Mole Miner is an American-Japanese-Canadian animated television series produced by Act III Productions, Jazz Television Media, Latikuu Edacra Entertainment North America, Tribune Entertainment, Fuji Creative Corporation (seasons 3-7), and Ocean Productions in association with WNET, with animation produced by Soup Cup Cartoons (seasons 1–6), The Roelandts Group (season 7), Group TAC (seasons 1-5), P.A.Works (seasons 6-7), Studio Mir (season 8-present) and YES Somni Asia (season 8-present). The series premiered on November 5, 2001 on PBS. The series originally ran for 7 seasons from 2001 to 2007 and ran for 200 episodes, being one of the longest-running PBS Kids series. A revival, with animation produced by Studio Mir and YES Somni Asia, was ordered in 2020 for an 8th season.

Mole Miner received widespread praise from critics throughout its run, and the series proved to be an extremely popular draw for PBS. The series received multiple Daytime Emmy and Annie Award nominations, as well as a Humanitas Prize nomination for the episode "Rochester's Dad". It was named the 5th-greatest PBS Kids show of all time by The Worcester Beacon in 2016.

Currently, the franchise is owned by Seagrounds Financial Group, who acquired the series in 2014 after distributor Alfred Haber Distribution Co. wrote the series off for tax purposes. Seagrounds would later acquire the rights to the albums from Warner Music Group in January 2016.

In August 2019, the characters were featured in a CGI-animated PBS Kids online video, Mole Miner: Strike It Richer, with the aim of increasing "self-esteem and general confidence" in youth. After it's success, PBS, Latikuu Edacra and Seagrounds all confirmed they were exploring the idea of putting Mole Miner back into production. In May 2020, PBS confirmed the series' revival for a 8th season, set to premiere on December 24, 2020 with the Christmas special "It's Yet Another Mole Miner Christmas!". Much of the 8th season was produced, written, voiced and animated remotely from the production crew members and actors' homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with YES Somni Asia using a small skeleton crew of four which remained working at their Seoul studio.

Synopsis

Darren, an anthropomorphic mole miner, works the mines in the Rockies, a fictional mineral-rich mountain region in the American state of Montana. He work alongside other moles and at the same time teaches the audience middle school-level knowledge about geology, engineering, history of mining, and industrial uses of different minerals.

Origin and development

Creator Phelan Morkel was only a 15-year old high schooler when his comic Darren the Mole Miner was featured in the school paper of Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School in Massachusetts in 1996. The comic gained national attention for its teaching of geology and the history of mining and Morkel soon signed a deal with Little, Brown and Company to release collections of the comic. The first collection, Hey, It's Me, Darren!, made Morkel one of the youngest authors to have a title on the New York Times Best Seller List. In 1999, Morkel was approached by Norman Lear to produce a television series adapted from the comic. Lear had noticed that one of his grand-nephews had outgrown Arthur and felt there was no educational kids program that could appeal to him or other kids of his age range, and thought Morkel's comic would work great as a TV series. Lear and Morkel produced a pilot and pitched the series to WNET of New York City in 2000. WNET producer Kristin Laskas Martin thought the show could have appeal since the titular character, Darren, "wasn't as divisive as Barney and wasn't as neurotic as Arthur".

Lear's Act III Productions worked with Chicago-based Tribune Entertainment, Asheville, North Carolina-based Jazz Television Media (a division of the Asheville-based advertising agency HRV Advertising, who helped fund PBS programming through their charitable arm The Harry R. Voskanyan Foundation), and Latikuu Holdings USA (who also took interest in the original pitch) to produce a pilot for the series. Several Japanese and Canadian firms, Soup Cup Cartoons and Group TAC being among them, were contracted to animate the pilot, with the Vancouver-based Ocean Productions providing the voice recording and casting. The pilot was screened to WNET and PBS executives and a test audience of local children at a private event in August 2000. The children "fell in love with the characters", and the executives agreed that a Mole Miner show would be successful for PBS. WNET & PBS immediately greenlit the series for a initial season of 20 episodes, which debuted on November 5, 2001. The aforementioned firms returned to produce the series, being joined by WNET. At age 20, Phelan Morkel was, at the time, the youngest creator of a daytime television series.

Cast and characters

Main article: Mole Miner/Characters

Episodes

Main article: Mole Miner/Episodes

The following seasons were aired:

  • Season 1 (2001-2002) - 40 episodes
  • Season 2 (2002-2003) - 25 episodes (combined with Season 1's 40 episodes - this made 65 episodes - which the series was originally scheduled to end with)
  • Season 3 (2003-2004) - 30 episodes
  • Season 4 (2004) - 15 episodes
  • Season 5 (2004-2005) -  30 episodes
  • Season 6 (2006-2007) - 30 episodes
  • Season 7 (2007) - 30 episodes

Broadcast

United States

  • PBS (November 5, 2001 - reruns until August 2, 2009 on national feed)
  • PBS Kids Channel
    • Original version: November 7, 2001 - September 26, 2005
    • 2017 version: reruns since June 2, 2020 - present
  • Qubo Channel (reruns from August 2012 - May 2014)

Japan

A Japanese dub titled Moru Kōfu aired in Japan.

Canada

United Islands

In the United Islands, the series' funding credits are removed.

  • NBS Kids (late 2001 – mid-2004, June 2020)

United Kingdom

El Kadsre

Eruowood

France

The airings from 2002 to 2003 used the Quebecois dub Le mineur taupe. Airings since 2003 have used a European French dub titled Darren le mineur.

Czech Republic

Aired dubbed in Czech as Krtek horník.

  • TV KAO (August 2002 - May 2009)

Poland

Series was aired dubbed as Kret górnik. The Polish dub was made by Studio Dolby in Gdańsk.

  • Minimax (October 3, 2002 - April 4, 2004)
  • MiniMini (January 3, 2004 - October 7, 2008)
  • TVP1 (November 2, 2004 - January 22, 2008)

Germany

Aired in German as Mole Miner - Der kitschige Bergmann!. The series was dubbed into German in Vienna, Austria.

  • KiKa (December 2002 - 2007)

Kuboia

  • KT (January 13, 2003 - November 16, 2008)
  • Boomerang (January 15, 2010 - April 14, 2013)

Hungary

Dubbed in Hungarian as A vakondbányász.

  • M2 (March 3, 2003 - December 31, 2009)

Italy

Series was dubbed into Italian in Milan. The Italian dub kept the English name, but was also known as Mole Miner - Lavorare il giorno di distanza nelle miniere (the name of the custom Italian theme song by Cristina D'Avena used for the dub's airings on Mediaset channels).

  • Italia 1 (December 1, 2003 - October 27, 2007)

Brazil

Dryicor

Finnish (Moolikaivosmies)

  • Channel 6 (21 November 2002 - 14 September 2011)
  • Channel 6 (21 April 2021 - )

Icelandic (Mole Miner)

  • Channel 66 (21 January 2003 - 11 May 2011)
  • Channel 66 (23 June 2021, planned)

Norwegian (Mole Miner)

Laioria

Finnish (Moolikaivosmies)

  • LTV (21 September 2002 - 16 November 2008)
  • LTV (26 May 2021, planned)

Icelandic (Mole Miner)

  • LTV (28 October 2002 - 17 October 2008)
  • LTV (25 June 2021, planned)

Laiorian (Կølё Կønør)

  • LTV (21 November 2002 - 15 May 2008)

Joseje

Main article: Dè Mòl Maìna

In Joseje, a Josic language dub by SkyDub titled Dè Mòl Maìna was released. Although the dub was originally direct-to-video, it was aired on television from 2004 to 2008.

Middle East and North Africa

In the Middle East and North Africa, the original Arabic dub (by Venus Centre in Syria) aired on Spacetoon and was also syndicated to various regional channels in the Arab World's countries. The new Modern Standard Arabic dub (made by VoiceMedia in Tunisia) aired on Disney Channel Arabic.

Reception

Season One holds a Metacritic score of 95 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim".

Awards and nominations

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2001 Mole Miner Annie Award for Best Animated Television Production Nominated
2002 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Animated Program
Andrew Francis for Darren in Mole Miner Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program
2003 Mole Miner Annie Award for Best Animated Television Production
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Animated Program

Home media

Release name Ep # Company Release date Notes
Various DVD/VHS releases 188 (total) PBS Kids Video, Warner Home Video (2002-2004), Paramount Home Entertainment (2004-2008) 2002-2008 Various home video releases containing between two and five episodes.
Various DVD/VHS release 190 (total) BBC Video (2003), 2 Entertain (2004-2008) 2003-2008 Various home video releases containing between two and five episodes.
Various DVD/VHS releases 95 (total) Coast Lifestyle Media (US) 2002-2003 Various mail-order-only home video releases containing between two and three episodes. Seasons 1-3 only.
Mole Miner - The Complete Series 200 Shout! Factory (US) October 11, 2015 The complete series (as of 2015) on 12 DVDs with bonus material. Bonus material includes the documentary featurettes "The Early Days of the Mole Miner", "Phelan Morkel's Scrapbook", and "From the Eyes of Darren".
Mole Miner - The Complete Season One 41 Shout! Factory (US) October 11, 2015 All 40 episodes from Season One plus the Season Three finale "Darren Saves Christmas".
Mole Miner - The Complete Season Two 25 Shout! Factory (US) October 11, 2015 All 25 episodes from Season Two.
Mole Miner - The Complete Season Three 29 Shout! Factory (US) November 1, 2015 29 episodes from Season Three except "Darren Saves Christmas".
Mole Miner - The Complete Seasons Four & Five 45 (total) Shout! Factory (US) November 1, 2015 All 15 episodes of Season Four and all 30 episodes of Season Five.
Mole Miner - The Complete Seasons Six & Seven 60 (total) Shout! Factory (US) November 1, 2015 All 30 episodes each of Seasons Six and Seven.

Trivia

  • It was the third most watched program on the Eruowoodian children's television channel TechEruo Kids in 2002, behind House of Mouse (2nd) and SpongeBob SquarePants (1st).
  • The series was originally cel-animated for the first season, but switched to digital ink-and-paint in the second season.

See also

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.