The Backyardigans is a CGI-animated television series created by Janice Burgess. It aired from October 11, 2004 to July 12, 2013.
It centers on a group of five animal friends who use their imaginations to embark on fantastic adventures in their shared backyard. Each episode is set to a different musical genre and features at least four songs, performed by the characters with original choreography.
The series was written and produced at Nickelodeon's studios in the United States. The original live-action pilot was filmed at Nickelodeon Studios Florida. The animated pilot was made at Nick Digital in New York. Animation for the main series was outsourced to Nelvana, Guru Studio, and Pipeline Studios.
In each episode, the show's main characters rely on their vivid imaginations to transform their backyard into a completely different world. The story always ends just in time for one of them to invite the others to their house for a snack. The show focuses on music and dancing as much as it does on the stories, with each episode featuring a different music genre and four original songs, occasionally with at least one rearrangement of a well-known or traditional song.
The Backyardigans ran for four seasons, each consisting of twenty episodes. The show ended with 80 produced episodes (74 stand-alone episodes and three two-part specials).
The Backyardigans did not become a regular series until 2004. It has roots in a declined pilot from 1998 titled "Me and My Friends". This video was significantly different from the first official Backyardigans episode, as it was not animated (it starred actors in costumes rather than 3D CGI-animation) and did not feature Austin (who would not be introduced for six more years). After Nickelodeon confirmed that it would not order "Me and My Friends" for a first season, the creators reworked the concept into a more-developed idea titled Backyardigans. In 2001, an animated pilot starring the same four characters was sent to Nickelodeon and accepted.
According to Burgess, the series was originally planned to be animated via motion capture, similar to the digital movement translation used in video games. This idea was scrapped because it appeared "too floaty." Janice wanted crisper movement with the animated choreography, so the movement was translated by sending a Leica to the animators.
The Backyardigans was first previewed on the Canadian network Treehouse TV on September 11, 2004. The episode "Pirate Treasure" aired as a sneak peek, followed by "The Heart of the Jungle" on September 12. The series made its official debut a month later on Nickelodeon in the United States.
The series was successful and continued to air new episodes until mid-2013. The first 73 episodes were aired on the main Nickelodeon network. The last seven episodes of season four premiered exclusively on the Nick Jr. channel (one in November 2012, one in December 2012, and five in July 2013). Since 2015, reruns have sporadically returned to Nick Jr. at early-morning timeslots.