Janice Burgess, Nickelodeon Executive and ‘Backyardigans’ Creator, Dies at 72

Janice Burgess, a longtime Nickelodeon television executive who sought to promote children’s curiosity and sense of play for decades, overseeing popular shows like “Blue’s Clues” and “Little Bill” and creating her own musical children’s show, “The Backyardigans,” died on Saturday in hospice care in Manhattan. She was 72.

Her death was confirmed by Brown Johnson, a longtime friend and the creator of Nick Jr., who said the cause was breast cancer.

In “The Backyardigans,” five cartoon animals — Tyrone, Tasha, Pablo, Austin and Uniqua — imagine their backyard as a place of adventure, traversing deserts, oceans, jungles, rivers and outer space while dancing and singing to music.

With the series, Ms. Burgess hoped to help children use their imaginations to have fun. In 2004, Ms. Burgess said in an interview with The New York Times that the idea for the show stemmed from memories of playing in her own childhood backyard in Pittsburgh.

“I really remember it as a wonderful, happy, safe place,” she said. “You could have these great adventures just romping around. From there, you could go anywhere or do anything.”

Ms. Burgess drew on her own experience playing in her childhood backyard in Pittsburgh to create “The Backyardigans.” “I really remember it as a wonderful, happy, safe place,” she said.Credit…Nick Jr.
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