This year, PAW Patrol –- an animated series centered on talking puppies on first-responder rescue missions –- marks a decade of preschool market dominance.
After 10 years, young inventor Ryder and his ever-growing family of pups are out of their toddler years ... yet the franchise shows no signs of slowing down.
On Monday, April 24, a half-hour prime-time special titled All Paws On Deck unites about two dozen heroic pups (and cats) for a special mission to once again save Adventure Bay.
It follows the much-hyped February premiere of Rubble & Crew, a spin-off show that quickly became the top-rated preschool series on TV.
Later this year, the franchise’s second major film, PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie, hits theaters, hoping to repeat the $140 million+ box office of their first movie two years ago.
And that’s in addition to PAW Patrol Live! stage shows, as multiple performing troupes wearing character costumes are currently touring the nation.
The most-watched show by 2- to 5 year-olds since 2016 (three years after its debut) PAW Patrol has captured the imaginations of children and become a juggernaut brand in the process.
Why can’t kids get enough of these pups? It’s not just bright colors, not-too-perilous action, and that incessant theme song. Read on for a sneak peek at the new special and what’s ahead.
Kids Love the Formula
A few years ago, when first encountering current preschool titles, my wife and I chuckled at the genius of a show titled Dinosaur Train -– combining two obsessions of nearly every boy under age 8. Then we discovered a bigger franchise that has even greater synergy for boys and girls.
Every kid loves cute puppies. They race to see any rescue vehicle, attracted by police sirens and a firetruck’s bright lights. They love cool gadgets. And kids enjoy simple stories that open up the wider world they’re learning about, showing they, too, could be a hero.
That’s PAW Patrol in a nutshell, centered on six core team members –- police pup Chase, high-flying Skye, construction foreman Rubble, firefighting pooch Marshall and the rest.
In the new special, they’re first seen playing with a cardboard box, a throwback to the show’s simplest stories that have since shifted to larger-scale adventures.
The story formula used for 400+ segments still works: present problem or peril, gather pups to debrief, escalate problem, pups use special abilities to resolve, and everyone gets ice cream or pup treats at the end.
But PAW Patrol Also Kept Expanding
All Paws On Deck, premiering Monday (with many re-runs expected), recalls years of PAW Patrol missions with an Avengers-style team-up story. If our two preschoolers’ reaction is any indication, it gets kids out of their seats to cheer on their favorite pups.
The story introduces tech-driven Codi Gizmodi who wants to transform Adventure Bay into her “very own city”-- but it’s not for sale, says Mayor Goodway.
So, Codi uses her flying drones and a transporter device to relocate town hall and other city landmarks, while threatening to transport town residents “to the moon.” Those landmarks end up in secondary locations that have been introduced over years of PAW Patrol episodes.
There’s underwater Puplantis; Dino Land, where wheelchair-bound pup Rex helps wrangle massive dinos; Jake’s Mountain. where snow dog Everest is based; the forest jungle where Spanish-speaking Tracker has his ear to the ground; the golden desert where the Cat Pack rolls into trouble; and Barkingburg, Palace, home of mischievous royalty Sweetie.
It’s perhaps educational on themes of teamwork or overcoming fears. But PAW Patrol also has a heavy dose of fantasy that may require parents to help navigate (no, pups can’t fly into space, drive big rigs, or get a mermaid’s tail.)
Count on even more world-building to happen with PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie, set for theatrical release on September 29.
A meteor somehow allows Chase, Skye, and the rest to attain superpowers, as do their villainous foes. It’s sure to be unavoidable for parents with toddlers.
Selling Toys, Not Social Issues
Considering PAW Patrol is owned and developed by toy company Spin Master Entertainment, the show feels like a throwback to the '80s, when Care Bears and Transformers were ascendant.
Certainly the sheer volume and variety of PAW Patrol merchandise leads to many opportunities for parents to teach kids patience (and the meaning of no).
To keep the highest percentage of toy-buying parents on-board, PAW Patrol’s formula doesn’t really allow for the sort of ever-younger indoctrination happening on many Disney (Dino Ranch), Nickelodeon, and Netflix shows.
You can’t stop a rescue for an aside about the latest hot-button social issue.
The show portrays law enforcement in a positive light, as police dog Chase often exclaims, “These paws uphold the laws!” It’s led some on the political left to criticize the show, but these themes are not heavy-handed.
In Conclusion ...
Even if parents can sometimes barely tolerate the frequent sirens, bright lights, and repetitive music cues, these imaginative pup missions engage preschoolers with equal parts light peril, discovery, and heroism.
Ten years later, PAW Patrol is still on a roll.
PAW Patrol: All Paws On Deck airs on April 24 at 7 P.M. ET on Nickelodeon. Details of the special’s release on Paramount+ are expected to be announced soon.
Image credit: Spin Master Entertainment / Nickelodeon
Josh M. Shepherd covers culture, faith and public-policy issues for various media outlets. He and his wife are raising two children in Northern Virginia.