Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2012: #12

Oogie Fever Not Contagious

By David Mumpower

January 2, 2013

At least they seem to be recycling sets from The Teletubbies.

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Boogie fever swept the nation in the 1970s. Oogie fever never got off the ground in 2012. Had Oogie fever been an actual disease, there would be no patient zero. Someone has to catch it in the first place before the disease can spread.

What in the world is Oogie fever? Your confusion is understandable because there is no such thing. It was the intended outcome of a well-intended children’s film. The title in question, The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, was produced with the expressed idea that the theatrical experience should be an interactive one for children. After all, they are going to sing and dance and hopefully not cry in the aisles anyway. Why not go with it?

This is a reasonable conclusion and an excellent idea, creatively speaking. Children have smart toys in their grimy little hands before they learn to walk. Sitting still for a period even as brief as 80 minutes can be a laborious experience for a kid. Parents do not pay for multiple tickets in order to bore their children. Instead, this is a commercial bribe wherein if the adults pay strangers money, the unspoken agreement is that the children will be entertained. Once the bribe is paid, parents i.e. consumers expect theater owners i.e. suppliers to hold up their end of the bargain.

There is a second half to this agreement. Theater owners are not so much suppliers as middlemen. Movie producers lease them products that they are entitled to exhibit theatrically for a set period of time. The catch is that these products are expected to entice consumers into, you know, going to a movie. A children’s film should be, you know, appealing to children. This is why the global cure for Oogie fever is important.


Let’s back up a step. Part of the reason theater owners lease a product is because the suppliers have fostered trust over a period of time. Take for example famed children’s programming producer Kenn Viselman. This man is an engrossing figure due to the fact that he has ties to a pair of iconic television series, neither of which he created. The first is Thomas the Tank Engine, a program for which Viselman was initially hired to market merchandise.

Over time, Viselman attained a respectful reputation behind the scenes and leveraged this into becoming a power broker in the toy industry. He became something of a legend at The itsy bitsy Entertainment Company before his position was usurped. He was the man who created what he now describes as a myth, the prank that caused the entire world to believe that one of the Teletubbies was gay.

Viselman’s company owned the United States rights to the BBC production. In order to create a media splash, he posited in 1999 that Tinky Winky must be gay since his outfit was purple. You know the rest. In the early days of the internet, there were only two reasons why a person would Google the word purple: Monica Lewinsky’s dress or Tinky Winky’s sexuality. And Lewinsky’s dress was really blue so it shouldn’t count.

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