Doo doo doo doo doo doo: ‘Baby Shark’ bites into the culture

This picture shows the WowWee pinkfong Baby Shark family of singing plush toys. (AP)
Updated 13 December 2018
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Doo doo doo doo doo doo: ‘Baby Shark’ bites into the culture

  • The song has a catchy rhythm and it uses silly sounds as well as colorful and cute animation
  • In the wise words of James Corden, there comes along a song every so often that defines a generation

NEW YORK: In the wise words of James Corden, there comes along a song every so often that defines a generation.
Doo doo doo doo doo doo.
The late-night TV host, carpool karaoke king and father of three young children was referring specifically, and wryly, to “Baby Shark,” now the bloodthirstiest of earworms for some parents and meme lovers everywhere.
Insert shark hands here.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve been living inside a sea anemone since at least 2015. That’s when an educational content brand in South Korea, Pinkfong , released its first shark video, later breaking the Internet with a version mixing animation and two adorable human kids dancing out the story of a shark family, K-pop style, earning more than 2 billion views on YouTube.
If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, you haven’t spent enough time at summer camp or around a campfire, where singalong versions of said story with said gestures, akin to an old nursery rhyme with the same theme, have rocked on for decades.
Now, thanks to the #babysharkchallenge that has us all singing, doing our shark hands and sharing on social media, and thanks to piles of soft shark heads, toddler attire and other swag that includes singing plush toys and books, “Baby Shark” is a full-on craze, for bite-size fans anyway.
“Our toddler’s shark video addiction is a huge issue in our household,” said Columbus, Ohio, mom Kitty French. “At first it was a cute melody. Now it’s an earworm that literally all of our parent friends understand.”
Not all grown-ups are weary. If they were, would they continue to upload themselves in mashups and mixes, from R&B to Santa Claus? Can we do without the absolutely cutest home video of them all, the little girl begging Alexa to play her favorite shark jam, frustrated by the not-so-smart device’s inability to understand? What about the Texas family so enamored they synchronized their blinking, blinding holiday yard lights to the snappy tune?
Some parents of special needs kids think “Baby Shark” has not only entertained but helped their young ones.
Holly Anderson is a Utah mother of four, including a 3-year-old son with autism and apraxia of speech. His autism therapist uses children’s songs on YouTube to motivate him to sit still and was the first to show him “Baby Shark.”
“He’s overstimulated visually and usually won’t watch any shows on TV or the iPad,” Anderson said. “He has a very difficult time staying still, even for a moment, and usually spends his time running around in therapy. I’m honestly not sick of it yet since it’s one of the only ways to get him calm after a meltdown.”
The one he likes the most is by Pinkfong, she said. The company has put up more than one version. Other parents said their kids prefer versions of baby, mama, papa, grandma and grandpa shark from a content provider called Super Simple. There are many, many other offerings to choose from and many, many more millions of views than the jackpot scored by Pinkfong for its dance version.
Corden, host of “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” isn’t the only celebrity to take on baby shark madness. He enlisted Sophie Turner and Josh Groban to perform the song on air . Ellen DeGeneres put her spin on the song on her talk show as well and Simon Cowell’s 4-year-old son popped up on the “X-Factor UK” as dancing cuteness ensued with singing kids accompanied by adults in shark suits for the opening of the grand final this year.
Bob Cunningham, an educator and senior adviser for the nonprofit consortium Understood.org, which supports parents of kids with learning and attention issues, sees several benefits to “Baby Shark.”
“The song has a catchy rhythm and it uses silly sounds as well as colorful and cute animation,” he said. “Also, both the music and the animation are predictable, with repeated words, phrases, colors and movements.”
The combinations can capture and sustain attention even in children where attention isn’t a strength, Cunningham said. The song and video also engage most of the senses simultaneously and combine language with music and movement, which can appeal to kids who struggle with any of those things when they are presented in isolation. For example, the movement can support less developed language and the music can offer support when movements are difficult, he said.
Clearly, other kid content can do the same, but “Baby Shark” ruled at Jason Simms’ house, at least for a time.
Simms, who lives in Deep River, Connecticut, said his 14-month-old daughter Fionnuala first heard the song when she was 8 months old but has since tired of it, before her parents did, once her language comprehension skills began kicking in.
“It was one of the first things in life she directly expressed a preference for, so that’s why we picked it for her Halloween costume,” he said. “At the end of the Super Simple version, it says ‘bye bye sharks’ and that became how we say bye in our family. She now fusses when she hears it.”
But there’s plenty more fish in the “Baby Shark” sea.
A Montreal-based company, WowWee, has a Pinkfong license for North America to sell the shark family in plush toys that sing when tummies are squeezed, along with soft song cube versions. Available exclusively on Amazon on pre-order that guaranteed delivery in time for Christmas, they sold out in two and a half days earlier this month, said Davin Sufer, WowWee’s chief technology officer.
Sufer would not disclose how many units were gobbled up at $19.99 each. More will be rolled out at a broader range of retailers come early 2019, along with new offerings. Third-party sellers who nabbed the toys are now offering them for more than $100 on Amazon.
The privately-held WowWee was already in talks with Pinkfong as far back as nearly a year ago when “Baby Shark” truly exploded, said Sufer, who has three kids of his own, including a 9-year-old daughter who came home from camp last summer singing the song before she knew his involvement.
“The tune itself has an addictive quality to it,” he said. “You hear it once or twice and you hear yourself singing, doo doo doo doo doo doo. I could see maybe parents getting a little tired of it, but kids aren’t.”


Tens of thousands converge on California ‘poppy apocalypse’

A woman poses for a photo among poppies in bloom on the hills of Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, California, on March 8, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Tens of thousands converge on California ‘poppy apocalypse’

  • More than 6,000 people on a recent Saturday stopped at the visitor’s center at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

LAKE ELSINORE, California: Like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” the Southern California city of Lake Elsinore is being overwhelmed by the power of the poppies.
About 150,000 people over the weekend flocked to see this year’s rain-fed flaming orange patches of poppies lighting up the hillsides near the city of about 60,000 residents, about a 90-minute drive from either San Diego or Los Angeles.
Interstate 15 was a parking lot. People fainted in the heat; a dog romping through the fields was bitten by a rattlesnake.
A vibrant field of poppies lures Dorothy into a trap in the “Wizard of Oz” when the wicked witch, acknowledging that no one can resist their beauty, poisons the wildflowers and she slips into a fatal slumber until the good witch reverses the spell.
Lake Elsinore had tried to prepare for the crush of people drawn by the super bloom, a rare occurrence that usually happens about once a decade because it requires a wet winter and warm temperatures that stay above freezing.
It offered a free shuttle service to the top viewing spots, but it wasn’t enough.
Sunday traffic got so bad that Lake Elsinore officials requested law enforcement assistance from neighboring jurisdictions. At one point, the city pulled down the curtain and closed access to poppy-blanketed Walker Canyon.
“It was insane, absolutely insane,” said Mayor Steve Manos, who described it as a “poppy apocalypse.”
By Monday the #poppyshutdown announced by the city on Twitter was over and the road to the canyon was re-opened.
And people were streaming in again.
Young and old visitors to the Lake Elsinore area seemed equally enchanted as they snapped selfies against the natural carpet of iridescent orange.
Some contacted friends and family on video calls so they could share the beauty in real time. Artists propped canvasses on the side of the trail to paint the super bloom, while drones buzzed overhead.
Patty Bishop, 48, of nearby Lake Forest, was on her second visit. The native Californian had never seen such an explosion of color from the state flower. She battled traffic Sunday but that didn’t deter her from going back Monday for another look. She got there at sunrise and stayed for hours.
“There’s been so many in just one area,” she said. “I think that’s probably the main reason why I’m out here personally is because it’s so beautiful.”
Stephen Kim and his girlfriend got to Lake Elsinore even before sunrise Sunday to beat the crowds but there were already hundreds of people.
The two wedding photographers hiked on the designated trails with an engaged couple to do a photo shoot with the flowers in the background, but they were upset to see so many people going off-trail and so much garbage. They picked up as many discarded water bottles as they could carry.
“You see this beautiful pristine photo of nature but then you look to the left and there’s plastic Starbucks cups and water bottles on the trail and selfie sticks and people having road rage because some people were walking slower,” said Kim, 24, of Carlsbad.
Andy Macuga, honorary mayor of the desert town of Borrego Springs, another wildflower hotspot, said he feels for Lake Elsinore.
In 2017, a rain-fed super bloom brought in more than a half-million visitors to the town of 3,500. Restaurants ran out of food. Gas stations ran out of fuel. Traffic backed up on a single road for 20 miles (32 kilometers).
The city is again experiencing a super bloom.
The crowds are back. Hotels are full. More than 6,000 people on a recent Saturday stopped at the visitor’s center at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California’s largest park with 1,000 square miles (2,590 sq. kilometers).
But it helps that the masses of blooms are appearing in several different areas this time, and some sections are fading, while others are lighting up with flowers, helping to disperse the crowds a bit.
Most importantly, Macuga said, the town’s businesses prepared this time as if a major storm was about to hit. His restaurant, Carlee’s, is averaging more than 550 meals a day, compared to 300 on a normal March day.
“We were completely caught off guard in 2017 because it was the first time that we had had a flower season like this with social media,” he said. “It helps now knowing what’s coming.”