The Wiggles: Is this the beginning of the end?

Bye Sam Wiggle! Parents everywhere have been digesting the big news this week that Yellow Wiggle Sam Moran is being replaced by original Yellow Wiggle Greg Page. The media frenzy has been, as expected, frenzied. But as the muck gets raked and details sifted, I can’t help but wonder if this whole badly managed PR saga will mark the beginning of the end. Let’s explore…

Sam Moran in concert as the Yellow Wiggle, Brisbane 2009

The initial statement was too abrupt, a clinical declaration that Greg Page was returning, replacing Sam Moran who ‘graciously offered’ to step aside, according to early reports. However, as the day wore on murky details emerged about the nature of Sam’s dismissal.

He was allegedly called in on his daughter’s birthday, with no notice of the meeting, and told his contract would not be renewed. There was no emotional handing over of the yellow skivvy, as there was with Greg Page’s departure. No gentle explanation for children that their beloved Sam would be replaced by the unknown (to current five-year-olds) Greg.

And then the round of media interviews began. Greg Page fronted ACA that night and when asked what Sam would do now, admitted he had no idea.

Some people would say, “Fair enough”. After all, when you take on a new job you very rarely have any clue what your predecessor has moved onto.

Sam Moran we love you!However, the Wiggles present themselves as a close-knit family. I’ve been to many Wiggles concerts and the program guides all contain detailed information about every member of the entourage. When Greg admits he hasn’t spoken to Sam since he was dismissed and has no idea what he’ll go on to do now it seems cold and self-centered. In addition, mums and dads and their kids are emotionally invested in each and every member of the Wiggles. So when one is leaving we want to know what our friend is going to do. For the Wiggles to not have Sam front and centre of this story to present the image that all was well has been a damaging mis-step.

The spin machine lurched from bad to worse with the media interviews. The more Team Wiggle tried to dig themselves out of the ditch, the worse things got. Sam was referred to as a ‘hired hand’ by Blue Wiggle Anthony in a Today show interview. Parents were aghast. To us, referring to Sam as an employee is rude, even if it is true. He’s a member of the Wiggle family. Anthony Field issued an instant clarification via Facebook:

“Firstly, I didn’t actually call Sam a ‘hired hand’, that was the question posed to me, but I do see how me agreeing with the question could have appeared insensitive.”

The transcript went like this:

  • Richard Wilkins: He was a hired hand.
  • Anthony: Yes, that’s right.

Cue shocked gasps from mums, dads and kids who love Sam.

And so the nightmare went on. News reports revealed that while Greg Page got paid out $20million when he left the group, thus ending all his ownership and royalties rights, Sam, the hired hand got paid out $60,000.  The Herald Sun reported that Sam was mocked behind his back as ‘the salaried Wiggle’ and was kept out of the loop as plans were made to bring Greg Page back. None of the Wiggles, including Greg, have had any contact with Sam since his sacking. He apparently wasn’t even accorded a farewell. No goodbye drinks, no warm well-wishes from the entire Wiggles team. Nada.

Anthony tried to put the Wiggles on a better footing, painting the group as “generous” for including Sam on co-writing royalties for all songs written while Sam was in the group, even though, in reality he only wrote “about three songs”. But all he succeeded in doing was bringing the money back to the headlines.

We’ve learned that Greg won’t be back as a shareholder in the group, but is on the same contract Sam was on when he left, making Greg the new ‘salaried Wiggle’. Parents know The Wiggles are a brand, and very big business, but to delve into this side of it is grubby and unattractive. It’s a little too close to our kids and we’re starting to catch on that we’re the cash cows generating the $30million a year income.

Then there was this diabolical TV interview with Richard Wilkins on the Today show. How the Blue Wiggle has got this far in his media career and still handle this so badly is mind boggling. (And a superb job from Wilkins).

For my money, Sam Moran, the Yellow Wiggle, added much needed youth and vitality to the Wiggles. He was a far superior singer to Greg Page and far more charismatic. Mums adore him (and recall fondly, years later, his a cappella Twinkle Twinkle Little Star which was blissful). This reversion to an older Wiggle member is a step in the wrong direction, a step backwards. Instead, they should be transitioning themselves all off stage left. They’re old. They will always be the owners and will always enjoy massive royalties income – that is Anthony Field, Murray Cook, and Jeff Fatt. Greg Page was paid out and is no longer an owner or shareholder. They need to staff the Wiggles entirely with salaried employees. Like Hi5 does. Every couple of years bring in a new, younger Wiggle until we’ve got a revitalised brand, and rejuvenated band of younger entertainers. At some point, having 50-year-old men entertain our kids starts to get a little uncomfortable.

I think this is a watershed moment in the career of The Wiggles and a period of turmoil will ensue for a few years until eventually they introduce succession plans. Or the brand will die.

16 comments for “The Wiggles: Is this the beginning of the end?

  1. Bron
    January 24, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Yep – that’s pretty well it to a tee. Getting rid of Sam was a bad idea, treating him like nothing was worse. My grandkids have no idea who Greg is, and there are going to be a lot of disappointed kids looking for Sam at future concerts.
    The Wiggles have been all about money for a long time – i once tried to buy tickets to one of their concerts and was disgusted at how much it would cost. I stopped buying most of their merchandise from that point. Their dvds were allowed – if they were on special, but nothing else.
    Now, i think the grandkids will be ‘encouraged’ to move on to someone else. I don’t want them watching adults behave like this.

    • January 24, 2012 at 10:08 am

      Bron, I think they underestimated how beloved Sam Moran is! On Sunday Blue Wiggle, Anthony Field, revealed a long battle with depression, where allegedly, he didn’t speak to Sam for two years! Imagine working that closely with someone and not speaking to them for two years!? It boggles the mind. I understand he has since gained treatment for his illness and of course, we wish him all the best. However, the Wiggles have generally, in my view, behaved badly. I’m pretty happy my kids are done with the Wiggles – if for no other reason than I’m no longer one of those cash cow parents forking out $30 million a year!

  2. Natasha
    January 24, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Well said. I think Sam Moran (who did add much needed pizzaz) has maintained a dignified silence in the scheme of un-australian wiggles behaviour. Business is one thing – promoting family values is another…and they have failed dismally on the latter. The fall-out of their comments deserves the public / fan backlash they are receiving. I for one won’t be buying tickets to their show this year. (my way of showing support for the unfair ousting of Sam)

    • January 24, 2012 at 11:12 am

      Thanks Natasha, I agree wholeheartedly. It’s very un-Australian! Fair go and all that. Sam stepped in to keep the Wiggles machine chugging along seamlessly 5 years ago – thus avoiding a lengthy auditioning process and risk to their touring schedule – and this is the thanks he gets?

  3. Rachel
    January 27, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Sam’s the best dancer too! Though I’ve never been a big fan of the Wiggles, and thank-fully neither have my kids. Give me Justine Clarke & Jay (can’t spell his surname) any day.

    • January 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      Oooooh, you mean dishy Jay Laga’aia – swoon. And yes, totally love Justine Clarke. Took the kids to her concert at the Powerhouse a couple years back and she was great. A real entertainer. Had the kids in stitches. I predict the end is coming for The Wiggles.

  4. danielle
    January 27, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Will all of you Sam fans get over it! They asked Greg back. Greg is not in it for the money, he loves entertainment. Greg is a much better entertainer then Sam. The wiggles still have a lot of fans. I bet none of you who like Sam has ever thought of this – they where very secsesfull with Greg for 15 years and they will still be successfull with Greg. They had a lot of fans when Greg was in the group. When everyone found out that Greg left, a lot of people did not watch the group. Now all of Greg’s fans are coming back.

  5. Rebecca
    January 29, 2012 at 9:12 am

    If you look closely Sam was never really a part of the group as Greg was. Anthony never allowed him to be the star. This all seems like the natural end to what happens to a band when an outsider comes in. very glad my kids have never gotten into the wiggles in a big way. must however wholeheartedly agree with the almost creepiness of the ‘old men’entertaining kids. I hope they have a good plan because their days are numbered. Maybe this is the time for a new sensation to take over in the brainwashing and branding of all things kids!

  6. Paula
    February 3, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    I’m relatively new to Australia, and I’d never like the Wiggles, I found them a bit creepy, these old men dressed like colorful Beatles jumping around in fake poses. Fortunately neither my kid, wake up Jeff (if any song at all). We love Justine Clarke, Hi-5, Play School, Jimmy Giggle and Hoot. I completely agree that they should do as Hi-5 and have staff.

    BTW, the first change of the yellow wiggle had way more impact in the adults than in the kids, probably as this change as well.

  7. Mummywhodoesntcarewhichwigglebuthas an opinion
    February 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Personally- I don’t really prefer either of them in the sense of favorites. I have only watched the wiggles progams,have 2 dvds and took the kids to one concert – and thats BECAUSE the kids like and prior to that I was a childcare worker so am very familiar with them simple as that.
    But if I were to get into the nitty gritty I think both wiggles were good in their time- and yes I say their time- I respect the way shows, music and concerts are done- however I do agree with the comment in the article regarding to age because realistically there is a point in time where older men or women need to step aside at let the younger adults step in. This is based on their own health, allowing for a company to grow and mature for years after the original people are no longer around.It also starts getting a little creepy at a certain point to have old men entertaining children no matter how you swing it. I think realistically for the growth and maturing of the company and ensuring ‘The Wiggles’ survival (just like any other company) original people like the original wiggles need to start slowly stepping aside and permantely hand over the rains to a younger person. Without that any company would not survive esspecially ones like the wiggles where the main charactors are needed- the moment they die the company will die with them. I think the Program is fantastic for children on an educational and fun scale but if they keep doing things like this their company will go down the drains either due to bad ratings based on the bad advertisement as of late or from their being stuck in the one past mindset with no room to excel and continue the company because they ONLY want to stick with the original wiggles.

  8. Lisa
    April 23, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Um no I could not agree at all that The WIggles should change all the time so they are young clones like High Five. The music of High Five is rubbish compared to The Wiggles. That’s seems a shallow thing to say.

    • April 24, 2012 at 11:02 am

      While the line-up would change, the music should remain the same high standard, I would suggest.

  9. Ash
    June 15, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    I disagree with you, for people that watched The Wiggles as children, bringing back Greg was a perfect way to end the career of The Wiggles as we know it. Sam may have bought youth to the group, but it was never the same, and while he is talented, he has never been in the same class as Greg when it came to educating today’s children.

    • June 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm

      Ash, I don’t think the plan was to bring back Greg to end the Wiggles. I think that’s been an unintended consequence. My idea of introducing younger Wiggles seems to have been adopted by the Wiggles! Obviously I’ve got a knack for the industry! 😉

  10. Beth
    September 28, 2015 at 8:29 am

    so Just bumped into this post … I guss you all were Wrong the Wiggles are going Strong and it’s Sam Who?

    • Felicity Moore
      August 18, 2016 at 10:02 pm

      You’re absolutely right! 🙂

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