Surprise! Bluey has become the Taylor Swift of children’s television

Popular, melancholic and fresh from an unexpected content drop, the singer and the animated Australian series have much in common

The long-anticipated epic was released as scheduled, consumed with disbelieving gasps and thoroughly dissected on social media by those in awe of its sharp writing. So much distress, so much upheaval. Then, ardent fans started to fear that this was it. When would they hear from their idol again? Surprise! We barely had time to miss her before she was back for more.

Yes, the big development in the world of entertainment at the weekend was that Australian preschool favourite Bluey – thought by many to have bowed out a week earlier with an extended-length special – dropped another seven-minute episode and called it Surprise. So covert was this operation, the existence of Surprise was hidden even from television listings.

Bluey, for those neither in the orbit of toddlers nor possessing a professional reason to know about the television aimed at them, is the Taylor Swift of children’s animated series, in that its much-deserved popularity is unparalleled in its field and this status has been attained despite, or perhaps because of, a consistent strain of melancholy.

The Sign, the 28-minute episode previously suspected of being Bluey’s swansong, is a lot like Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department in that its major themes are the pain of endings, the grief involved in trying to reclaim control of your future and the uncertainties posed by forks in the road of life.


Swift’s record is about heartbreak, The Sign is about moving house. It’s debatable which causes the most trauma. Sure, Swift might be reeling from having given her ex-boyfriend “all that youth for free” as she sings on So Long, London (in what I would bet is another of her Mad Men references). But is a relationship that breaks apart after six years really any more ageing than (spoiler alert) having fickle buyers drop out of a house sale at the last minute?

The premise of the series is that Blue Heeler puppy Bluey, her younger sister Bingo, their father Bandit and their mother Chilli are anthropomorphic dogs who live, play, work and learn in Brisbane. It’s a dual childhood-parenting narrative that unfolds in your standard chaotic household – the surprise in Surprise, as people who know Bluey will not be shocked to hear, lands right in Bandit’s face.

The family’s adventures, written by the show’s creator Joe Brumm, are produced by Queensland company Ludo Studio, the website of which bears the line “create locally, screen globally”. This is no mere aspiration, but fact: Bluey has been exported to at least 60 countries and posts numbers that are, by any measure, phenomenal.

What was the most streamed series in the US last year? Okay, it was Suits. But Bluey, available on Disney Plus, came an astonishing second. While Suits clocked up 57.7 billion minutes from its 141 episodes, Bluey managed to garner 43.9 billion minutes from its 145 episodes, which was all the more impressive given its episodes are a fraction of the runtime of Suits.

Bluey’s total was also more than double the minutes of the show watched the year before. So these dogs are on the rise, which is good news for Disney Plus. But it’s even better news for BBC Studios, the commercial arm of the BBC.

Having co-commissioned the series with Australian public service broadcaster ABC, BBC Studios distributes Bluey outside Australia and also – crucially as it turns out – holds the worldwide licensing and merchandising rights. In its annual report for 2023, the BBC highlighted the show as a key factor in a 28 per cent rise in revenue to £2.1 billion (€2.4 billion) and 10 per cent increase in consumer product sales.

This, given Bluey was originally developed by ABC and also received funding from Australian government agencies, is a bit of a sore point down under, with the Australian Financial Review explaining in 2022 how ABC wasn’t making money out of the series under the attention-provoking headline “how the Brits stole the rights to Bluey”.

So, ABC not having enough financial firepower to profit from any upside to Bluey’s success could be said to exemplify the relative weak hand of a national broadcaster in the kids’ animation market. Alternatively, Bluey can be taken as ultimate proof both that public service broadcasters are still adept at recognising and championing kids’ TV genius when they see it and that one with the footprint of the BBC – which airs Bluey on CBeebies – can still profit from it.

Speaking of profits, it is probable that the length of Swift’s new volume – which unexpectedly expanded into a 31-song double album two hours after its debut – was partially designed to guarantee that the singer would set fresh streaming records, which she did. It’s less clear what the point of the extra Bluey episode drop was other than to delight its hardcore viewing base of frazzled parents. Confused applause seems the appropriate reaction.

Alas, no commercial juggernaut lasts forever. After reaching 154 episodes across three seasons, Bluey’s producers at Ludo Studio have signalled their intention to take a break, meaning that after The Sign (dubbed “Bluey’s Oppenheimer”), Surprise and any further surprises, that’s it for now. Still, the series has some way to catch up with Peppa Pig’s 394-episode tally. Demand for a fourth season and/or a feature film will, like Bingo’s shrieks, be difficult to ignore.

In the meantime, there are some huge summer dates in Dublin on the horizon, as discerning devotees of all ages gather to celebrate a global icon, experience the joy of their heroine’s presence on the live stage and, quite possibly, be overwhelmed by emotion in the process.

But enough about the Eras Tour. Did you hear Bluey’s Big Play is doing 11 shows at the Olympia?