This column is addressed mainly to parents of younger, several-year-old children, but also to everyone who, for some reason, likes to associate with the Paw Patrol series.

Jakub Piwoński

14 July 2023

Do you also sometimes find Paw Patrol in the fridge? This Canadian cartoon, continuously created since 2013, does not lose its popularity. One can even get the impression that year by year animation is gaining strength in terms of impact and audience. It is worth noting that the full-length version of the series will have its cinema premiere later this year. I decided to look at this phenomenon, trying to find out what its cause could be. Do you agree with my conclusions? Have you had enough of Paw Patrol?

The observation that Paw Patrol rules in the field of children’s animations has been maturing in me for quite a few years, along with my son’s growing up. I can’t get over that this production still has such a strong impact on his imagination, even in the face of slightly more serious adventures, dramas and stories appearing on the horizon. There must be something about these dogs that they attract so much attention. This can also be seen from the fact that the series has grown to the size of a franchise, taking various pop culture forms. Paw Patrol has become a money making machine. It has already reached children and parents in every possible way. In addition to the TV series, the dogs have also turned into toys, gadgets, clothes, books, groceries and many other colorful forms aimed at the youngest audience.

There are several reasons for the popularity of the series. Let me start with its formula, which is quite simple and has been consistently conducted since 2013, i.e. since the broadcast of the first episode of the series. We meet six dogs, friends with a ten-year-old boy, Ryder, who, using their above-average skills and highly specialized equipment, save the inhabitants of the Adventure Bay from numerous oppressions. All with the participation of good fun, in the spirit of friendship and respect for the other person. Each episode is therefore an invitation for a child sitting in front of the TV set to embark on an extraordinary, exciting and engaging adventure, with the promise of a positive finale of the action.

In this way, I wanted to emphasize that the Paw Patrol episodes are characterized by certain frames that, each time they approach, provide a safe space for movement. The child and the parent know what to expect from the next episode, they know that after a few minutes from the introduction, the action will start, the team of dogs delegated to a specific task will be formed, and they will follow them to the center of the problem in order to help. The promise made by the creators is always fulfilled – if a child is looking for adventure in the production, they will always get it.

I also like what diversifies the action itself, and it is the personality diversity inscribed in the series, which, I guess, is a reflection of social diversity (and I’m not just talking about genders and colors of skin, phew, fur). One of the common sociological truisms that deserves to be repeated here is that each of us is different. The Paw Patrol crew was written in such a way that each hero was assigned an original baggage of features and skills. This naturally refers to the tradition of subhero cinema, where the skills of individual characters have always been of great importance, which, when accumulated and interacted, constitute a force that is difficult to defeat. So – each of us is different, yes, but only together, as members of the community, we are able to overcome adversity and evil.

Thus, Paw Patrol leads us from associations that favor individualism, that, yes, your otherness is valuable, because it is yours, it is unique, in confrontation with evil, which in the series takes the form of various logs thrown by fate, it is necessary to confront your experiences and skills with the experiences and skills of others. And this sum of atoms is supposed to restore faith in the community, which is also perfectly taught by other group superhero stories such as X-Men, Justice League or Avengers: Infinity War.

Somewhere in all this there is also the thread of fun and fascination with technological possibilities, which is another common feature of superhero cinema. Paw Patrol, despite the infantilization of the presented world and its conventionality typical for children’s animation, tries to strictly adhere to the framework of the reality we know. Hence, among other things, a very interesting initiative of the screenwriters, thanks to which all fantastic, magical and unreal stories that take place in individual episodes of the series usually take place in the mind of a coarse bulldog named Rubble, while he is dreaming. All the rest of the events, to a greater or lesser extent, can be “done” thanks to highly technologically developed equipment, reminiscent of the best and perhaps the most absurd tricks of spy cinema and science fiction.

Paw Patrol is tech-savvy and doesn’t hide it in any way. This is not a series that will make your child put aside the smartphone, on the contrary, it is thanks to actions initiated by Ryder that viewers once again realize that there are tools in their vicinity that have taken telecommunication possibilities to absolute heights. Is there a trap in this? It exists, but only when the child is not accompanied by a parent during the screening and its course. If we cease to be interested in what the child draws from Paw Patrol, if we cease to act as guides to the content that reaches our children, then we will face a situation in which the child will start to interpret the dog’s actions in a way that is only convenient for him. And this is a step away from a situation where technology and the need to use it in everyday situations will overshadow the conclusion that flows at the same time that after the end of the action comes the time of relaxation, when all gadgets are put aside just to simply be together again and enjoy a moment.

As a parent, I am very positive about Paw Patrol that it does not have a villain in the classic sense of the word and edition. After all, it’s hard to describe the sloppy Mayor Humdinger and his retinue of cats with this name, if the result of his actions, usually doomed to failure, comes down to an apology and a handshake each time. It is also difficult to include his sinful, nefarious tendencies in the framework of evil confronting good, because it is a slightly different dimension of the conflict. Humdinger plays a different role in the series in my opinion. He simply gives face to the perversity of fate that dogs face, he is their personification. And it’s usually the case with problems that once we tame them, they usually lose their importance, which reminds me of the mayor’s ears curled up in shame after the end of the episode. His attitude is therefore not strictly antagonistic, because although he proposes a moral opposition, it is an opposition standing on clay feet.

For people in the age range of up to 7 years of age, there is no need to hurry with learning the duality of life, based on the friction of good and evil. It’s not that the child won’t understand it, because it will, but rather that the other side of the coin doesn’t become too absorbing, too addictive, and too scary for the child prematurely. Until a certain point, I considered that there is no such content that a child could not receive and digest. It seemed to me that instead of keeping children in a bubble, it was better to immediately show the complexity of the world, putting scarecrows next to good shepherds, so that the child would start to coagulate and strengthen itself against stress.

However, I changed my mind right after my several-year-old son could not sleep at night after seeing only a SUGGESTION of a dragon in another fairy tale. This harmless mention made it hard for him to fall asleep. Perhaps, then, such a conscious infantilization of the wickedness coming from Humdinger is so good that it has no real tools to take up an equal fight with benevolent heroes and is doomed to failure. The time of dragons burning the village and the time of true heroes standing against it is yet to come. Let Paw Patrol be your warm-up before this stage.

The creators clearly focused on humor. Paw Patrol is a series that is primarily supposed to entertain us, and only then warn us about the traps that exist in the world. Colour, variety and dynamism of this production are supposed to fill us with optimism. The creators reduce the whole vicissitudes to a conclusion that is difficult to argue with – that no matter what happens, while in relationships with others, we can always count on help. Woe therefore to him who shuts himself up in a cave.

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

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