In the first episode of the hugely popular Netflix kids show, Cocomelon, we are introduced to JJ, a small animated child with a single curl of hair. JJ is preparing for his first day of school, a nerve-racking milestone for any toddler, but his family is doing little to alleviate his anxiety.
Barging over to little JJ, his parents unleash a series of sing-song questions: Do you have your backpack? Do you have your shoes? Do you have your lunch?
Cocomelon’s main character JJ on his first day of school.Credit:Cocomelon/YouTube
JJ answers all their queries in the exact same way: Yes, I do.
This formula continues on the journey to school, with JJ’s mother grilling her son on what he intends to do once class begins. Will you greet your teacher? Yes, I will. Will you make new friends? Yes, I will.
Just when you think the inquisition is about to end, JJ’s new teacher gets involved. Did you hang your backpack? Yes, I did.
Watching this scene with my three-year-old niece, I expected her to turn around with a desperate request to put Bluey on. She boasts a discerning viewing palate, and Cocomelon seemed to offer little in the way of engagement besides call and response. Are you going crazy? Yes, I am.
Instead, she inched closer to the television, transfixed by JJ’s mind-numbing trip to school. Before long, her head bobbed back and forth in time with the music, and when I asked her if she’d like to watch something else, she just held a single grubby hand up to silence me.
Like millions of toddlers before her, she was hooked on the dark magic of Cocomelon.
What exactly is Cocomelon?
Kind of like karaoke for kids, Cocomelon is a sing-along series focused on JJ and his family. The episodes run for an hour, with three episodes per season. Each instalment features a mix of original songs and much-loved nursery rhymes, with the lyrics appearing on screen, meaning kids can join in. Great!
Will your kids be mesmerised? Yes, they will! But why?Credit:Cocomelon/YouTube
The 3D animation is rough and ready, so for those raised on a steady diet of Pixar productions, you’re in for a rude shock. But that doesn’t seem to matter to children, who inhale Cocomelon like it’s a finite resource.
Cocomelon began as YouTube channel; in fact, it’s the second most-watched YouTube channel in history, with more than 128 billion views. It’s also the second-most subscribed to channel, with 135 million subscribers.
Netflix began streaming the show in 2020, and it currently holds the record for the longest stint inside Netflix’s Top 10 charts with 148 days, beating out The Queen’s Gambit, Ozark, Tiger King and Bridgerton.
Why is it so popular?
The music! The colours! The constant cheer! Cocomelon leans heavily into the power of repetition, and anyone with toddlers will tell you that repetition is the fastest way to capture their fascination.
Cocomelon also features rapid transitions. Scenes are constantly chopping and changing with the music, delivering tiny dopamine hits that leave you simultaneously feeling drained while wanting more. It’s like TikTok for toddlers. The “Cocomelon is addictive” line has become a popular conversation online among parents, but there are some real concerns that the show is negatively impacting children.
Last year, Jerrica Sannes, a child development specialist with a master’s degree in early childhood curriculum and instruction, made waves by claiming the show is ‘hyper-stimulating’ its young viewers.
“Cocomelon is so hyper-stimulating that it acts as a drug, a stimulant,” Sannes posted on social media.“The brain receives a hit of dopamine from screen time, and the more they watch the show, the more the brain begins to expect this intense level of stimulation.”
It also didn’t hurt that Netflix picked up Cocomelon in mid-2020, right after the pandemic sent the entire world scurrying inside. Suddenly, you’ve got millions of parents desperate for a way to entertain their children while trying to survive working from home. Enter JJ and co.
Who created it?
You can blame Jay Jeon for the Cocomelon craze, the California-based filmmaker teaming up with his illustrator wife to create the YouTube series in 2006 to educate their children.
It took 10 years for their channel to hit one million subscribers, but fast-forward to 2022 and that figure has jumped to 135 million. Jeon cashed out in 2020, selling Cocomelon to Moonbug Entertainment, a company that specialises in children’s entertainment content, for an undisclosed amount.
Last year Moonbug was acquired for a casual $3 billion by Tom Staggs and Kevin Mayer, two Disney alums backed by the private-equity firm Blackstone.
Can it please go away soon?
Definitely not. Netflix has already ordered a Cocomelon spin-off, Cocomelon Lane, which will be the first-ever narrative series featuring the Cocomelon characters. There is a live show currently touring America, and earlier this year, Spotify launched Cocomelon Story Time, an original Cocomelon podcast.
Sorry parents, it looks like Cocomelon is going to be here for a long, long time.
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