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  • Writer's pictureVolume 82 Magazine

Janice Burgess, Creator of 'The Backyardigans' & Children's Media Powerhouse, Dies at 72,

Janice Burgess. Photo/Nickelodeon

Janice Burgess, the creative force behind the beloved children's cartoon The Backyardigans and a children's media industry stalwart, has passed away at 72. Her legacy, as confirmed by Brown Johnson, a close friend and the creator of Nick Jr., was cut short by breast cancer, according to The New York Times.

The Backyardigans was an exciting cartoon that focused on the characters Tyrone, Tasha, Pablo, Austin, and Uniqua, who created the most thrilling adventures and experiences with their imaginations while playing in their backyard. The characters were able to channel all of their experiences via dancing and singing, which were not limited to outer space adventures, vacations, international excursions, etc.


Burgess graduated from Brandeis University in 1974. She worked at WQED, the public television station in Pittsburgh, and Sesame Workshop before joining Nick Jr. in 1995. Working at Nick Jr. taught her everything she needed to know about creating a television show for young children, she said at a National Press Club luncheon in 2006, per the NYT.

Janice Burgess' career spanned across some of the most iconic names in children's media, including Nickelodeon, Sesame Workshop, Disney, and Apple TV projects. Her work on Blue's Clues, Little Bill, Ghostwriter, and 3-2-1 Contact, among others, showcased her versatility and creativity, leading her to eventually become an executive for Nickelodeon. Blue's Clues and Little Bill, won Peabody and Emmy Awards while under the direction of Burgess' production. The children's media guru won a 2008 Emmy Award for The Backyardigans.

Television writer Fracaswell Hyman spoke highly of The Backyardigans creator on social media:

"I met Janice Burgess early in my career when I was head writer on Gullah Gullah Island and she was assigned to be our Executive in Charge of Production," he explained in an Instagram Post. He continued, "Janice swept in with her acid-tongued wit, flowing Hermes scarves and omnipresent cigarettes. Instead of an overseer, she became a friend. She recognized my magic before I did and made sure I was in the room and under consideration for many of the shows that came my way including Little Bill and Taina." Hyman finished, "Janice, Maria Perez-Brown and I developed shows together, gossiped together and oh, how we laughed! I will miss my dear friend. RIP. Oh, how we laughed…

Rest in peace.

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