Yesterday we were pimping for Playboy; today, it's the Wiggles. Speed bump much?
But, yeah, if you have a kid between the ages of, oh, 1 and 3, you might want to just go ahead and clear the schedule today. This morning could be rough. That's because from 10 a.m. till noon, the Wiggles--you got it, Murray, Jeff, Anthony and Greg and even Captain Feathersword--are going to be at the brand-new Wiggly Play Center in Frisco. The place has been open for about a week now, but today's the official grand opening; hence, the arrival of your kids' favorite Aussies to the first of what's likely to be a chain of Wiggly Play Centers in the U.S.
Why Frisco? Turns out not only is Texas the home of their first play center--some 9,000 square feet of indoor playgrounds and fruit-salad cafes and plasma TVs brainwashing...er, broadcasting nothing but Wiggles shows--outside of Sydney, Australia, but Addison's where the group's U.S. business operatations are headquartered. Seriously. Since January. And the company that distributes the Wiggles' videos and CDs, HIT Entertainment, is based out of Allen, where, only last week, its temporary home became a permanent one. Sloan Coleman, the VP of the Wiggles' U.S. operations, used to work at HIT as senior vice president in charge of stage shows and touring events for 15 years. I believe she also used to feed Dorothy the Dinosaur. Now, she's in charge of all the fruit salad, as it were.
So, Sloan, do tell. Exactly how'd the Wiggles wind up in the Dallas area, of all places?
"They just decided that this would be a good place, so that we are close to their corporate headquarters," she says. "It made sense. And Frisco's one of the fastest-growing cities in Texas, and because of all the young starter families out there, we thought this would be a good place to do something like this. They didn't have anything focused on pre-school children out there. They have the ballpark and the soccer field, so it was a good match for us."
I haven't been out there yet; no doubt the missus is taking the 3-year-old who lives with us there this morning, though he's sort of outgrown the Wiggles in favor of Gorillaz and the Flaming Lips, which seems about right. (I smell a rekindled interest coming on; goody, cannot wait.) But it's gotta be better than most of the other alternatives out there; better an indoor playground and a restaurant serving all-fruit smoothies and baked (not fried) finger foods than, ya know, the friggin' Chuck-E-Cheese, where the food was probably delicious when it was originally prepared during the Clinton administration. And the place is divided into two areas: a bigger play space for the older kiddies, with things like a climbing maze and a two-story "jumping castle" and plenty of Big Red Cars, and a smaller space for the under-18-months set.
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Truth be told, there are worse things for kids to dig; HIT's Barney, for starters. And their taste in music is unimpeachable; they've recorded with Tim Finn of Split Enz, and their concerts feature snippets of Beatles and Led Zeppelin songs, if only to keep the folks engaged between renditions of those timeless classics "Hot Potato" and "Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga, Big Red Car." A few years back they were kiddie stars in ascension in the States; now they're as close to iconic as, oh, Dora the Explorer. (Really, we will get to dire City Hall news at some point today. Or something involving porn.)
"Things kinda slowly started building up, and now they're like a little iconic group, where people really are starting to know not only The Wiggles as a name but who they really are and how highly educated they are since they're certified pre-school educators," Coleman says. "It's been fun watching them grow in the area, where people want to know them as people and not another pre-shcool entertainment brand. And they're non-stop. They keep growing and growing and growing." Before you know it, they'll be all the way to Anna and Melissa; till then, Frisco is now Wiggles World. --Robert Wilonsky
The Wiggles, "Walk on the Wild Side" (Lou Reed cover from Australian radio--no, seriously)