Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: BOB ZOOM

bobzoom_toalhaI don’t know what to do with this one.

I hesitate to call BOB ZOOM the new hotness; more like a passing fancy– the kid noticed it and insisted on watching it a few times and then it disappeared from Netflix like a bad Brazilian dream.  Bob Zoom is an ant.  He does not, in any noticeable fashion, ever zoom anywhere, and the provenance of his last name is unclear.  Then again, the show is Brazilian, and translated from Portuguese, and I’m really tempted to ascribe all of the weirdness to the fact that the show was originally written for a Brazilian audience.  But I’m not convinced.  They find this shit weird too, right?  They have to.

Start off with this: the ant’s name isn’t Bob Zoom.  It’s Bobby.  They never once call him Bob, ever.  I originally wondered if this was also an artifact of translation, and the show was originally called Bob y Zoom, and Zoom was some other character, but there’s no sign of him anywhere and I’m not sure y actually means and in Portuguese anyway.  But here, watch the intro to the show.  His name’s Bobby!:

There’s no actual storyline to BOB ZOOM; there are (well, were) two episodes on Netflix and they’re entirely composed of songs.  Bob himself doesn’t do much of anything.  Some of the songs are fairly normal; there’s the alphabet, and they do a version of BINGO that isn’t far from the American standard but has entertainingly been translated from English to Portuguese and then back to English again.  There’s a Maori song called Epo I Tai Tai é, and I dare you to head down the Internet rabbit hole that trying to figure out what that translates as will lead you to, because it’s terrifying.

And then there are what I assume are a couple of traditional Brazilian children’s songs, and that’s where the show gets weird.  Well, not immediately.  The song about the cow named Barnabe who is in love with another cow is fairly catchy and fun and normal:

Your foot’s tapping, right? And you’ve already got it sorta memorized? That’s how kids’ songs are supposed to work.

I give you Mrs. Cockroach:

Now, before I say more, let me point out that my wife works with an actual Brazilian national and he has never heard of this song.  Which is comforting, because make fun of the lying poor person isn’t something that I’ve gotten an impression is a big part of the Brazilian psyche, and this song vibes all sorts of creepy and very probably racist in some sort of coded Brazilian way.  And the animation is messed up, too; Mrs. Cockroach spends the occasional moment in the video looking seriously depressed and sad and then puts on her strong face, fully aware that the white children in the back of her car are going to keep making fun of her no matter what she tries to do.

And that’s before we get to what are obviously translation issues:  her shell being hard as steel seems difficult to connect to her class ring, for example.  But this song, and one more that keeps the weird but takes away the creepy and the “Wait, is this racist too?” element, definitely put BOB ZOOM high among the ranks of weird shit that I would never have been exposed to if I hadn’t had a kid.

Ah, what the hell, I’ll give you the chicken song too.  It will haunt your dreams.  Enjoy:

25 thoughts on “Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: BOB ZOOM

  1. Jessica

    Good news! It’s back on Netflix again! (I also found it, then noticed it was gone. But then I found it again.) I found this for my kid because I wanted something new for him to watch. He loves it, and I actually like it better than a lot of the “kid song sing-a-long” deals they have on Netflix from the likes of BabyFirstTV, LeapFrog, and Baby Genius, among others. From an early music education perspective it’s kind of brilliant: they weave in notable classical pieces here and there, in one bit they actually show a cartoon kid playing a piano WITH CORRECT FINGER POSITIONS, and the instrumental layering in Epo I Tai Tai E – adding them one by one to the spinning mandala wheel – is really good. The cockroach one is definitely bizarre (and yeah, I also got the vibe that it was somehow a thinly veiled racist screed, so… yeah), and Little Yellow Chick gets stuck in my head in the nastiest way. Also the weird soulless eyes on all the human people are pretty unsettling.

    And as far as him being “Bobby” Zoom… I just assumed they were pronouncing the second “B” in the name… like “Bah B Zoom.” Which makes just as much sense as any of it, which is to say very little. My husband calls him Robert Zoom.

    Anyway, It’s weird and earwormy, but my kid loves it, so it basically plays on repeat forever here. I hope Netflix doesn’t remove it again. I had to visit YouTube to look for clips, and most of what I found was in the original Portuguese. I mean, I have my limits 😉

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  2. I also wondered the exact same things you did and the stuff you pointed out…but I thought “ok, maybe I’m just over thinking it.” Yet, some stuff stills bothers me and I also tried looking up the Epo I Tai song…still not sure I found results on it. My nephew loves it because its so catchy. Well, mainly he loves the ABC song which I’m glad because its actually productively educational as the rest…well…bit strange there.

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  3. One more thing, I found that the word zoom in Spanish means sounds, take you to the clouds, rocket high, etc. In short these songs were made to stick to your brain whether you like it or not.

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  4. Jessica

    Dropping back in to say that we discovered a different Brazilian kids’ show on Netflix – Lottie Dottie Chicken (Gallina Pintadina in Portuguese) that features some of the same songs… particularly the cockroach song. The translation for Lottie Dottie is MUCH better than for Bob Zoom – in this one Mrs. Cockroach (Connie Cockroach in this version) makes outlandish claims (her skirt is made of gold! She has an airplane to take her wherever she needs to go!) that the kids easily debunk (but your skirt is clearly made of grass! You obviously don’t have an airplane, but your bus is pretty cool!). Waaaay less racist/classist than Bob Zoom’s version. Plus, Lottie Dottie’s version of “Ten Little Indians” is much catchier. There are still a fair number of WTF moments, too. So, you know, if you’re in the market for a new Brazilian kid songs show, check out Lottie Dottie Chicken 😉

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  5. Erik

    that damn cockroach song is stuck in my head. our son was up watching it at 6AM this morning. the first time my wife and I heard the song about the lying cockroach we were both in silence shaking our heads. we usually click past it as fast as possibly to keep him from seeing it on netflix.

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  6. Chloe

    This is a bad influence on children they sang a song about calling people liars. Also, it’s teaching children to read from right to left, instead of left to right.

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  8. Byss

    My son loves Bob Zoom and now I’m wondering if he should be watching this at all…. That cockroach song is weird…. But like most of you say the songs are very catchy. 😩

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  9. maria

    I discovered this show and have played it for my children on numerous occasions because they love singing. I play the Spanish version of the show (as that’s what we speak at home), and it’s good! I have not heard the English version but the Spanish version is correctly translated from Portuguese and the songs are cute and catchy! The cockroach song however is NOT my favorite because as many of you said it just sends a wrong message. My brother called the kids in the back of the car BULLIES.

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  10. Just never understood the cockroach song myself, Kid’s and Bob(by) just trashing the poor cockroach woman while she is driving them around smiling seemed like a strange idea to pass on to a kid through song–I’d like to try and understand where they are coming from in any language.

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  11. Rachel

    There are now episodes in Spanish as well. Since Spanish is a bit closer to Portuguese than English, you really get a lot more of the weird. My two year old loves it, my husband is just baffled.

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  12. olivsamuk

    Hey guys. I’m from Brazil. I have a one year old girl who loves Bob Zoom. I was just looking up the internet about the “Epo I Tai Tai é” song (just for the record, I didn’t find anything) and came across this post. After reading this post, I can say something about your concerns. About the name, is actually Bob Zoom. In Portuguese, “Bob” sounds almost exactly Bobby. It’s an accent issue. I think the song’s intro wasn’t translated. Now, I have to say that the Mrs. Cockroach song is weird. But in fact, most of the shows like Bob Zoom, Lottie Dottie Chicken (Galinha Pintadinha), use common brazillian nursery rhymes. Mrs. Cockroach is one of them. In case of Bob Zoom, I think that the animation of the kids making fun of Mrs. Cockroach let the song look more bizzare. Translation is another issue. The author of this post said: ” her shell being hard as steel seems difficult to connect to her class ring, for example”. Actually there’s no connection but the rhyme. In Portuguese these words rhyme nicely.

    ps. I don’t speak english very well, so, sorry about my mistakes.

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    1. The actual Portuguese subtitles on Gallina Pintadinha make a lot more sense than BZ’s translations. The Portuguese in that verse is a zirconium ring and “it’s your head that’s hard.”

      Your English is just about perfect, by the way. 🙂

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  13. Juan

    Hahaha the Spanish version is great until my mother law informed me that bitchitos to Puerto Ricans stand for a lot of little dingalings not the case in Portuguese but it’s saying when the chicken wants to eat a bunch of little dingalings it kicks the dirt up with its legs lmao daughter loves it tho and it’s schooling me in spanish so it’s ++ and the tukke tukke song is awesome haven’t looked up wat it meant

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  14. Lisa

    LOL!! I was looking for the meaning of Epo I Tae Tae and came across this!! And as I type we are watching Mrs Cockroach. It’s such a mean song! She should’ve told them to get the hell out of her car and walk!!! My 2 year old LOVES these!! They need more episodes!!

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  15. I just got this text from my husband (he’s down the hall in his office working) “YOU’RE FREAKING ME OUT WITH THAT SONG” . The Ms. Cockroach of course. I have been trying to figure out exactly wtf my kids keep watching. I’m just relieved to know I am not the only one lol. I have three boys I have TONS of shit to do and here I am pondering Bob-y? Zoom classism .

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