Me and My Friends (partially found live-action pilot of "The Backyardigans" Nick Jr. CGI-animated series; 1998)
Me and My Friends is a live-action pilot episode taped at Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, Florida. It was written and produced by Janice Burgess, and it was taped from September to November 1998. The pilot was declined by Nickelodeon, but in 2002, Burgess reworked the concept into an animated pilot featuring the same characters. This second pilot was successful and became the CGI-animated series, The Backyardigans.
Janice Burgess is a former television producer for Nickelodeon. In 1998, Burgess was given the opportunity to pitch a live-action TV pilot at the request of her manager, Brown Johnson. Burgess pitched a concept titled Me and My Friends, which followed four full-body puppet characters as they embarked on adventures in their shared backyard.
The Me and My Friends pilot was storyboarded by Thomas Henry, a longtime artist for Nickelodeon. The pilot was filmed at Nickelodeon Studios from September to November 1998. The four main characters were Uniqua, an adventurous unique creature whose personality was based on Burgess herself; Pablo, a blue penguin with a tendency to panic; Tyrone, an easygoing orange moose; and Tasha, a self-confident yellow hippo. The characters' costumes were designed and built by Yvette Helin Studios in Brooklyn, New York. Two sculptors, Yuji Yashimoto and Dan Quinn were hired to create animatronic heads for the costumes.
The pilot was declined by Nickelodeon in favor of Dora The Explorer, but Brown Johnson insisted that she liked Janice's characters and would like to see them in a different form. After the pilot's completion, a gold-colored plaque bearing the Me and My Friends logo was created for Nickelodeon Studios' wall of plaques, which commemorated all of the studio's past productions.
In the early 2000s, Burgess reworked the concept into a CGI-animated short. This short was successfully picked up as The Backyardigans, which premiered in 2004. The animated series notably added a fifth main character, Austin the kangaroo, who did not appear in Me and My Friends. Nickelodeon's character description from 2004 labels Austin as "the new kangaroo on the block."
The characters' appearances are not vastly different from that of the CGI series, besides a few minor differences:
- Uniqua has visible nostrils and a thin tail.
- Pablo's hat propeller is yellow, as opposed to red.
- Tyrone and Tasha's nostrils are black instead of dark yellow and dark orange. These were utilized as vision areas.
- Tyrone's shirt has yellow/blue stripes rather than red/blue stripes.
- Tasha wears a small bow on her head.
The backyard setting also has some differences. A shed and a gate are visible, which do not appear in the final series. Additionally, Tyrone had a stuffed rabbit toy that he did not have in the final series.
A clip of Me and My Friends was released in a 5-minute compilation video created by former crew members of Nickelodeon Studios for its 10-year anniversary in 2000. There are around 3 seconds of video without the original audio. At least eight photos from the production were released by the pilot’s costume designers.
On February 21st, 2022, YouTuber "BerLostMedia" found 9 more photos from the production of the pilot given by the character designer.
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- The Backyardigans (partially lost British dub of Nick Jr. CGI-animated series; mid-late 2000s)
Bumpers and Interstitials
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- Made by Maddie (partially found Nick Jr. animated series; 2020)
- Riddle Blue/수수께끼 블루 (partially found Korean adaptation of "Blue's Clues" Nick Jr. animated/live-action series; 2000-2001)
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- Text of a Tech-mediatainment article about the pilot. Retrieved 28 May '21
- Yvette Helin's credits list, which describes the fate of Me and My Friends. Retrieved 28 May '21
- Thomas Henry's credits on his website. Retrieved 28 May '21
- Page for Me and My Friends on Yvette Helin's website, archived from 2001. Retrieved 28 May '21
- Image of the plaque (Me and My Friends is fourth on the bottom row). Retrieved 28 May '21
- Nickelodeon press release from August 19, 2004. Retrieved 28 May '21