Let’s start out by establishing the facts, because this is important. Fact one: Bluey, the Australian animated TV show for preschoolers about a playful family of dogs, is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. (Yes, this is a fact, not an opinion.) Its seven-minute episodes are funnier, more layered, more substantial, and sometimes even more moving than most hourlong adult dramas. There’s one called “Flat Pack” that deals with Darwinian evolution, human progress, religion and the afterlife, marital relationships, the sweet pain of letting go, and assembling Ikea furniture — and it does all that in a way that’s sweet, hilarious, and accessible to people who haven’t learned how to talk yet. In seven minutes. That’s how good it is.
Fact two: Disney owns the worldwide streaming rights to Bluey, but it’s a co-production between Australia’s ABC and the U.K.’s BBC networks, and it airs in various places internationally. This fact is boring, but it’s relevant.
Fact three: There are 140 episodes of Bluey available to watch on Disney Plus. But 141 episodes of Bluey have been made. There is an episode of Bluey that Disney does not want you to see. It has been censored, suppressed. This episode is called “Dad Baby.”
OK, I’m being somewhat dramatic here. “Dad Baby” is not actually that hard to see. Bluey’s distributor, BBC Studios, has approved it for release; it’s been aired on broadcast channels in Australia and the U.K.; it’s included as an extra in DVD box sets; and you can buy it on iTunes. You can even view a clip from “Dad Baby” on the official Bluey YouTube channel. Or you can probably find it in segments on TikTok if you want.
Still, as Disney Plus is the principal global home of Bluey, its attempt to scrub “Dad Baby” from the record is notable — and quite successful. So much so that its existence was only recently discovered in this household, where it caused quite a stir. What transgression could have spurred this prudish corporation to censor an episode of one of the greatest shows on its servers?
We can only guess — Disney has never explained its decision, and is never likely to. But guessing is not that hard. “Dad Baby” is about pregnancy and childbirth. As in many episodes of Bluey, the subject plays out in the form of an imaginative game that Bluey (a 6-year-old Blue Heeler pup) plays with her sister Bingo (4) and their parents, in this case their cheeky dad, Bandit.
In the episode, Bingo finds an old baby carrier, and when Bandit puts it on to demonstrate it, Bingo jumps inside. Time, Bluey decides, for a game of Dad Baby. Bandit makes pregnancy jokes while discovering how hard it is to lug another small creature around on your midriff; things really heat up when Bingo pops her head out between his legs. They set up a birthing pool in the garden, next-door neighbor Lucky’s dad is summoned for midwifery duties, and Bingo is eventually born — causing her birth parent as much discomfort as possible in the process.
Like most of Bluey, “Dad Baby” is completely innocuous and played for laughs. It’s hard to see how anyone could object to it. But, also like most of Bluey, it’s very conscientious about being truthful with kids (and adults) about real life, and not in the didactic, life-lessons way that a lot of TV for young kids gravitates toward. You couldn’t call “Dad Baby” graphic, but you also couldn’t watch it and be under any illusion about what happens in childbirth, anatomically speaking. There are a couple of shots in particular that I reckon made Disney’s censors wince: the hilarious appearance of Bingo’s head, and a shot from Bandit’s point of view in the birthing pool, between his raised knees, as Bluey gets involved in the delivery.
Are we really being coy about where babies literally come from in 2023? Is “Dad Baby” considered sex education? I can believe it of Disney, although I wish I couldn’t. This is the company that also briefly suppressed the Bluey episode “Family Meeting” because it was about farts, although the company was eventually shamed into uploading it. But I also wonder if the episode’s gender-swap premise has something to do with Disney’s censoriousness. The episode starts by poking gentle fun at gendered stereotypes, ends with depiction of a man (well, a dog, but you know) giving birth, and at one point uses the term “pregnant people.” It’s all just for fun, and it has no point to make. But that might not stop Disney worrying about certain viewers using it to make points of their own.
Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, Bluey creator Joe Brumm shrugged Disney’s censorship off. He knew the episode wouldn’t fly in America, he explained, but to him it was just too funny not to make. “What are you going to do, not make ‘Dad Baby’? I love it.”
“Dad Baby” is lots of fun, but honestly, it’s a minor episode in the Bluey canon. Perhaps the most significant thing Disney is denying Bluey heads is the first moment we learn Lucky’s dad has an actual name (it’s Pat). But that does nothing to excuse its silly, pandering exclusion from Disney Plus. It’s just robbing children of a fun way to learn how they came into the world, and everyone else of seven minutes of joy.