PAW Patrol – generating cash by the kennel load
A few days ago I was visiting my 4-year-old niece. Her whole life currently revolves around the Canadian TV show «PAW Patrol». She constantly quotes scenes and can’t stop talking about Skye, Chase, and Marshall. I have no idea what she’s on about. Her reality is so removed from mine. Confused by my ignorance, she pulls out a small plastic figure and holds it in front of my face. «Look! This is Skye. She can fly.» I could just about make out that the dog is pink before my niece pulled out the next toy. «And this is Chase. He can move his legs.» The living room was full of this stuff. Action figures, playhouses, vehicles, card games. PAW Patrol everywhere I turned.
Who’s in the PAW Patrol?
The head of the PAW Patrol is 10-year-old Ryder. He lives in Adventure Bay with his six pups. Each of his dogs has a different function. One of them’s a cop, the other a firefighter and there’s also a construction worker. The plot is pretty simple and is repeated in every episode: there’s a problem in town. Ryder equips his dogs with gadgets and sends them off on their mission. The dogs solve the problem.
And that’s all there is to the series. There are no interesting dialogues hidden amongst the repetitive sentences and catchphrases. So in terms of content, the kids are learning absolutely nothing. Zurich-based newspaper Tagesanzeiger even goes so far as to say the series conveys a misleading image and should be banned. The article about PAW Patrol (in German) says: «You could argue that the show’s value lies in the fact that it’s about helpfulness. However, seeing how robotic the puppies’ movements are and how relaxed the police dog is about surveillance technology, the series is more ‘1984’ than altruistic.»
Maybe the problem is that it’s hard to tackle complex issues such as police violence, as discussed in the New York Times, or gender equality (Skye is the only female lead) in an animated series. Granted, not every kids’ show needs to be as educational as, let’s say, BBC’s Blue Peter. But the real reason why PAW Patrol is so shallow is a different one. Its producers simply don’t give a toss about the content. It’s about the money.
Why is there so much merch?
This question reveals the real reason for PAW Patrol’s existence. The series isn’t made by a public broadcasting service with an educational mission, but by a sales-driven company – Canadian toy manufacturer Spin Master. The first toys had hit the market even before the first season had ended. In other words, PAW Patrol is produced for one sole reason: to sell toys.
And this is something the producers do well. Really well, in fact. To push sales even more, they keep making changes to the series. For example, Chase was a spy in season two and the dogs’ headquarters were relocated to a moving truck. Accordingly, new action figures and vehicles went on sale in department stores. Season 3 saw headquarters moved to a plane and then to a submarine in season 4. Each new set flew off the shelves. Not surprising really. Just like with my niece, many other children’s bedrooms around the globe revolve around the pups from Adventure Bay. For Spin Master, this pays off big time. And so do the many other children’s series by the company: Abby Hatcher, Bakugan, Mighty Express and Zo Zo Zombie. The latter generated annual sales of 1.5 billion US dollars in 2020.
You’re probably thinking: this kind of thing didn’t exist back in my day! Well, yes and no. Although the producers of the series weren’t toy manufacturers, we definitely weren’t shielded from product placement.
I definitely blame the Ninja Turtles for my love of pizza. That show was practically a non-stop ad for pizza.