the show rises above the every day, reflecting on what it means to be alive. On the weekend, Harry and I watched Beach (episode 26) : in which the family goes to the beach, and Bluey learns the pleasure of going for a walk by herself. And I like to think that this is one of the episodes in which the Classical plays a small role.

While Chilli goes for a walk, Bandit watches Bluey and Bingo, playing in the sand, bury Bluey’s legs. They make a sandcastle in the shape of a mermaid’s tail. Bluey finds a shell in which she can hear the sound of the ocean and wants to show her mother. Bingo pretends to be King Neptune, allowing mermaid-Bluey to have the use of her legs ‘for a day,’ and to follow her mother down the beach.

Bluey follows her mother’s footprints down the beach, a long way for a little dog. She meets a surfer, who reminds her that mermaids only have legs for one day; a flock of seagulls she dispatches with a sharp little bark. She bravely edges around a pelican sitting in her way, and is chased by a group of soldier crabs, who take up residence in a tumbling sand-castle. Even a blue jellyfish is no obstacle for brave Bluey, who pokes it with a stick, then jumps over it to join her mum.

It’s an epic journey: a long way for a little dog with little legs. In that walk down the beach, Bluey faces obstacles and sticks it out. Much of epic involves overcoming challenges, but also having a vision and seeing it through. Like Odysseus finding his Penelope, Bluey chases after her mum and is rewarded by her admiration as they share their memories of the different things they’ve seen.

What is so lovely about Bluey is its understanding of the world’s bigness and smallness, especially in relation to children’s experiences. A walk along the beach could be a small thing, but for Bluey it’s a big adventure, in which she learns the joy of striking out alone, and also the pleasure of coming home in her mum’s company. And in this episode, as in so many of them, the creators play it just right, balancing myth, play, and real experiences in a way that does Bluey’s journey justice.

— Elizabeth Hale

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