Sharon, Lois & Bram's
Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show is a musical situation comedy children’s television show featuring the wacky musical adventures of Sharon, Lois, Bram and their pachyderm pal, Elephant. Debuting in Canada on CBC on October 8, 1984 and on Nickelodeon in the United States on October 5, 1987,
The Elephant Show garnered high ratings and propelled Sharon, Lois & Bram’s career into super-stardom.
Click the episodes below to watch
Season 5 (1988)
1. The Early Years
3. Elephant's Lamp
6. Three bears
8. Sunday In the Park
9. Curio Shoppe
10. Making A Record
11. Young & Old
12. Award Show
13. Birth of the show
The Unofficial History of
Sharon, Lois & Bram's Elephant Show
Author: Kris Stengele firstname.lastname@example.org Spring 2013
Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show is a musical situation comedy children’s television show featuring the wacky musical adventures of Sharon, Lois, Bram and their pachyderm pal, Elephant. Debuting in Canada on CBC on October 8, 1984 and on Nickelodeon in the United States on October 5, 1987, The Elephant Show garnered high ratings and propelled Sharon, Lois & Bram’s career into super-stardom.
The show featured Sharon, Lois & Bram, their sidekick Elephant joined by Eric Nagler and a handful of neighborhood children exploring the everyday world through music. Each episode featured a special guest who joined in on the fun. Special guests included folk singers Kate & Anna McGarrigle, musician Chuck Mangione, actresses Jayne Eastwood & Andrea Martin, comedienne Luba Goy, a capella group The Nylons, children’s entertainer Fred Penner, and actors Louis del Grande and Denis Simpson and countless others.
Although the initial order was for only a 13-part mini television show, The Elephant Show ran for five full seasons, with a total of 65 episodes. The production company, Cambium Productions (Now known as CCi Entertainment) had previously worked with the trio on their 1982 video release Sharon, Lois & Bram: Live At Young People’s Theatre. It was due to the major success of this 30-minute concert film that filmmakers and creators of Cambium Productions, Arnie Zipursky and Bruce Glawson immediately came up with financing for The Elephant Show. The pilot was filmed in the winter of 1983, and full-production on the first season began the following summer after receiving the green light from investors and the CBC. Filming schedules often ran 12 hours a day on location or in the converted warehouse they used as the “studio” which acted as the gang’s hangout for much of Seasons 1 and 2. Shooting the first season lasted for six weeks.
The first seasoned featured simplistic plots featuring the trio and their friends doing every day activities such as going on a picnic, going to camp or simply having fun inside on a rainy day. Many of the songs featured in these episodes were from the trios existing repertoire or sung live while filming. Each episode also featured live concert clips featuring the trio, Eric Nagler Elephant, and their touring ensemble better known as The Mammoth Band.
The first season focused on the joys of making music together and how music “is an integral part of life.” It was due to this that The Elephant Show became a hit with both children and their parents, something other kids’ television shows at the time did not offer. Sharon, Lois & Bram showed a “rapport with the kids through their contagious enthusiasm” and were able “to strut their broad range of musical styles.”
When the first season finished being produced and began airing, a second season had not been ordered yet. The trio had hoped to do another season, and made the risky, but right choice of leaving much of their schedule open in hopes to be able to film more episodes. Finally, in October of 1985, 13 more episodes were ordered for the renamed Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show and filming began immediately to allow for the filming of the outdoor segments. The second season aired in the spring of 1986 and the trio’s success grew, forcing the trio to only perform at larger venues.
Similar to the first season, episodes from the second season of The Elephant Show featured simplistic storylines and plots, such as babysitting a bunch of kids, running a marathon and having a sleepover. The second season also featured live concert segments in each episode except for the first (Funny Field Day). Much of the second season’s song repertoire also came from the pre-recorded Sharon, Lois & Bram catalog. Right after wrapping up filming for the second season, the trio began filming segments for the third season of The Elephant Show in the summer of 1986. Riding a wave of success and growing popularity, the trio planned a short tour to promote the show based on fan mail and requests from across Canada and certain areas in the northern United States. The trio also taped concert segments for the third season in July 1986 at Cawthra Park Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario.
Unlike the first two seasons, the third season was financed on public financing Dean Witter Reynolds (Canada) Ltd. offered 322 units of “Elephant Show stock” valued at $5,000 each, in hopes to raise the $1.6 million needed for the third season. All 322 units sold out in a matter of two weeks and production began shortly thereafter. To promote the third season, the trio released the first official “Sharon, Lois & Bram Piano Book” which featured a mini keyboard attached to the book and music to popular songs from the television show. Shortly after, the book was recalled due to a malfunction in the keyboard.
The third season took a major turn in storylines and plot development. Episodes from the third season featured much more intricate details and produced some of the best episodes from the television series’ entire run. The set also changed drastically for Season 3, changing from a dark warehouse studio to a homelike atmosphere. Elephant’s costume also was altered drastically to note the changed gender from a non-gender character to a female character. Much of the series music was recorded for the show and had not been previously available on Sharon, Lois & Bram records. The season also received several awards including Parent’s Choice Awards and boasted many episodes that became instant favorites including “Who Stole the Cookies?”, “Treasure Island”, “Soap Box Derby” and “Topsy-Turvy Elephant”.
By the summer of 1987, the trio’s fame and success skyrocketed. The Elephant Show became the highest rated program on TV Ontario’s lineup and was the most popular on CBC’s schedule, averaging an impressive 769,000 viewers a week in Canada alone. The trio spent a grueling month writing the fourth season in April and May at the Cambium headquarters, which was at that time located in an old house on Gerrard Street in Toronto, and began filming mid-June. Similar to season three, the fourth season of the show was largely based on what the trio wanted to portray through their music, and not what the writers or other executives had in mind for the show, which led to another very successful season with some of the show’s most memorable episodes including “Snow White Elephant”, “Pet Fair”, “Radio Show” and “Cooking School”.
Due to the success of publicly offering shares of “Elephant Show Stock” for Season 3, more shares were offered again in the fall of 1987 to raise money for seasons 4 and 5. They managed to reach 70% of the seasons budget from these offerings, making The Elephant Show the “first series in Canadian TV history to be financed by a public offering of private shares since the ‘boom and bust’ tax shelter years between 1979 and 1981” The reason The Elephant Show became such a popular show to invest in was because it had already been on air for several seasons and had proven to be successful and popular amongst families across Canada. It was also a show that had potential for “a long shelf-life and…suitable for many foreign markets”.
The fourth season of Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show aired in Canada on October 12, 1987, a week after the show had the big break it had been waiting for. The US channel, Nickelodeon, picked up the show, debuting on the Nick Jr. lineup at 11:00am starting October 5, 1987. The trio’s popularity exploded overnight, suddenly receiving requests to do concerts at major venues as well as tiny communities across the United States. Almost instantly the trio was “selling out within hours, and phone calls – 200 a day to Nickelodeon… it just absolutely exploded…People started recognizing [the trio] on airplanes and in restaurants and in the street.” The Elephant Show also proudly received several awards, including the Parent’s Choice Gold Award for Best Children’s Show and the National Telemedia Council Special Recognition Award for Excellence in Children’s Programming.
At the end of its fourth season run, the producers were worried about the possibility of a fifth season due to a change in law which required a higher percentage of pre-sales for the show. This no longer became a worry when Nickelodeon picked up the show, as a fifth season was instantly considered and filming began in the summer of 1988, just after picking up two more awards for Best TV Variety by CFTA and Best Children’s Programming by ACTRA.
The fifth, and final season of Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show debuted on December 4, 1988 in Canada, kicking of the season with a fictional throwback of how Sharon, Lois & Bram came to be Sharon, Lois & Bram. Unlike previous seasons, the fifth season did not feature clips of concerts. The final season featured sophisticated storylines and included a slew of famous guest stars including Louis Del Grande, Jayne Eastwood, Andrea Martin, Chuck Mangione and Maurice Solway. Many of the episodes featured scenes or stills from past seasons.
Also unique to The Elephant Show, the fifth season featured an episode promoting UNICEF’s United Nations Children’s Fund featuring Sharon, Lois & Bram as newly appointed UNICEF ambassadors, teaching viewers the importance of UNICEF and why everyone should be helping. The episode even featured a specially altered version of the trio’s signature tune “Skinnamarink” to promote the cause. They also featured a celebratory episode to mark their 10th Anniversary as Sharon, Lois & Bram with a backstage look at how their anniversary album, Happy Birthday, was recorded and engineered.
With the final taping of the very last episode of The Elephant Show, the trio was featured on the cover of TV Guide across the United States, providing a thoughtful, nostalgic look back at their past five years taping the show. Sharon, Lois & Bram were also inducted into Maclean’s 1988 Honor Roll of Canadians who made a difference. The decision to end the successful television show after five seasons was a bittersweet moment for the trio. High demand for the trio to perform live performances, exhaustion and the decline of financing all contributed to the decision to not produce a sixth season. (The Elephant Show was “50% financed privately and CBC and Telefilm Canada produced only 2/3 of the film program costs”). The trio also felt it was time for a break and to allow the show’s investors to make a profit on their investments. After wrapping up the final filming for the show, the trio embarked on an extensive tour of the United States to promote their 10th Anniversary and newly released Happy Birthday album.
In 1989, the first three seasons of The Elephant Show were released on VHS by Bullfrog Films exclusively to teaching institutions across the United States. Each episode was on its own VHS tape and featured activities and learning areas to be discussed with children. Additionally, several episodes of the show were released on compilation VHS tapes, by various companies such as A&M Inc. Home Video, Columbia House, Malofilm, and Cineplex Odeon. Click here for more information! A&M also released two “episodes” (one is actually a compilation of live concert clips from Season 1) titled “Live In Your Living Room” and “Sleepover” on Laserdisc and Video8 cassette.
Two full-length records were also released during the show’s original run. Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show Record released in 1986 featured songs from the first two seasons of The Elephant Show, which was followed by Stay Tuned released in 1987 featuring songs from seasons three and four of the show. Other memorabilia and products associated with The Elephant Show were also released including the musical piano book, a stuffed plush Elephant, storyboards, buttons and posters.
In the years following the final season of Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show, the show remained on Nickelodeon until it was pushed off the lineup in 1996. During its run on the American pay-tv channel, it ranked #2 on TV Guide’s Top 10 of Children’s Programs, beating Sesame Street (#5) and Barney & Friends (#9). By the time the final rerun had aired, The Elephant Show had aired 65 episodes in five seasons and had been viewed in Canada, the United States, Ireland, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Greece and Great Britain, reaching over 100 million viewers.
The rights of the show were caught up in a legal battle between several companies throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s which prevented the show from being released onto DVD. In honor of the show’s 25th Anniversary, the trio came out with their very first App for iPad and iPhone titled The Elephant Show Sing & Play Along with Sharon, Lois & Bram. The app features songs from the television show in which the user can create their own musical show. It is currently available on iTunes.
Also in December 2012, it was originally announced that Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show was slated for its overdue DVD release in Spring 2013; however the date was pushed back to Fall 2013, and ultimately the project was abandoned. “We still receive hundreds of emails and letters about The Elephant Show 25 years later” said Arnie Zipursky, Co-Chairman and CEO of CCI Entertainment as well as Co-Creator of the original series. “It has been really fun to be working with this incredibly talented trio once again and we are excited to see the response from people who grew up with the series and now have kids of their own” The beloved trio stated, “It goes without saying, but we are saying, with big smiles on our faces, how thrilled we are that after so many years, so many of our friends, young and old, have let us know how important Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show was to them since its start in 1984.”
Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show touched the lives of millions since it first aired in 1984, and still continues to do so today. Now seen as “retro” and a “heritage brand”, The Elephant Show allowed a time and a place for families to forget their worries and share some time together, centered on music and fun. Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show is classic family entertainment that cannot be replicated.
Several generations of individuals owe a big thank-you to Sharon, Lois & Bram and all those involved with the successful creation of The Elephant Show for being an integral part of their childhoods. So from us to you – a heartfelt thank-you for the memories, the music, the laughs, the cries, the lessons learned, the silliness, the moments of pleasure, the nostalgia and most of all, thank-you for the love. Skinnamarink.
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Banner image created by Steve McKeown