As the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks off this morning, it will be the first iteration of the event to feature a balloon bearing the likeness of Bluey, the beloved, titular character of an Australian children’s show which has become one of the most acclaimed shows on the air. Since it debuted in 2018, Bluey has become a massive hit with kids as well as their parents, managing to appeal to an incredibly broad audience in a way that star Melanie Zanetti (she plays Chilli Heeler, Bluey’s mom in the show) thinks is key to its appeal.
Zanetti has been in the United States this week, making a whirlwind tour of New York. She has appeared on The Tonight Show, met her costar Davie McCormack in person for the first time, and mused about the possibility of a Bluey movie. She also got a chance to see the U.S. debut of a Bluey stage show that will be touring the country.
“It’s been amazing. For me, the most incredible part of it is being a part of a show that is having such a beautiful social impact, that is actually putting good out into the world,” Zanetti told ComicBook.com. “As an actor, you do a lot of stuff and you’re like ‘Does any of this matter? I’m not doing brain surgery, I’m not doing aid work — does this have meaning?’ And then to have a show where I’ve had so many parents tell me, ‘This has taught me how to play with my kids,’ or dads saying ‘this has taught me how to parent the way I want to parent.’ I had a teacher who told me they had a student with Autism in their class, and it taught this little boy how to play with other kids and has changed his life at school. When I hear things like that, it makes me go, ‘Okay, this is important and useful as well as entertaining and fun and beautiful,’ and I think for me, that is the most exciting thing.”
Those anecdotes are not just hers; they pop up on social media all the time, particularly with regards to Bandit, the family’s father, who is depicted as loving and competent, in contrast to the typical cartoon/sitcom dads, who are often boobs. Bandit is meant to be an aspirational character for kids and dads, but there’s also no moment where you stand there asking how in the world he got Chilli to be interested in him.
“I think it’s the universality of it that’s made it so popular; that people at so many stages can get something from it and enjoy it,” Zanetti said. “Also, it’s just a really watchable, bite-sized length at well, which I think really helps.”
Since Zanetti (and the rest of the show’s cast) is Australian, we had to ask: when the Macy’s parade announcement came down, did it carry the same weight with her, as it would with an American actor? Her answer? Not exactly, but she has plenty of friends who clued her in to the “magnitude” of the parade.
“We weren’t given context, but I spend like half my time in LA, and I was telling my friends, ‘Oh, Bluey’s going to be…like a big balloon in a Thanksgiving Day parade?’ And they were like, ‘The Macy’s Day Parade? Is this happening?!'” Zanetti said. “And they expressed the magnitude to me. How it’s nostalgic, because it’s gone through people’s whole lives, and it’s attached to this holiday. So it was transmitted to me just what a big deal it is.”
She missed the announcement itself — a tweet in which the official Bluey account said that they heard New York was pretty good at “keepy-uppy” — altogether, and got animated when we related it to her.
“OH! I didn’t see that, I love that!” Zanetti said with a laugh.