Linda Gotovac didn’t expect to see this scene from the cab of her brown Kia Soul passing through the heart of Tenino, but here’s how it played out:
Blippi — clad in his signature orange-framed glasses, bowtie and blue and orange cap — rides a bike along Olympia Street in Tenino when he comes across 5-year-old Wyatt Williams using a chisel to cut into a block of stone outside the Tenino Stone Carvers shed.
“Whoa! Check it out, a stone carving shop,” Blippi says in a goofy, high-pitch voice. “Let’s go check it out.”
Putting his helmet delicately on the seat of the yellow bicycle, Blippi cautiously walks over to Wyatt, who’s wearing safety glasses and a stone carver’s bib.
“Whoa, hey. What’s your name?” Blippi asks with a smile stretching cheek to cheek.
Wyatt bashfully holds the chisel between his two small hands and grins.
“Is it Wyatt?” Blippi asks.
Wyatt nods approvingly. “Boy, that’s a cool name. What are you doing here, Wyatt?” Blippi asks.
Tiny Wyatt then positioned his mallet and chisel to cut into the stone. He was, of course, making a masterpiece at the regionally renowned stone carvers shed, a place many of Blippi’s viewers might not know about.
“Oh, making holes in the stones so that he can color them in? That’s really cool,” Blippi says facing a camera while Wyatt hammers away at his magnum opus.
The Tenino Stone Carvers shed was just one of the many stops education YouTube sensation Blippi and his friends made on Thursday while on a visit to film in the Stone City.
Blippi, the alter ego of one Stevin John, 32, of Des Moines, and his small crew stopped by the small town of 2,000 to record a new video. With the help of Mayor Wayne Fournier, Blippi was able to get access to a police vehicle and fire engine.
“This is wonderful. This is great. I love it,” Gotovac, a Tenino City Council member, said while looking at Blippi and Wyatt from her vehicle. “That little kid is quite an actor.”
From learning how popsicles are made, to a tooth brushing sing-a-long song, Blippi — who resembles someone between Pee-wee Herman and Blue’s Clues’s Steve — and his videos have been watched more than 12 billion times, according to his website.
His YouTube channel, which hosts hours upon hours of educational videos with the quirky character, has more than 9.11 million subscribers to date.
John said the idea for Blippi stems from watching the YouTube videos his then nephew would watch in their home back in Ellensburg. His character grew from a small idea, publishing his first video in 2014, and now boasts wide international appeal, garnering millions of views with each new video.
Today, Blippi toys, books and clothing are all the rage with kids aged 2 to 5 — sometimes, even with older children.
“It’s absolutely perfect for him because he has that level of energy that’s so contagious,” said Eric Luck, 30, John’s videographer and longtime friend.
Growing up in Ellensburg, Luck said he and John always had a passion for filmmaking and videography, so this seems like a perfect outlet for him, especially as YouTube, Netflix and social media companies democratized the way modern television and films are made.
Their three-man film crew on Thursday consisted of John, Luck and Kelly Fraizer, their producer from Moonbug Entertainment, one of the largest digital kids media education companies in the U.S.
Between shoots, John could be seen consulting with Luck and Frazier on the next shot, pulling dialogue off the cuff just seconds before they hit the record button.
Nijah Ahmed, the office manager at South Thurston Fire and EMS, was able to take a video with Blippi for her nephew as the film crew arrived at her station.
“He is obsessed. The second I saw him outside, I said ‘oh my gosh, that’s Blippi,’” Ahmed said. “My nephew, he plays him all the time. Same with my neighbor’s kids as well.”
One of Blippi’s biggest fans on Thursday was 2-year-old Trooper Wachter-Parent, who got a photo with the dance-happy character on the fender of one of the fire engines.
In the arms of his father, 37-year-old Jason Parent, the two followed along as Blippi made his way from the fire station to the Tenino quarry pool.
Parent said it was about a year ago when Trooper got really into motorcycles after watching his video “Blippi Rides a Motorcycle.”
“For whatever reason, that was the video he decided to watch over and over again, and the rest is history,” Parent said. “I don’t even think he was 2 and he was saying ‘That’s the spring, that’s the engine, that’s the brakes, and that’s the clutch.’”
Trooper eventually got so into motorcycles that he’s now riding BMX bikes and is on a sponsored team, Parent said.
Since then, Trooper’s love for Blippi has only grown. He’s probably watched just about every video published by him. As an educational media, Parent said he enjoys what Blippi’s videos offer.
“I told my wife that he got into bikes because of Blippi,” Parent said.
Blippi’s video on Tenino will be out in about four to eight weeks, John said. His other videos can be found on Amazon, YouTube and, hopefully soon, Netflix.