Released on Tuesday, Oct. 24 on Prime Video, “Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles” details the meteoric rise and continued relevance of the Australian-based colorful children’s music group. Opening with a quote saying how “there needs to be a psychology of why you guys… hit,” the documentary elaborates on both the spontaneous and meticulous methods in which they became a household name.
The origin of The Wiggles stemmed from a 1980s pop rock group, The Cockroaches, among the members of the group were Anthony and Paul Field — the latter of whom served as The Wiggles’ manager until 2020. Eventually the band shifted, taking on the original lineup of Murray Cook (red), Jeff Fatt (purple), Greg Page (yellow) and Anthony Field (blue). The four developed synergy from a shared interest in childhood development, and their ambitions to entertain through music and interactive shows with kids is what started The Wiggles. Sticking to rock was to their benefit; according to Murray, “rock and roll just really resonated with the kids.”
Going international with tours in the United States and a placement of their television show on the Disney Channel were catalysts for their success. The Wiggles always valued representing their own country, but their influence spread farther and wider in the American market. Their persistence to grow shows, as they essentially had to start over when in America, they played shows for five people when they could’ve been playing for 500 in Australia.
Connecting with both children and parents meant they had to step up to the plate when times were tough to spread positivity. The impacts of 9/11, the Australian wildfires of 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic were illuminated in light of The Wiggles’ mission to bring joy during these dark times. Jackie Cannizzaro, widow of a firefighter who passed away during 9/11, said she would play their videos on repeat for their 10-month-old son to comfort both of them. She later brought him to one of their shows, and expressed her emotions with the group for hours after.
With an intense touring tenure, and their popularity growing, the members persevered through many health problems. The first publicized one was Anthony Field’s battle with chronic depression in the mid-2000s, an issue which his mates weren’t aware of the severity. Around the same time came Page’s bouts of fainting and feeling ill on stage, which was diagnosed as orthostatic intolerance, involving health issues when standing upright. Additionally, every original member has undergone heart surgeries except Field, which is partially why he is still part of the group, along with many of his family members.
The Field family’s presence in The Wiggles now includes their tour manager Luke Field, the son of Paul, and Lucia Field, a daughter of Anthony, who is now a Wiggle along with her father. Based on the documentary, the magic of The Wiggles still exists because it has been maintained by the Field family’s ambition to try new things, like circus-style performing and the inclusion of characters like Dorothy the Dinosaur and Captain Feathersword.
Their musical ability is not to be disregarded. Each member would partake in dancing and making wacky faces, but objectively, Cook was the hard rocker of the group, Fatt was the keyboardist and Page was the singer at the forefront. These musical roles mostly remained despite the retirement of these members. Emma Watkins, the third Yellow Wiggle, became the center of attention as she was the first female Wiggle, while Lachlan Gillespie, the second Purple Wiggle, gravitated towards the keytar. Anthony Field was portrayed as a jack-of-all-trades, providing just as much instrumentation as the other members.
In 2021, after a “rough patch” the group went through, proclaimed by Murray, three original and new members covered Tame Impala’s “Elephant” for Triple J’s series, “Like A Version.” Like their 2013 hit “Do the Propeller!,” The Wiggles’ relevancy skyrocketed, except this time it spread to an audience of young adults, most of whom grew up on The Wiggles. A radio host for Triple J makes the good point that “…our listeners grew up listening to you, also to Tame Impala.” This nostalgia factor only increased when the four original lads embarked on a reunion tour throughout 2022, capturing the essence of the audience members’ childhoods vividly. Footage of this event is frequently shown throughout the documentary, highlighting how their journey has come full circle.
Their incorporation of a diverse cast further shows their care to create an inclusive experience for their audience. The aforementioned Watkins inspired children with her bow and skirt, and Tsehay Hawkins, born in Ethiopia, gives children of color a Wiggle to identify with. John Pearce is also a new member that radiates the importance of staying fit and healthy, an important takeaway for youth tempted to stay inside by smart technology, even by media from such groups as The Wiggles.
The documentary is now available on Prime Video.