Oobi is an American children's television series created by Josh Selig and produced by Little Airplane Productions for the Noggin cable channel. It focuses on a group of bare-hand puppets with acrylic eyes and accessories. The show's concept is based on a training method used by puppeteers learning to operate Muppets, in which they use their hands and a pair of ping pong balls instead of a puppet. Oobi began as a series of two-minute shorts in 2000 and was developed into a full-length program in 2003.
The show takes place in a quaint and somewhat old-fashioned neighborhood inhabited by talking hand puppets. The title character is a curious, affable, and sometimes bashful four-year-old hand who lives with his overdramatic younger sister Uma and his hapless grandfather Grampu. Oobi is often accompanied by his best friend Kako, who spends so much time with Oobi that he is almost an honorary family member. The characters communicate in simplified sentences without prepositions or conjunctions; for example, "Uma, school, first day" is said in place of "It's Uma's first day of school." Episodes usually contain three vignettes: a main story, a game segment, and a collection of interviews between the characters and real families about the episode's topic.
Two seasons of 13 full-length episodes (26 in total) and 47 shorts were made. The shorts vary in length but are two minutes long on average. Each full-length episode spans 22 minutes and includes two ten-minute segments.
The series focuses on four central characters: Oobi, his sister Uma, his best friend Kako, and his grandfather Grampu. The show also features a supporting cast of townspeople and friends who occasionally join in on the main family's adventures.
Josh Selig came up with the idea for Oobi while watching puppeteers audition for Ulica Sezamkowa, the Polish adaptation of Sesame Street. They used only their bare hands and pairs of plastic eyes, which inspired Selig to consider making a television pilot about rudimentary hand puppets. He turned to Martin P. Robinson and Tim Lagasse to help him develop the idea, and they built the acrylic eye props that would later become costumes for Oobi characters.
After successfully pitching the concept to the then-upcoming cable network Noggin, Oobi was turned into a series of two-minute shorts. These aired daily before each thirty-minute program from 6:00 AM until 6:00 PM. The shorts were notably some of the only content produced by Noggin while both Sesame Workshop and the Jim Henson Company had control over Noggin's programming. Thanks to the two companies' influence, Josh Selig was able to assemble a cast of puppeteers consisting exclusively of Muppet alumni. Tim Lagasse played the main character Oobi, while Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Noel MacNeal, and Tyler Bunch rounded out the rest of the main cast. Oobi was adapted into a full-length series in 2003 and ran for two seasons, concluding on February 11, 2005.
The shorts continued to air in reruns until 2007, when Noggin officially ended its relationship with Sesame Workshop. Reruns of the full-length episodes continued to air on Noggin until the channel was replaced by Nick Jr. in September 2009. Nick Jr. aired Oobi along with many other Noggin programs from then until spring 2013, when most older programming was removed from the channel's lineup. The series was added to the Noggin mobile subscription service in May 2015. Commercials for the mobile app featuring Oobi among other shows were aired on every channel in the Nickelodeon family (including Nicktoons and TeenNick, which had not aired Noggin programs at any point) during summer 2015.
Though there were never any full-scale DVD releases of the series, many Nick Jr. DVDs released from 2002 until 2004 included Oobi shorts and clips from full-length episodes as bonus features. Several DVD collections sold in later years also feature episodes of the show. In addition, Oobi is featured on various posters and magazines released by Nickelodeon.
Oobi has aired in more territories than any other Noggin program. After it ended its run in 2005, it was sold to 23 international markets. Stöð 2 aired an Icelandic-dubbed version of the show from 2005 to 2006. SMG in Shanghai premiered a Mandarin Chinese dub in 2005. Nickelodeon Junior aired a French dub in France and Wallonia from 2007 to 2010. Nickelodeon Poland aired a Polish-dubbed version of the series from 2007 until 2009. The original English version has been aired on ABC Kids in Australia, on Nickelodeon Pakistan, and on TVOKids in Canada. Nickelodeon Arabia has aired an Arabic dub since 2009. Select channels in Oceania and Southeast Asia have also broadcast the show.
An adaptation of the series, titled Dasdasi, was written and filmed for Iranian viewers by IRIB TV2 in 2012. The original puppeteers were not involved. According to an interview from 2013, the producers of Dasdasi watched English episodes of Oobi beforehand and decided to create a version tailored specifically for a Muslim audience. 78 eight-minute episodes were produced. The series ran from September 22 to December 20, 2012, and reruns continue to air on IRIB as of 2017.