|Created by||Rick Duffield (Executive producer)|
Mary Chris Wall
Julio Cedillo (Season 2)
Mikaila Enriquez (Season 2)
Paul English Jr (Season 2)
|Voices of||Larry Brantley as Wishbone|
|Theme music composer|
|Opening theme||"What's the Story, Wishbone?"|
|Ending theme||"What's the Story, Wishbone?" (Instrumental version)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||50|
|Production location(s)||Plano, Texas|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production||Big Feats! Entertainment|
|Distributor||Mattel Creations |
Lyrick Studios/HIT Entertainment
|Original network||PBS (1996-1999)|
PBS Kids (1999-2001; 2013-present, reruns)
PBS Kids Go! (2009-2013, reruns)
|Picture format||480i SDTV|
|Audio format||Dolby Surround|
|Original release||October 9, 1995 -|
December 4, 1997
Wishbone is a half-hour live-action children's television show that was produced from 1995 to 1997 and broadcast on PBS Kids. The show's title character is a Jack Russell Terrier. Wishbone lives with his owner Joe Talbot in the fictional town of Oakdale, Texas. He daydreams about being the lead character of stories from classic literature. He was known as "the little dog with a big imagination". Only the viewers and the characters in his daydreams can hear Wishbone speak. The characters from his daydreams see Wishbone as whichever famous character he is currently portraying and not as a dog. The show won four Daytime Emmys, a Peabody Award, and honors from the Television Critics Association. Wishbone's exterior shots were filmed on the backlot of Lyrick Studios's teen division Big Feats! Entertainment in Allen, Texas, and its interior shots were filmed on a sound stage in a 50,000 square foot warehouse in Plano, Texas. Additional scenes were filmed in Grapevine, Texas.
This show garnered particular praise for refusing to bowdlerize many of the sadder or more unpleasant aspects of the source works, which usually enjoyed a fairly faithful retelling in the fantasy sequences.
The show also inspired several book series. Altogether, there are more than fifty books featuring Wishbone, which were published even after the TV series ended production. Reruns of the show continued to air on some PBS affiliates until early 2008. In 2006, when a PBS Kids Go! digital channel was announced, PBS planned to air Wishbone on the channel. However, when the digital channel was canceled, Wishbone returned in reruns on the PBS national program service. Wishbone clips came to the PBS Kids Go! website. The return to PBS lasted a short time, though some PBS affiliates continued to air Wishbone until their license to do so ran out. The show continued to air in reruns until August 31, 2001. The show was replaced on the PBS Kids schedule on September 3, 2001 by Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat.
Wishbone was conceived by Rick Duffield after brainstorming with his staff about "making a show for kids that was told from a dog's point of view." Duffield recalled to The New Yorker that he had a habit of putting a voice to his dog's expressions. His eureka moment came when he was staring at a row of books on his shelf. "The one that caught my eye that day was Frank Magill's Masterpieces of World Literature. Well, what if a little dog with a big imagination could take us into some of the greatest stories ever told? And, why not make him the hero?" Duffield asked.
Inspired, Duffield produced a seven-minute pilot for the show. He spent three days casting for the dog star at a motel courtyard in Valencia, California in the summer of 1993, looking at between 100 and 150 dogs. "[A]n extraordinary little Jack Russell named Soccer walked up and dazzled us all," he explained. "I filmed the teaser, which captured Wishbone's character and suggested the format of the show, and brought it to Alice Cahn at PBS. I suppose convincing someone that it was a good idea came down to executing a pretty fetching dog trick!"
"Keeping up with the variety in the series is the biggest challenge," Duffield told Entertainment Tonight." "Because Wishbone is the central figure of each show, and plays an integral role in the contemporary story and the literary story, he's in almost every scene. So he has a lot to do and designing scenes that can work with a dog, with period actors and period sets, as well as kids in a contemporary world is a big challenge."
"I didn't know what the dog looked like and they give (me) the barest of information, 'there's going to be this great new kids show with this dog that talks and we want you to come in and we want you to be funny' so I went to the first audition having no idea what to do," Brantley explained. "In the callback I actually got to meet Soccer for the first time...It was basically a five minute impromptu audition...I never really read from the script, I was supposed to, but I didn't. Rick Duffield, the executive producer, said, 'well, watch the dog and just kind of follow along and see what he's doing right now.' Soccer was obsessing like over this tennis ball...and he wasn't interested in me or Rick Duffield or anybody else in the room, it was like tennis ball. And he would stare at the tennis ball. I want the tennis ball...So it was like five minutes about a tennis ball and I walked out of the audition saying, 'I can't believe I just did five minutes about a tennis ball.' And then I got the job. We may never understand."
Ultimately, Duffield wanted Wishbone to be an "entertaining way for kids to get their first taste of great books." "We believe this show can cultivate a new appetite for reading by making kids think it's fun to get to know these books," he said. "And it's intended to be fun, action packed, clever and a way to get their first taste of great stories that can become a valuable educational stepping stone in their lives. The dog makes it all the more endearing and entertaining."
Despite acclaim from critics and educators, only 50 episodes were produced; all in a one-year time frame. Duffield told author Michael Brody that PBS halted production because the show did not have "merchandising potential."
A standard episode of Wishbone consists of an opening scene, introducing Wishbone's and his family's current situation (for example, Arbor Day planting a tree, or Joe catching a lunch lady attempting to donate food to a homeless shelter). When one of the main characters decides to get involved in the noble act, Wishbone flashes to a famous work of literature it reminds him of, usually with him playing the lead role, in costume. Wishbone may not play the lead role if the character is difficult to relate to (he plays Sancho Panza in Don Quixote) or is female (in the show's "Joan of Arc" episode, he plays Louis de Conte). By the end of both stories, the real-life situation usually follows the work of literature closely such as the King saving Robin Hood at the last minute, and the Principal saving Joe at the last minute. The last two minutes of nearly every episode feature Wishbone narrating some background description of how the episode was produced, including showing how stunts were performed, how costumes were designed, or how the visual effects were created.
The series also featured a clip show episode called "Picks of the Litter".
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Only a handful of the Wishbone episodes have been released to VHS and DVD. There were also a few computer games in 1996, such as Wishbone Activity Center, Wishbone Print Tricks, and Wishbone and the Amazing Odyssey. Wishbone has also inspired several book series: Wishbone Classics, Wishbone Mysteries, and The Adventures of Wishbone, which is similar to the TV series.
In 2004, Hit Entertainment released 4 DVDs of the show: "Hot Diggety Dawg", "The Impawsible Dream", "The Hunchdog of Notre-Dame" and "Paw Prints of Thieves".
On February 15, 2011, Lionsgate released the Wishbone DVD, The Little Dog With a Big Imagination, which only includes the four previously released episodes.