Is new kids’ show Chip Chilla a ‘blatant Bluey knock-off’ for conservatives? | Children’s TV

Explain it to me quickly

The show has been launched by a US rightwing media brand as a means to ‘challenge the left’. It looks … familiar

Tue 17 Oct 2023 01.53 EDT

Janine, I just saw a teaser for a new show that looks like Bluey but … for conservatives? What’s going on?

You’re not imagining things, Steph. The Daily Wire, the US conservative media brand founded by political commentator Ben Shapiro and film-maker Jeremy Boreing, has branched out into kids’ entertainment with a new subscription streaming app called Bentkey. Their aim is to get ’em while they’re young, claw back some ground from “the left” and counter Disney’s stranglehold. “We have to challenge the left every single place that it lives,” Boreing declared last year, when the Daily Wire announced it was investing US$100m into creating a children’s platform.

One of Bentkey’s four original series is Chip Chilla: an animated show about a family of chinchillas who are homeschooled by their parents, voiced by embattled former-Broadway actor Laura Osnes, and actor and culture war warrior Rob Schneider. The pastel colour palette bears a resemblance to a certain beloved Australian animated preschool series, and the three kids and parents in the series engage in elaborate role play. You’ll notice the music in the teaser also rings distinct Bluey bells.

An episode of Chip Chilla, in which the children are taught a patriotic lesson about the moon landing. Photograph: Bentkey

People are calling this a ‘blatant Bluey knockoff’. Are the characters dogs, like in Bluey?

Well, chinchillas are actually furry rodents native to South America. But there’s nothing vaguely Latino about the American-accented characters in Chip Chilla, who – in the six episodes I watched – inhabit a very wholesome, heteronormative, patriotic slice of US suburbia.

Have I died and woken up in the 1950s? Why is this happening now?

Funny you should ask. Bentkey intentionally launched on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Walt Disney Company, a firm Boreing reckons “pushes all the worst excesses of the woke left”. Bentkey was apparently created in response to Disney’s public opposition to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education measure, also known as the “don’t say gay” law.

According to Boreing: “Kids go to school for 40 hours a week and then they engage in pop culture for 40 more hours every week. That means for 80 hours of a child’s week, you are turning them over to the left. A good parent might spend 15 minutes a day in meaningful conversation with their kids … A great parent might take their kid to church for one hour, or two hours, or three hours a week. The other 80, they’re watching Disney … they’re online … they’re in public schools.”

In a video statement on Monday marking Bentkey’s launch, Boreing said: “Bentkey isn’t about teaching kids politics, it’s about childhood and wonder and adventure. It’s about values and all of the things on which politics are built later.”

You’ve actually watched a few episodes of Chip Chilla. Is it as yikes as it sounds? How does it compare?

As one commentator on X noted: “The first Daily Wire cartoon show looks like it will finally answer the question ‘What if Bluey sucked?’”

Bluey has been praised for being as moving and meaningful for parents as for kids – and, importantly, for being funny. From the six episodes I’ve watched, I can say the worst sin Chip Chilla commits is to be a bit dull, at least for this adult. If its mission is, as suspected, to take Bluey’s winning formula and put a conservative wash on it, it’s subtle.

Bluey has been praised for being as moving and meaningful for parents as for kids. Photograph: ABC iView

Take gender roles, for instance. While Chilli, the mother in Bluey, is engaged outside the home with work, the father, Bandit, is an active and relatively equal caregiver to the two kids. The parents in Chip Chilla, meanwhile, embody more traditional roles: the mother, Chinny (voiced by Osnes), does a lot of the feeding, nurturing and affection-giving, while the distinctly alpha father Chum Chum (Schneider) leads the charge (while Chinny assists) in teaching topics such as Frankenstein, the Three Musketeers and America’s heroic role in the moon landing. Like Bandit in Bluey, Chum Chum is a highly engaged and creative father, but his style does sometimes verge on the mansplain-y; you certainly couldn’t imagine him shopping for psyllium husks or being hungover.

Chip Chilla opens with the oldest child, a girl named Charla, cooking breakfast. “You’re becoming quite the chef,” coos her proud mother. “Gonna put me out of a job!” (Chum Chum spends most of this scene at the table, hiding behind his newspaper.) In the fourth episode of Chip Chilla, in which the kids and parents try swapping roles for the day, the children come to the conclusion that being a parent is hard. “But Mom says she wouldn’t trade it for the world,” the middle child, Chip, says.

Have the team behind Bluey said anything?

A spokeswoman for the ABC said Ludo Studios, the Brisbane-based production company behind Bluey, would “respectfully decline” to comment for now.

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