Angela Santomero, who helped create the iconic kids show Blue’s Clues, was concerned about being a one-hit wonder.
Six series later, Santomero is chief creative officer of global production company 9 Story Media Group, and Blue’s Clues is being revived as Blue’s Clues & You!, starting Monday (Nov. 11) on Nickelodeon.
“Relaunching it now is taking me back,” Santomero said. And though kids’ viewing behaviors have changed and so has the TV business, “there’s still a need and a niche for quality educational kids media and that’s what empowers me.”
Santomero left Columbia University with a master’s degree in child developmental psychology with a specialty in technology and media and went to work in the research department at Nickelodeon. “I was going to change the way kids watch TV,” she recalled.
At the time, Nickelodeon had a hit in Double Dare and was looking for a game show for preschoolers. “From my background, I wanted to figure out a way to get to play and be active in the media, but learn while they’re playing,” she said. “And so Blue’s Clues became that show.”
The show, unique in the way it paused to let kids interact with what was happening on screen, went on the air 23 years ago and ran for 10 years. (There was also a spinoff called Blue’s Room.)
After Blue’s Clues ended, Santomero started a company called Out of the Blue and began creating a series of shows. One was Super Why! for PBS, another is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (she was great friends with Fred Rogers, aka Mr. Rogers; Fred Rogers Productions produced Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood). Santomero, who has been nominated 21 times for Emmys, finally won one for Daniel Tiger.
Santomero also created shows for streaming services, with Wishenpoof! and Creative Galaxy for Amazon Studios and Charlie’s Colorforms City for Netflix.
Out of the Blue was acquired by 9 Story Media Group in 2018 and Santomero was named chief creative officer, overseeing its studios in New York. When Nickelodeon decided to reboot Blue’s Clues, Santomero got the call. “Angela has always been wanting to bring it back. We’ve always been in touch with her and the second the idea was brought out there, she was just really so excited and just jumped at the opportunity,” Sarah Landy, senior vice president of production and development at Nickelodeon Preschool, said.
“A lot of the people who have grown up on Blue’s Clues are starting to have families of their own,” Landy, who worked on the original show, said. “It just felt like the right time to bring a fresh perspective to the show.”
She said Santomero “has amazing creative ideas and that stems from knowing our audience so well because of the research she does.”
Though their media habits have changed, what preschoolers want to watch really hasn’t. “They’re more tech-savvy, but at the core, they’re the same emotionally as they were 22 years ago,” Landy said. “Some of their expressive vocabulary is bigger, but they still haven’t caught up emotionally. Development is still development, so we have to make sure we’re not constantly aging up and making everything older.”
Blue’s Clues & You! still has “the same entertainment parts, it still has the great characters and still looks really different than anything else on TV right now,” Santomero said. With computer graphic technology Blue is more fluffy and huggable, she said. “Educationally, it still has the same level of higher order thinking skills and kindergarten readiness skills. What I’m most proud of is it empowers kids.”
Also new is the host, Josh Dela Cruz. “We looked at 3,000 actors and actresses to find the right person,” Santomero said. “He is amazing. He talks to the camera like nobody’s business. Not too many people can talk to the camera. He can.”
Steve and Joe Return
Original Blue’s Clues hosts haven’t been forgotten. Both are a part of the new show, with Steve Burns writing and directing and Donovan Patton, who played Steve’s replacement and brother Joe, directing. They’re also on the show.
Blue’s Clues co-creator Tina Paige Johnson is also back, as co-creator and co-executive producer.
“It’s like a family affair,” Santomero said. “I love that Steve and Joe come back and teach Josh how to play Blue’s Clues and really pass the torch over to him.”
With new technology from Nick’s Noggin app, there is also a more interactive play-along version of Blue’s Clues & You! available to kids.
The show has already been available on Walmart’s Vudu streaming service and episodes are on YouTube. “I’m hearing everyone is ridiculously happy,” she said.
The first order of 20 episodes of Blue’s Clues & You! has been completed. Have more been ordered?
“We haven’t announced anything,” Santomero said, pausing. “We’re going to announce pretty soon.”