September 16th, 2011
02:09 PM ET
Imagine a children's cartoon character saying things like: "Something about the lactic acid in milk makes your hands soft," or, "It's hard to sit on a beach when all I wanna do is make invitations," or "Use this to trim off the dead skin around your nails."
It doesn't seem plausible... unless that character is an animated, 10-year-old Martha Stewart.
As it turns out, Stewart is borrowing a page (a hand-letter pressed one, no doubt!) from the book of "Muppet Babies." The digital animated series "Martha & Friends" chronicles the crafty adventures of Martha and her pals Lily, Hannah and Kevin.
If you can look past the fact that young Martha has a 40-year-old's haircut, you'll likely be charmed by the show, because at its core, "Martha & Friends" is about sticking by your friends and nurturing the individuality and creativity of kids. In other words, it's a good thing.
It may seem unrealistic for a 10-year-old girl to make sticky buns; homemade lip balm; avocado yogurt facial masks; insist that her friends apply at least two coats of SPF 30+ sunblock; or bathe her dog with a low-foaming dog shampoo formulated specifically for his breed, but Martha Stewart herself wasn't your garden-variety (pun intended!) child. In real life, she learned a great deal about baking, cooking, gardening - even canning and preserving goods - at a tender age.
While Stewart's ever-unique point of view clearly shines through each episode, the series isn't biographical per se, so continuity is not an issue. There's no mention of Stewart's hometown of Nutley, New Jersey. Rather, her 10-year-old counterpart inhabits a leafy, idyllic town that makes Disney's Main Street, U.S.A. look like the wrong side of the tracks.
A great deal of care goes into the webisodes (they can be found at www.marthaandfriends.com), which have titles like "Sew What," and "Scrappy Birthday," and each run between just three and nine minutes in length. The writers make sure that young Martha points out when her mother helps her with projects that could potentially be dangerous for children - such as working an oven or handling sharp objects. In addition, there are links to step-by-step instructions on how to do the featured projects, crafts and recipes.
"Martha & Friends" may also bring back fond memories of some of your favorite depictions of younger versions of popular figures. In a piece written for Animation World Network, Martin Goodman refers to the trend as "Babyfication," calling the character offshoots "less attempts at revisionism than they are vehicles for marketing cuter, alternate versions of established characters."
The above-mentioned "Muppet Babies" is arguably the gold standard of "Babyfied" characters, but some other notables include "Flintstone Kids," "Tiny Toon Adventures," "Baby Looney Tunes," "A Pup Named Scooby Doo," "Clifford’s Puppy Days," and the comic strip "Lil Formers." Honorable mentions in the live-action category include "Young Sherlock Holmes" and "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles."
The short-lived late-1990s TV show "Muppets Tonight" even did a parody called "Seinfeld Babies," poking fun at both "Muppet Babies" and "Seinfeld." It actually parodies - of all things - the controversial "Seinfeld" episode "The Contest." The puppet versions of Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer hold a competition to see who can go the longest without a diaper change.
While many fictional characters have been re-imagined as babies and children, not many real-life personalities, such as Stewart, have been "Babyfied." Bill Cosby's "Little Bill" and Roseanne Barr's "Little Rosey" come to mind.
What about you? What are your favorite "Babyfied" characters?
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