The Busy World of Richard Scarry

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
The Busy World of Richard Scarry TV Poster Image
Friendly book characters teach kids about cooperation.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Educational value

Some of the stories take place in far-flung locales like Morocco, which introduces kids to different cultures and world geography in a very basic way. Musical interstitials between the stories teach about a topic related to the stories -- how bread is made from grain or why it's important to wear life jackets on a boat, for instance.

Positive messages

Busytown is a virtual utopia of cooperation and friendly relationships. Each story centers on a trouble that arises for a character or group of characters, and it usually takes a team effort to put the issue to rest. The cast is a menagerie of different animals (cats, foxes, hippos, and a worm, for example), and each one has unique abilities he/she brings to the group. Communication and teamwork are major themes.

Positive role models & representations

The neighbors always pitch in to help each other and show appreciation for what others do for them. Adults and youngsters interact in a real-world way, and the kids show respect for the grown-ups' authority and are willing to learn from them.

Violence & scariness

No violence, but there are some villainous characters who cause mayhem by stealing and such. When a hero intervenes, they exchange words and often restrain each other with ropes or traps.

Sexy stuff
Language
Consumerism

Kids might recognize Richard Scarry books and other branded merchandise after watching this show.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Busy World of Richard Scarry is an animated adaptation of Richard Scarry's popular preschool-age books espousing socially responsible themes like teamwork, friendship, courage, and responsibility. Kids need not be familiar with Scarry's characters to get the full value of the stories, but those who are will find that the series stays true to his presentation of the delightful little town and its inhabitants. Some segments center on the power struggle between a French policeman and his gangster-style nemesis, but even their exchanges shouldn't frighten preschoolers.

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What's the story?

Richard Scarry's beloved children's book characters come to life in THE BUSY WORLD OF RICHARD SCARRY, a '90s-era animated series. All of fans' favorites reside in the cartoon version of Busytown, including the central characters Huckle Cat (voiced by Sonja Ball); his sister, Sally (Ball again); and their friend Lowly Worm (Keith Knight). Each episode in this series consists of three stories and two musical segues, whose topics complement one or more of the stories. The show chronicles the day-in, day-out happenings of the town, exploring how the characters relate to and cooperate with each other to solve problems. Recurring characters Inspector Couscous and Pepe le Gangstaire often make appearances in stories that are set in foreign locations and face off over Pepe's thieving ways.

Is it any good?

If you're familiar with Richard Scarry's books, then you'll have a good sense about why they adapt so well to TV. His linear animation style translates flawlessly to the screen, which makes it easy for young fans of the books to jump right into the stories. The episodes center on issues that are relevant to kids' lives, like forgetting a responsibility or being scared by a strange noise in the house. Even at seven minutes long, each story is well developed and resolved in a way that underscores the characters' cooperation and resourcefulness.

There's nothing in the content of The Busy World of Richard Scarry that should keep preschoolers from tuning in, and the show's inclusion of basic world geography through the characters' travels, as well as the musical interstitials that teach about issues like personal safety and how things work ensure they leave with a little morsel of knowledge as well.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about teamwork in The Busy World of Richard Scarry. How are team leaders chosen? Why is cooperation an important aspect of successful teams? How does being part of a team bring out a person's unique talents?

  • What problems did the characters face today? Was it a problem that affected just one person or multiple people? How did the characters pool their efforts to fix it? What did they (and you) learn from the experience?

  • Parents and kids can take this opportunity to check out the characters' experiences in Richard Scarry's books. How are the stories and characters similar to those in the series? Are there any differences? Do you like either the books or the TV show any better than the other? Why?

  • How do the characters in The Busy World of Richard Scarry demonstrate communication and teamwork? Why are those important character strengths?

TV details

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