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Gullah Gullah Island is an American musical children's television series that was produced by and aired on the Nick Jr. programming block on the Nickelodeon network from 1994 to 1998. The show starred Ron and Natalie Daise, who also served as the cultural advisors, and was inspired by the Gullah culture of Ron Daise's home of St. Helena Island, South Carolina, part of the Sea Islands.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Vanessa Baden - Vanessa Alston
    • Hillary Hawkins (singing voice of Vanessa)
  • James Edward Coleman II - James Alston
  • Ron Daise - Ron Alston
  • Corey Murphy - Rick
  • Natalie Daise - Natalie Alston
  • Manolo Villaverde - Abuelo
  • Iris Chacón - Juana
  • Pixee Wales - Grandma Pixee
  • Amy Brandis - Susana
  • Mike Walker - Ranger Mike
  • Anita Endsley - Miss Audra (1995-1997)
  • Corey Hayes - Corey
  • Marcus T. Paulk - Himself
  • Siti Opeal - Miss Siti
  • Simeon Othello Daise - Simeon Alston
  • Shaina M. Freeman - Shaina Alston (1994–1997)
  • Tristin Mays - Shaina Alston (1997–1998)
  • Cristian Sola - Miguel (1997)
  • Sara Makeba Daise - Sara (1994–1997)
  • Mia Barrington - Mia
  • Lisa Campbell - Susie
  • Greg Davis, Jr. - Greg
  • Armando Guerra - Armando (1994–1997)
  • Philip D. Garcia (1994–1996) - Binyah Binyah Polliwog
  • Justin Campbell (1996–1998) - Binyah Binyah Polliwog
  • Ana Christina Randolph - Marisol
  • Bryan Nguyen - Bryan
  • Zachary Chartier - Zachary
  • Jessica Gorski - Jessica
  • Kelly Holden - Greta
  • Willa Nathan - Willa
  • Jaymen-Angel Clark - Peter
  • James J. Kroupa - Chansome the Pelican

Episodes[edit | edit source]

List of Gullah Gullah Island episodes

Production[edit | edit source]

Origin and development[edit | edit source]

Ron Daise's book Reminiscences of Sea Island Heritage was published in 1987. He and his New York-born wife, Natalie Daise (née Eldridge), followed by creating and touring with a multimedia show, Sea Island Montage, based on the book as well as stories from oral histories of elderly St. Helena Island residents.[6][7] After one of their performances, the Daises met with an executive producer from Nickelodeon.[8] Creator Maria Perez-Brown had planned on building a multicultural program featuring a "magical island" and was inspired by the Daises to use the Sea Islands and elements of Gullah culture.[9][10][11] Part of Nickelodeon's initiative to broaden its preschool programming, Gullah Gullah Island was the first show of its kind to star an African-American family set in an indigenously black community.[8][12] The show's originality caused some upfront concerns. "We were apprehensive about naming it 'Gullah Gullah Island'. We wanted to make sure the portrayal was positive and didn't in any way poke fun at the culture or the community," Ron Daise said of creating a show based on an existing culture.[13]

Format[edit | edit source]

Gullah Gullah Island is a sing-along half-hour live-action show.[5] The format was part of a flexible thinking initiative that taught children to make good choices rather than using rote memorization.[10][14]

Ron and Natalie Daise play the Alstons, who live on the fictional "Gullah Gullah Island". Additional cast featured the Daise's actual children Simeon and Sara among others, including a full-body puppet frog, Binyah Binyah ("binyah" is the Gullah word for "island native").[15] The show was taped and recorded at Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando at Universal Studios Florida, with the show Clarissa Explains It All shot on the same set interior and exterior.[8][16][17] Modifications were made, like adding different shades of red to the home as shown on Gullah Gullah. Outdoor shots featured Beaufort[13] and Fripp Island, South Carolina.[18] Charleston, South Carolina, was featured in one episode when the family took a trip to the City Market.[19]

Episodes are presented with a unified plot and not separate segments, featuring singing, dancing, learning and encouraging children to think about things like taking care of yourself, animals, telling the truth, social skills, and problem solving.[14][20] The show also highlights the culture and language of Gullah, descendants of former slaves who live on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia.[21]

Broadcast, syndication and marketing[edit | edit source]

The show ran for four seasons from 1994 to 1998, with a total of 70 episodes. Following the series' end, reruns aired through July 2000. Reruns also aired on Noggin (now Nick Jr.) from February 2, 1999, to April 2004, and again from 2008 to December 5, 2014.

Several special home video releases accompanied the original broadcast, including Gullah Gullah Island: Binyah's Surprise (1994),[22] Gullah Gullah Island: Play Along With Binyah and Friends (1994),[23] Gullah Gullah Island: Dance Along with the Daise Family (1997),[24] and Gullah Gullah Island: Christmas (1998).[25]

Home videos of the show were released on VHS format by Sony Wonder from 1995–1996 and later by Paramount from 1997–1998. As of February 7, 2012, every season of the series is being released to DVD through Amazon.com's MOD (Manufacture On Demand) program.[26] Nickelodeon licensed a series of children's books, musical cassettes and "Binyah Binyah Polliwog" plush animals.[16]

The first 37 episodes are available to watch on the Noggin subscription service as of October 14, 2015.

Home media[edit | edit source]

Nickelodeon and Amazon.com teamed up to release Gullah Gullah Island and other Nick Jr. shows on manufacture on demand (MOD) on DVD-R discs available exclusively through Amazon.com's CreateSpace arm.

Title Release date Episodes
"Gullah Gullah Island: Season 1" February 8, 2012[27] (region 1) 1-17
Three-disc release, contains 17 episodes, exclusively released on Amazon.com, as a "CreateSpace" program of "Burn-On-Demand" DVDs.
Title Release date Episodes
"Gullah Gullah Island: Season 2" February 8, 2012[28] (region 1) 18-40
Four-disc release, contains 23 episodes, exclusively released on Amazon.com, as a "CreateSpace" program of "Burn-On-Demand" DVDs.
Title Release date Episodes
"Gullah Gullah Island: Season 3" February 8, 2012[29] (region 1) 41-52
Two-disc release, contains 12 episodes, exclusively released on Amazon.com, as a "CreateSpace" program of "Burn-On-Demand" DVDs.
Title Release date Episodes
"Gullah Gullah Island: Season 4" February 8, 2012[30] (region 1) 53-70
Three-disc release, contains 18 episodes, exclusively released on Amazon.com, as a "CreateSpace" program of "Burn-On-Demand" DVDs.

Reception[edit | edit source]

Critical response[edit | edit source]

Critical reception of the show was consistently positive, both as a children's show and as groundbreaker for African American programming, it was praised for "vividly colored sets, infectious sing-alongs, unique character accents and quirky humor that defined the show and introduced millions of children to an overlooked but centuries-old branch of African American culture."[31] It was described as "a combination summer camp, cheerleading session and music video."[32] The issues, especially with the first season, had to do with show's depiction being unrealistic. "The songs were lively and catchy, the kids were cute and the general theme was unlike other kids' programming," Jenifer Managan of the Chicago Tribune wrote. However:

In 1996, TV Guide named the show one of "10 best children's shows".[7] During its original broadcast run it was Nickelodeon's highest-rated preschool show, averaging more 750,000 viewers per episode.[12][16][20]

Awards[edit | edit source]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Episode Result
1995 Parents' Choice Award[33][34] DVDs - Home Video Gullah Gullah Island: Sing Along With Binyah Binyah Won
1996 NAACP Image Award[33][35] Outstanding Educational/Informational Youth or Children's Series/Special Gullah Gullah Island Nominated
1997 NAACP Image Award[33][35] Outstanding Educational/Informational Youth or Children's Series/Special Gullah Gullah Island Nominated
Daytime Emmy Award[33][35][36] Outstanding Pre-School Children's Series Kathleen Minton (executive producer), Maria Perez-Brown (executive producer), Diane Fazio (supervising producer), Stephanie N. Jones (coordinating producer) Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award[33] Children's Script Eric Weiner Look Who's Balking Nominated
1998 NAACP Image Award[33][35] Outstanding Educational/Informational Youth or Children's Series/Special The Christmas Special Nominated
Outstanding Performance in a Youth or Children's Series/Special Ron Daise, Natalie Daise The Christmas Special Nominated
2000 NAACP Image Award[33][35] Outstanding Educational/Informational Youth or Children's Series/Special Gullah Gullah Island Nominated

Binyah Binyah![edit | edit source]

In 1997, five episodes of a "Gullah Gullah Island" miniseries titled "Binyah Binyah!" were produced at the now-defunct Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, Florida, and aired from February 2 to February 6, 1998.[37] A separate theme song written by Sean Altman[38] was given to these episodes. The miniseries also featured several new puppet characters in addition to the original cast and focused on polliwog Binyah Binyah journeying to locations outside of Gullah Gullah. Ron and Natalie Daise were part of the cast as well.[39] It was never broadcast again after its initial airing of episodes, nor was it released to home video. A promo advertising the series' debut is the only known footage; all five episodes were believed to be lost until 2017 when snippets of episode 5 and all of episode 4 surfaced online, evidently coming from a homemade VHS tape of old Nickelodeon shows.[40] As of 2019, the fourth episode can be seen on YouTube.

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