- Between the Lions
Between the Lions
Between the Lions logo
Format Children's television series Puppet Created by Lou Berger
Starring Fred Newman
Dr. Ruth Westheimer
James J. Kroupa
Country of origin United States Production Running time 30 minutes per episode Broadcast Original channel PBS Original run April 3, 2000 – November 22, 2010 External links Website
Between the Lions is a PBS Kids' puppet show designed to promote reading. The show is a co-production between WGBH in Boston and Sirius Thinking, Ltd., in New York City, in association with Mississippi Public Broadcasting, in Mississippi. The show has won seven Daytime Emmy awards between 2001 and 2007. The target audience is children 4 to 7 years old. It has the same puppet style as Sesame Street and several season 2 episodes, notably in Dance in Smarty Pants, had a few characters from Sesame Street guest appearing. Between The Lions started its 10th and final season on September 20, 2010.
Between the Lions is about a family of lions who live in a library known as the Barnaby B. Busterfield III Memorial Public library. The beastly father Theodore(Theo) is the head of the family and the loving mother is Cleopatra(Cleo). They have two cubs, the seven-year-old Lionel, who is fun-loving, and four year old Leona, who is just learning to read. Despite being lions, the lions are actually very nice, friendly, and helpful to the library's patrons, which include people, monkeys, and chickens. The library features a lot of regular patrons including Walter and Clay Pigeons, which often annoy the statue of Mr. Busterfield himself, as well as Babs Caplan, an aspiring writer who often has trouble coming up with new stories. Each episode always includes a story which is read out, and a similar situation occurring in the library, often to much chaos.
The main characters are the lion cubs Lionel (who is 7 years old) and Leona (who is 4 years old) and their parents Theo (Theodore) and Cleo (Cleopatra), who read stories to the cubs in almost every episode, so they can get wild about reading.
Barnaby B. Busterfield III - A grumpy rock statue that is the founder of the library, because it is named after him. He is often left annoyed by the antics of Walter and Clay Pigeons and, being a statue, can't go anywhere. He is annoyed by the pigeons calling him "Buster".
Walter and Clay Pigeon - The two birds that Barnaby talks to, and they talk to (and annoy) him. That's why he says, "don't call me Buster!" Walter and Clay Pigeon are true urban birds, but let's just say that they are not the brightest lights in the sky—without each other's help, they might never manage to complete their own thoughts (for example, the Pigeons say, "We are going roller . . . uh . . . skating.").
Dr. Alexander Graham Nitwhite (often mispronounced as "Dr. Nitwit", in which he hates being called, by his duck assistant, Watson and sometimes by other characters) is a pelican scientist. In his skits, he announces to Watson that he has discovered "the only word in the entire English language" with a certain letter combination (which is nearly always related to the lesson of the whole episode). However, his "discoveries" always turn out to be incorrect, as Watson inadvertently points out; as such, his nickname is rather apt.
Information Hen - The library's information specialist. Each time she appears, she gives inforamtion about the library and reading to various callers.
Click - A live computer mouse shaped after the rodent of the same name. Click is a very high tech mouse in the fact that she can drag and drop objects and characters into and out of books and websites. Her only hindrances are, being a computer mouse, she must always stay connected to a computer and that she is vulnerable to computer viruses, as shown in one episode.
Heath the Thesaurus - The library's thesaurus who is literally a giant dinosaur as a pun on the word "thesaurus" or "the saurus" He often shows up unexpectedly when a character asks about a homophonic word or when a situation is called for one.
Between the Lions often makes wild parodies of (often children's) programming. The title itself is a twofold pun, first on the phrase "between the lines", the second is that many classic library buildings have two lions separated by the main entrance. Thus in order to enter the library, you must go "between the lions". Some recurring segments include:
The Monkey Pop-Up Theatre
A monkey (monkeys are often featured as background characters or library patrons in this series) opens a pop-up book which presents a zany musical performance by monkeys who sing in operatic voices.
Three lips, different colors, along with different colors of hair, gloves, and scarves, perform songs to an audience. These songs are simply a sequence of the same vocalizations of vowel sounds. The Vowelles are often accompanied by Johnny Consanante and/or Martha Reader. In 2000, the stage background is not lit, leaving viewers to see only lips, and usually gloves, scarves, and hair. In 2001, the dark stage background is replaced with a bright silver background, obviously revealing that The Vowelles are merely three pairs of floating lips, surrounded by hair...and usually accompanied by scarves and gloves.
The Word Doctor with Dr. Ruth Wordheimer
Dr. Ruth Westheimer plays "Dr. Ruth Wordheimer", a friendly therapist. Her two types of clients are:
- Monkeys who need help reading or understanding long or difficult words (they are having a "long word freakout").
- Words who are dissatisfied with their current meaning. (By replacing certain well-chosen letters, Dr. Wordheimer is able to give the word a new meaning and a new lease on life.)
Little Wendy Tales
A girl with black hair tied in pigtails (a parody of Sailor Moon, among other anime clichés) reads the misadventures found in Little Wendy Tales when sitting next to her white cat Cuddly Kitty. In classic fashion, the big-eyed girl transforms herself into The Punctuator and saves Wendy by means of switching around the punctuation, altering the scene in the process. She rereads the altered adventures after correcting the sentences. The TV series was premiered on October 15, 2006 on Nickelodeon.
Fun with Chicken Jane
Fun with Chicken Jane is a parody of the famous Dick and Jane books for children. In this, two naive children, Scot and Dot, place themselves in harm's way. An intelligent chicken named Chicken Jane spells out an obvious solution to the problem. At the last moment the children get out of the way and Chicken Jane gets hurt instead. The theme song is a parody of the old Alka Seltzer jingle. When the skit starts, Scot, Dot and Chicken Jane come skipping down a dirt road to the jingle that goes "Look, look, see, see, coming down the lane. Here comes Scot, here comes Dot, here comes Chicken Jane!" When the skit is over, Scot and Dot head back up the road (Chicken Jane limping along behind with an injured wing) to "Look, look, see, see, going up the lane. There goes Scot, there goes Dot, there goes Chicken Jane!". Chicken Jane once fell out of one of the books, and ended up in several other books, including a cookbook written by Molly Stewpot (a reference to Martha Stewart) and they appear in A Wild Hare. The very demanding chef Molly sees Chicken Jane, and wants to use her in one of her recipes. The book is swatted at in an attempt for Chicken Jane to escape, while jelly is spilled onto Molly Stewpot.
Cliff Hanger is a cartoon lantern-jawed outdoorsman usually featured hanging off the side of a cliff, holding onto a branch. Each episode presents Cliff with a preposterous situation of some kind, which he attempts to use to his advantage by reaching into his backpack, pulling out what he calls his "trusty survival manual", and following the instructions provided there. The instructions, though often highly unorthodox, usually prove successful, and Cliff briefly escapes from the cliff. But, inevitably, another highly unlikely incident occurs that leaves Cliff back where he started, hanging onto his branch once again. The cartoon then ends with Cliff's baleful catchphrase: "Can't -- hold -- on -- much -- longer!" Much like Warner Bros.' Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, these cartoon clips follow along the same story line; although Cliff never gives up on trying to get off the cliff, he never succeeds.
Each segment begins and usually ends with a theme song sung by a formally-dressed group of singers that flies by in a helicopter, singing "Cliff Hanger, hanging from a cliff! And that's why he's called Cliff Hanger!" Cliff attempts to attract their attention to his predicament by shouting "Excuse me!", but to no avail. In one episode, he apparently succeeds at drawing their attention, and they rescue him, but it turns out he is simply dreaming. Cliff Hanger once escaped the cliff in an online story on the Between the Lions website, but eventually missed his cliff and, through a series of bizarre events, got himself back onto it.
In two episodes Cliff Hanger and the Solid Oil Lamp and Cliff Hanger and the Sheep on a Ship, Cliff Hanger imagines he is in a restaurant eating steak, he is in a bath tub and a starstruck door.
In another episode Lionel's friend Lenny, an alligator introduces a similarly-styled series of books called Justin Time, about a stereotypical explorer named Justin Time who relaxes in a hammock until an absurd scenario like those of Cliff Hanger occurs, forcing him to intervene to restore the calm. He too used a version of the Survival Manual, called a Safety Manual, which is from his Survival Kit, a version of Cliff Hanger's backpack and the same formally-dressed chorus introduces him at the beginning of the story. Ironically, Lionel disliked this series. Only one Justin Time segment was ever shown as it only appeared in one episode.
In the series, the character Lionel is a fan of Cliff Hanger books, which his sister Leona thinks are pointless.
A Wayne's World spoof featuring two jousting knights charging at each other, each touting a speech balloon with half of a word which then became their respective names, then demonstrating the word. For example, one skit featured "Sir ch" and "Sir air". When Sir ch collided into Sir air, their speech balloons melded together to form the word "chair." Then they took advantage of the word, by sitting on chairs. Though the title of the segment clearly is a parody of the SNL skit, the two knights in the segment speak more characteristically like Bill & Ted from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure than Wayne & Garth from Wayne's World.
A spoof of the Sam Spade detective stories, this segment portrays a par-boiled potato who types out the voice-over narration typical of film noir on a late night, making and correcting typographical errors that demonstrate word sounds. This segment makes heavy use of sight gags based on wordplay (such as the narrator referring to the entrance of a "tomato" -- 30s slang for an attractive woman—who is revealed to be a real tomato wearing a costume; or a neon sign that blinks the words "Flicker Flicker" or "On" and "Off"). In most cases the segments would end with a live-action boy or girl watching Sam Spud on television and calling out to his or her mother that "there's a talking potato with a hat on and no mouth!" (or some variation), and the mother calling from offscreen telling her child not to worry and that it's educational television, so it must be good for him/her.
The Un-People vs The Re-People
This cartoon is aimed at teaching kids their prefixes. The main character is "young" Monica Maxwell, a girl about 8 years old who seems to have an inordinate amount of trouble with a group of rambunctious rhinos. The segment always begins with the rhinos running amok, usually in Monica's house. The clever, resourceful girl somehow manages to subdue or round up the rhinos, for example, putting them in a zippered bag. All of a sudden, the evil Un-People come along and "un-zip" the bag, causing the rhinos to run free again and resume their rampage of destruction. But when the crime-fighting Re-People appear, they "re-zip" the bag and the destruction of the charging rhinos stops. This segment may be considered a parody of common superhero-themed cartoons such as the Justice League.
There is at least one skit that didn't feature rhinos—the "undressed"/"redressed" skit where a marching band is seen without clothes, only to get redressed in their outfits.
A criminal, Silent E, has the ability to make the vowel sounds say their names and changes the words without a silent e into words with a silent e, for example: he changes a cub (which resembles Leona) into a cube, a tub into a tube, a twin into a twine and a can into a cane.
In each segment, Silent E is carted off to jail by a policeman. Silent E then writes a note to the policeman, which usually reads something like, "Sure do like that pin/cap you're wearing! I would love to get a closer look!" The policeman then remarks, "Well, sure! I don't see any harm in that!" The policeman hands the object to Silent E, who then easily escapes by using either the policeman's pin and turning it into a pine to climb out the window or the policeman's cap and turning it into a cape to fly out the window. Either way, after that, the policeman shouts, "Well, Silent E, you may have slipped out of my grasp this time, but mark my words: I'll get you YET!"
Vowel Boot Camp
In this segment, the soldiers, who are vowels (except the drill sergeant, who is an exclamation point), practice making their sounds and then go out to make words. The famous catchphrase is "This isn't happy baby camp; this is Vowel Boot Camp!" He always ends up getting trampled by the vowels as they leave.
The Lone Rearranger Rewrites Again
A parody of The Lone Ranger, this animated segment features an intelligent, banana nose cowboy named The Lone Rerranger, (or Lone for short), with his horse Hiho, and his sidekick who's name is Russell-Upsome Grub, and a sentence which needs to be rearranged. For example, "Horses must ride cowboys into the corral" needs to be rearranged to say "Cowboys must ride horses into the corral". After Lone fixes the sentence, he, Hiho, and Russell leave and the people who did what the original sign said for them to do never get a chance to thank him or Russel, or something related to what happened.
A parody of Moby-Dick, this takes place in a peapod (parody of Pequod) where there are two captains. The first is Captain Starbuck, the second Captain Scatterbrain'd. Starbuck looks through a telescope and sees a white animal and yells, "Wait, Cap'n! Thar she quacks! Moby, the great white duck!" Captain Scatterbrain'd takes a closer look and gives the tagline "Argh! That not be Moby, the great white duck! Argh!", and explains the differences and sounds out syllables, showing, for example, Daisy, the entertaining white snail. The 2 admit defeat before continuing their search. A repeated gag is the fact that they never look behind them, which is exactly where Moby is.
A kind of "bowl game" in which players blend sounds to make words. It stars former NFL superstar quarterback Terry Bradshaw as a commentator. It is a form of Gawain's Word and Blend Mart but with a football setting.
A superhero bunny who saves the day by turning bad things happening in the neighborhood back into good things. The segment ends with the neighbors reviewing the opposites. saying "First it was raw now it is cooked. How does that bunny do it!"
A farcical and somewhat discombolated man with large pants ("smarty pants"). He is the start of a few different segments:
- "Magic Time With The Great Smartini": Arty puts two, three or four words in his pants and says a magic word like ebracadebra, or oobracadoobra, then dances to "ooh ahh, dance in smarty pants," until he has made a compound word. His assistant and mother is "Smarmy Marmy."
- In another segment, he reads "four words without any assistance whatsoever". Four words appear in each corner of the screen and he points to them first wth his hands then with his feet After realizing he is floating in the air, he comes crashing down.
- "Not As Smart As A Puck": In this segment, Arty hosts a game show where the contestant wins if they can prove they are not as smart as a hockey puck.
This segment features Marmy Smartypants as a fortune teller who tells monkeys their future. In one segment she tells a monkey that his sister will drop in for a visit, after which she literally, drops in from above. In another segment, she simply tells a monkey "Oops!" after which Marmy knocks her crystal ball off the table and it rolls off and breaks.
Fred Newman portraying himself appears onscreen sounding out a word syllable by syllable, after which he acts it or demonstrates it in his usual humor.
What's Cooking with Theo and Cleo
A cooking segment starring Theo and Cleo Lion as chefs. In each segment, they have a recipe and all the things they need (and a few they don't) in front of them with their names on them. They read the recipe step-by-step which usually involves getting rid of the extra ingredients and doing something to the main item before placing it in something. When they get down to the last step, which involves cooking it, they just say "Nah!" and, being lions, eat it raw.
Between the Lions focuses on teaching reading and a love of books to young children in a fun, informative way.
Among the educational techniques used by Between the Lions are the following:
- Featured Letters and Sounds: Every episode has a feature letter or sound, such as 'h' or 'the long ee sound'. Throughout the show, the featured letter or sound is heard and seen in a variety of words. In seasons 7 and 8, an ad shows what's coming up next followed by a hand selecting a letter from the word from usually the first book.
- Text on Screen: Frequently, key words or entire sentences of dialog are shown on screen as the characters talk, with the featured letter or combination highlighted.
- Stories: Every episode contains one or more short stories in the form of books read by the Lion family. These stories tie in thematically with the rest of the episode and also serve as another way to present words with the featured sound in context. Sometimes the stories are real books (like "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" by William Steig, "Joseph Had a Little Overcoat" by Simms Taback, and "The Carrot Seed" by Ruth Krauss) or well-known tales (like "Rumplestiltskin", "The Little Red Hen", and "The Gingerbread Man"); other times they are books that are made-up to fit the episode (like How Pecos Bill Cleans Up the West, What Instrument does Alvin Play?, and Lionel's favorite book, Nothing but Lug Nuts).
- Songs: Silly but informative songs sum up the rules of English spelling and pronunciation in easy-to-remember ways, with lyrics like "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking" or "Even the blues would be blue without an s" and many others. Often the text of the song is shown on screen. The songs for the show are by Thomas Z. Shepard, Christopher Cerf, Sarah Durkee and Paul Jacobs.
- Animations and skits: A variety of animations and skits show how words are formed and how one word can be changed into another by adding or removing letters.
- Definitions: Whenever a long or unusual word is used in a dialog or story, a quick definition is given. Usually, it is subtly worked into the conversation, such as when one of the parents responds to a question from the children. Other times it may be provided in a humorous way, such as when Heath Thesaurus pokes his head in to define a word. Occasionally words may be defined by showing pictures or other artistic methods.
- Repeated Vocabulary: Various vocabulary words are introduced in each episode, ranging from simple, everyday concepts like "jump" and "read" to more complex words like "sequel", "dictionary", or "drought". After a word has been introduced, it is usually used a number of times throughout the episode.
In addition to teaching basic reading, pronunciation, and grammar skills, Between the Lions also strives to promote a general love of reading in its viewers. It explores the many subjects that books can cover and shows how different people may enjoy reading different things. It also demonstrates the value of reference books and the importance of reading in other everyday activities like using a computer, cooking with a recipe, or finding your way with street signs.
Some Between the Lions episodes also deal with larger episodes related to literary matters: How to handle the scary parts of a story, for example, or the fact that it's okay to be a little sad if something bad happens to a character that you like in a book. It also shows how children can use books as jumping points for their own imagination.
Above all, every character on the show expresses a contagious enthusiasm for reading, with the underlying message being "Reading is cool".
- Bertice Berry - Herself (2001)
- Alison Fraser - Babs Caplan
- Denyce Graves - Herself
- Fred Newman - Letter sounds, various live action and sound segments
- Dr. Ruth Westheimer - Dr. Ruth Wordheimer
- Pam Arciero - Leona Lion (2003–2011)
- Anthony Asbury - Lionel Lion (2000–2010), Arty Smartypants
- Heather Asch - Clay Pigeon, Click the Mouse
- Jennifer Barnhart - Cleo Lion
- Cheryl Blaylock - Ursa
- Lisa Buckley - Chelsea
- Tyler Bunch - Walter Pigeon (2000), Dr. Nitwhite
- David Matthew Feldman - Monkeys, Ducks
- James Godwin - Steve the Bowling Ball
- James J. Kroupa - Walter Pigeon (2000–2001)
- Tim Lagasse - Arty Smarty-pants, Barnaby Busterfield III, Gus Rabbit, Various Characters
- Peter Linz - Theo Lion, Heath the Thesaurus (2001–2011)
- Rick Lyon - Ted the Scientist Monkey
- Noel MacNeal - Lionel Lion (2011)
- Kathryn Mullen - Leona Lion (2000–2002)
- Jim Napolitano - Zak the Surfing Monkey
- Kenneth Neptune - Harry
- Carmen Osbahr - Sierra Lion
- Matt Vogel - Various Characters
- Jennifer Barnhart - Most female cartoon roles
- Scott Dodson - Silver Knight
- Michael K. Frith - Red Knight
- Dave Goelz - Purple Knight
- Peter Linz - Gawain
- Fred Newman - Golf Announcer
- Richard O'Connor - Gold Knight
- Chris Phillips - Cliff Hanger
- Brian Schemmel - Blue Knight
Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition - 2008 Nomination
Paul Jacobs, Sarah Durkee, Christopher Cerf
Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction/Set Decoration/Scenic Design - 2008 Nomination
Christopher Cerf, Norman Stiles, Judith Stoia, Brigid Sullivan, Bill Berner, Chris Cardillo, Philippa Hall, Diane Hartman, Rick Klein, Scott Colwell, Beth Kirsch, Carol Klein (PBS)
Outstanding Pre-School Children's Series - 2008 Nomination
Laura Brock, Karen Wing, Jerel Levanway, Bill Reinhart, Jack Thomas, Mary Goodson, Ray Green, Jimmy Thrasher (PBS)
Composition - 2008 Nomination
Paul Jacobs, Sarah Durkee, Christopher Cerf (PBS)
Outstanding Writing in a Children's Series - 2008 & 2009
Outstanding Pre-School Children's Series - 2009
Executive Producers: Judith Stoia, Christopher Cerf, Norman Stiles, Brigid Sullivan. Series Producer: Beth Kirsch. Coordinating Producer: Rick Klein, Bill Berner, Diane Hartman, Chris Cardillo, Philippa Hall. Producer: Scott Colwell, Carol Klein.
There will be four animated episodes, made by CloudKid. Two are off of Nursery Tales (The Ant and the Grasshopper, The Three Little Pigs), while the other two are off of Seasons and weather (One about wind, the other about snow/Winter).
Similarities to other shows
The Electric Company
Comparisons are often made to another PBS children's reading series, The Electric Company. The format is similar, with animated segments showing words suspended in the air near people who discuss them. In particular, Sam Spud, Gawain's Word and the short segments featuring Fred Newman are highly reminiscent of the old Electric Company
Guest stars from other series have appeared in Between The Lions. 3 castmembers of ZOOM have appeared, teaching viewers how to read the word "Zoom". Al Roker, Jasmine Guy, Denyce Graves and Jane Seymour have made appearances to read words to the viewers as well as some athletes
- United States Department of Education (2000–2011)
- Corporation for Public Broadcasting (2000–2011)
- Chick-fil-A (2003–2011)
Home Video releases
Most VHS tapes are released and distributed by WGBH, mostly with its video label, WGBH Boston Video.
Season 1, Episode 1: Pecos Bill Cleans Up the West Original Air Date—3 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 2: The Lost Rock Original Air Date—4 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 3: Little Big Mouse Original Air Date—5 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 4: Farmer Ken's Puzzle Original Air Date—6 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 5: Shooting Stars Original Air Date—7 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 6: The Hopping Hen Original Air Date—9 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 7: Touching the Moon Original Air Date—11 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 8: The Boy Who Cried Wolf Original Air Date—12 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 9: Fuzzy Wuzzy, Wuzzy? Original Air Date—13 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 10: Lionel's Antlers Original Air Date—14 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 11: To the Ship! To the Ship! Original Air Date—16 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 12: The Chap with Caps Original Air Date—18 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 13: Pandora's Box Original Air Date—19 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 14: Lionel's Great Escape Trick Original Air Date—20 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 15: There's a Fly in My Soup Original Air Date—20 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 16: The Popcorn Popper Original Air Date—23 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 17: Something Fishy Original Air Date—25 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 18: Hug, Hug, Hug! Original Air Date—26 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 19: The Ram in the Pepper Patch Original Air Date—27 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 20: A Peck of Peppers Original Air Date—28 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 21: Sausage Nose Original Air Date—30 April 2000
Season 1, Episode 22: Red Hat, Green Hat Original Air Date—2 May 2000
Season 1, Episode 23: The Lucky Duck Original Air Date—3 May 2000
Season 1, Episode 24: The Old Man Original Air Date—4 May 2000
Season 1, Episode 25: A King and His Hawk Original Air Date—5 May 2000
Season 1, Episode 26: The Roar That Makes Them Run Original Air Date—8 May 2000
Season 1, Episode 27: Piggyback, Piggyback Original Air Date—9 May 2000
Season 1, Episode 28: The Fox and the Crow Original Air Date—10 May 2000
Season 1, Episode 29: Giants and Cubs Original Air Date—11 May 2000
Season 1, Episode 30: Be Bop Original Air Date—12 May 2000
Season 2, Episode 2: Humph! Humph! Humph! Original Air Date—4 September 2000
Season 2, Episode 7: Bug Beard Original Air Date-10 April 2000
Season 2, Episode 13: Oh, Yes It Can! Original Air Date—17 December 2000
Season 2, Episode 22: Tweet! Tweet! Original Air Date—1 May 2001
- The Electric Company
- Asterisk animation - company responsible for some animation on this show
- Sesame Street
- ^ http://www.sunherald.com/2011/08/31/3391334/between-the-lions-takes-final.html
- ^ http://www.pbs.org/parents/tvprograms/program-lions.html
- ^ http://www.ket.org/tvschedules/episode.php?nola=BELN++001001&layout=popup&framed=1
- ^ List of project team members for the show
- ^ "Between the Lions". Cloud Kid LLC. http://cloudkid.com/work/between-the-lions.
PBS Kids shows Current shows PBS Kids GO! See also
PBS network shows · Educational television
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