How Disney Helped ‘Bluey’ Become a ‘Global Phenomenon’ Ahead of Its First Extended-Length Special

The first extended-length Bluey special, “The Sign,” will roll out on Sunday, April 14, across Disney+ (12 a.m. PT), Disney Junior (7 a.m. ET/PT), and Disney Channel (7:30 a.m. ET/PT). Jointly commissioned by ABC Children’s and BBC Studios Kids & Family, Bluey is created and written by Joe Brumm and produced by multi-Emmy® Award-winning Ludo Studio in association with Screen Queensland and Screen Australia. Bluey is available to U.S. and global audiences via Disney+, Disney Junior, and Disney Channel (outside of Australia, China, and New Zealand).

Thanks to a global broadcasting deal between Disney Branded Television and BBC Studios Kids & Family, millions of fans around the world have been touched by Bluey‘s heartfelt and humorous portrayal of family life and its celebration of play. In fact, the award-winning and critically acclaimed animated series begins 2024 as the No. 1 most-streamed series across all audiences* and the No. 1 series for preschoolers and kids overall** in the U.S., per Nielsen.

“The world that Joe Brumm so beautifully created has captivated audiences everywhere with its delightful blend of humor, heartfelt moments, and characters that everyone can relate to,” says Ayo Davis, president, Disney Branded Television. “And with the massive reach of Disney+, Disney Junior, and Disney Channel, Bluey has truly become a global phenomenon.”

With the Heeler house up for sale—and a wedding on the horizon—the 28-minute special will depict how the family braves a new set of ups and downs together. “Joe, the creator, has this almost magical ability to distill the essence of what it’s like to be Bluey’s age,” says Melanie Zanetti, who voices Bluey and Bingo’s mindful mum, Chilli. “I think there’s just so much truth, beauty, and heart in Joe’s work. Even though Bluey is such a quintessentially Australian story, it also resonates universally because Joe gets so specific.”

“That’s surprised me, too,” says Dave McCormack, who voices Bluey and Bingo’s devoted dad, Bandit. “It’s so Australian, and yet it appeals to so many people around the world—across countries, across cultures. People just relate to it, so it’s quite unique in that way.”

Zanetti describes the events of “The Sign” as “monumental” for the Heeler family. “When we recorded our dialogue, we recorded each half [of the special] separately, so it was an emotional roller coaster. We didn’t actually know what was happening next,” she says. “But because we get 28 minutes, we’re able to go a lot deeper than we normally can in just seven minutes. It allows us to explore dynamics and relationships with much more nuance.”

There are “many layers” to the special, McCormack teases: “But I suppose the overarching layer is, ‘What will be, will be.’ And, also, “Don’t sweat every minute of every day trying to control everything.'” After audiences finish watching “The Sign,” Zanetti hopes they remember this: “The world is broad and wide, and it’s filled with so many ups and downs. Don’t hold on too tightly; be present with each other and take each moment as it comes. Make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time. Things can change in an instant—and maybe things will turn out better than our wildest imaginings.”

All three seasons of Bluey are currently streaming on Disney+, allowing audiences to revisit their favorite episodes time and again.

Not only do children adore the characters and stories, but adults have also found themselves engrossed in the Heeler family’s escapades. “I’ve had so many parents—dads especially—saying, ‘This show has taught me how to play with my kids. It’s taught me how to have really difficult conversations with them,'” Zanetti shares. “There’s an episode where a budgie dies, and parents have said, ‘That helped me talk about death with my kids.’ There’s another episode where Chilli says, ‘I just need 20 minutes!’ And I’ve had moms say, ‘Do you know what a gift that was to say, ‘You know how Chilli just needs 20 minutes and it has no bearing on my love for you? Mommy needs a moment.'”

“So many people have found this show has helped them to process stuff they’re going through, which is quite amazing for a ‘kids show,’ isn’t it?” McCormack says. “To appeal across the board and be emotionally and spiritually of help to people is really special.”

The Heeler family’s dynamics are as inspiring as they are relatable. But, McCormack cautions, it’s better to focus on the latter aspect and not get caught up in the former. “People often say, ‘Bandit and Chilli are the best parents ever. They’re putting everyone to shame!'” he says. “But I say, ‘That’s not true. They only have to do it for seven minutes—and they’re animated!’ We have to exist in real life, unscripted, 24/7. I think we do a pretty good job. If you only had to be animated for seven minutes, I reckon you’d be pretty unreal and amazing parents, too! But, as real people, you just can’t hold yourself up to that [standard].”

Bandit and Chilli “are flawed,” McCormack continues. “Sometimes they don’t have the answer and they don’t know what to do. That’s what it’s like for parents in real life.” Echoing that point, Zanetti says, “They’re really struggling. I think parents love Bluey so much because the parents are fallible. Everyone’s allowed to be human—or, in this case, canine.”

That’s part of the reason why Bluey has endeared itself to audiences of all ages, all around the world—and why Zanetti has “a laugh and a cry” whenever she receives a new script. “Joe really respects the audience,” she explains. “Nothing is didactic; it doesn’t talk at or down to anyone. Because of the world he’s created—which centers around imaginative play—there are a lot of inroads to grapple with big topics in a really beautiful, gentle way.”

*Source: Nielsen Streaming Content Ratings; Jan-Feb 2024 (1/1/24-2/25/25), P2+ hours viewed, Viewing of shows that air on multiple platforms versus all streaming programs tracked by Nielsen; live viewing

**Source: Nielsen Media Research time spent viewing for CY2024 to-date; 1/1/24-2/25/25 based on total hours viewed for Kids 2-5 and Kids 6-11 across linear and streaming combined, versus all other series tracked by Nielsen.