Pinkfong is the children's educational brand of SmartStudy, a South Korean educational entertainment company. Pinkfong consists of mainly children's songs, of which the most famous is "Baby Shark", with more than three billion views on YouTube. Their educational channel has more than 20 million subscribers, with a brightly-colored programming of stories, sing-along songs and dances represented by a pink fox named "Pinkfong". The global product development company has more than 4,000 children's videos, songs, games and apps.
Pinkfong was formed with the inception of SmartStudy at their Seoul headquarters, in June 2010. A Los Angeles branch with a few employees opened in 2016, and another is located in Shanghai. The U.S. branch's CEO Bin Jeong said the name was created from the pink fox character, and the fun sound of "fong" that sounded similar to "phone". The focus is children ages one to five years old. By 2015, the company had released 520 mobile apps with central base apps like "Pinkfong Nursery Rhymes". SmartStudy's CFO and co-founder Lee Ryan Seung-kyu said typical nursery rhymes were usually "slow and calm" so they began with a small project, searching for a more upbeat song "for the new generation" that would appeal globally. The "Pinkfong! Kids' Songs & Stories" YouTube channel was launched on December 13, 2011, with the brand character, a pink or magenta-colored animated cartoon fox, a Prince from the planet Staria, that was inspired by the fox in the classic French book The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Comparisons to other animations
Pinkfong joined another "beloved" anthropomorphic character named Pororo, a longtime children's favorite in South Korea, in the preschool education market. Both characters became recognizable worldwide and like Pororo, children and parents began associating the pink fox with children's education. In May 2017, journalist Kim Young-joo of the newspaper JoongAng Ilbo wrote that Pinkfong, a pink desert fox character that combines a fox and a phone, is "emerging as the second Pororo", with housewives with young children calling him "President Pinkfong". CEO Lee said that Pinkfong might be described "somewhere between Disney and Sesame Street". An August 2018, comparison of YouTube channel subscribers showed the established brand, Sesame Street, had 3.9 million subscribers and Pinkfong had 10 million.
The YouTube channel videos include educational preschool songs, rhymes and stories that incorporate the use of colors, numbers and letters. Song lyrics are repetitive, animation is bright and bold, and they run about one to two minutes in length. Some are grouped in video compilations, like "Planet Songs" and "Christmas Carols", and in addition to animation, some include claymation and child actors. The short length was made to accommodate cell phone views on both YouTube and SmartStudy's education mobile apps. Three of their most popular videos are "Baby Shark", "Police Car" and "The Lion." The receptiveness of children watching "Baby Shark" was shown in a YouTube video of an elementary school class of 55 students in Xi'an, China, posted by their English teacher, Frenchman Florian Marquette, in late 2015. He said the first time they saw it they responded with surprised expressions, then immediately started singing.
"Baby Shark" song
Their popular "Baby Shark" song and dance video, which they became known for, has more than 100 variations in 11 different languages, with the first released on YouTube in late 2015. The most popular one, released on June 17, 2016, had 1.9 billion global views by the end of October 2018, was one of the Top 40 most-viewed videos, and had topped the children's music chart on iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play and Amazon. The videos first became very popular in Southeast Asia in the summer of 2017. A Korean version, with different lyrics than the English language one, popular in South Korea, was criticized for assigning adjectives to shark family members. The lyrics describe a "pretty" Mommy Shark, a "strong" Daddy Shark, a "kind" Grandma Shark and a "cool" Grandpa Shark. In September 2018, The Korea Herald reported on an article by the Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper, which had raised concerns about that version of the "Baby Shark" song and whether it reinforced sexist ideas.
The original "Baby Shark" song was a nursery song from the 1900s, a sing-along at summer camp and on school playgrounds, which was widely known in the U.S. American and British accounts of the camp version detail a tragic ending, where the panicked swimmer is eaten by the sharks.
The Pinkfong "Baby Shark" uses the traditional chant, incorporates a repetitive verse, and adds K-pop style music. Lee Sung-bok, chairman of the Korea Children's Music Composer Association, said the lyrics that incorporate three generations of the shark family were significant in its success, and said, "Kids love the baby shark song for its easy and repetitive rhythm". Songwriter Jin Jin said the song accomplished the goal of simplicity, which professional songwriters aim for, "A pop song definitely needs a big hook. That's the most important thing," and, "It's got the repetition, and the 'do do do do do' is a global, international language. Any country or language can relate to that."
Gary Cross, a Pennsylvania State University cultural historian who specializes in modern childhood, said, "A simple song that isn't tied too radically to a given culture can, with the right technology, easily become global," and, "Children are not yet fully embedded in a culture, and they’re very adaptable to fads". He said a simple song like "Happy Birthday to You" spread globally before technology, and successful children's commercial popular culture like Hello Kitty and Nintendo from Asia, that "embrace a more playful, imaginative fantasy world for children", had been around for some time. The song is both nostalgic and culturally significant for millennial parents, some who remembered the camp song's darker version, but were amenable to a South Korean version that would help their children develop diverse cultural backgrounds.
In late August 2018, "Baby Shark" charted No. 37 on the UK Official Singles Chart Top 40. Jack White of the British Official Charts said it joined other children's characters, The Wombles, Mr Blobby, the Tweenies and Bob the Builder who had made it onto the chart. It entered the U.S. Billboard charts at No. 1 on the LyricFind Global chart on October 27, 2018, along with six consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Kid Digital Song Sales chart, among other charting. In 2019, they debuted with the song at No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100, for the chart dated January 12, and with their album Pinkfong Presents: The Best of Baby Shark, on the Billboard 200 at No. 175, for the chart dated January 26.
K-pop groups and stars, including Blackpink and Girls' Generation have performed their own versions of the song, an SNS hashtag #BabySharkChallenge, associated with the song, promoted participants to film themselves recreating the shark dance moves; and celebrity parents like Jimmy Fallon, Tyra Banks and Kylie Jenner mentioned the song on SNS.
An English education app, Pinkfong! Word Power, was released globally as the third in a phonics series, on February 2, 2017, following Pinkfong! ABC Phonics, and Pinkfong! Super Phonics. Like most of its products, it can be globally downloaded on Google, Apple and Amazon app stores, and is available, also, in Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Spanish.
The Pinkfong Beam (English Edition) portable projector was the brand's first consumer product release in the U.S. market at the Mobile World Congress Americas on September 11, 2017. It can also be connected to TV, and includes a smart pen, CDs, DVDs, songbooks and workbooks. The smart pen is used for tracing over text which will automatically play matching songs or stories.
Common Sense Media reviewer Emily Ashby said, "This popular brand and its pink fox mascot herald joyful preschool entertainment that teaches simple concepts with engaging song and rhyme." She said, "Pinkfong! excels at appealing to preschoolers with content that encourages movement, hand gestures, and familiarity with new words and concepts", and praised them for short videos that allow parents to control screen time, and retain the attention of preschoolers while they learn their skills set.
Teddy Zee, a Hollywood producer and media and tech consultant told ABC News about "Baby Shark", "It is so catchy, it has such a hook, so addictive that it is literally crack for kids." The Washington Post's Caitlin Gibson, said of the video, "For parents, it's a maddeningly infectious earworm that haunts at all hours". Michael Hann of The Guardian said, "Truly, a viral video. And, like any good virus, it has mutated: Pinkfong's Monkey Banana is the same track, with lyrics about a monkey instead".
- ==Subscriber Milestones==
Note the following dates are according to SocialBlade.com the dates may vary by about 1 day, and if you live outside of North America the dates may vary by up to 2 days due to the Time Zone Difference.
- 1 million subscribers: November 8, 2016.
- 2 million subscribers: August 18, 2017.
- 3 million subscribers: October 4, 2017.
- 4 million subscribers: November 20, 2017.
- 5 million subscribers: January 2, 2018.
- 6 million subscribers: February 15, 2018.
- 7 million subscribers: April 6, 2018.
- 8 million subscribers: May 25, 2018.
- 9 million subscribers: July 8, 2018.
- 10 million subscribers: August 23, 2018.
- 11 million subscribers: September 22, 2018.
- 12 million subscribers: October 28, 2018.
- 13 million subscribers: December 1, 2018.
- 14 million subscribers: January 2, 2019.
- 15 million subscribers: February 2, 2019.
- 16 million subscribers: March 4, 2019.
- 17 million subscribers: March 30, 2019.
- 18 million subscribers: April 26, 2019.
- 19 million subscribers: May 23, 2019.
- 20 million subscribers: June 21, 2019.
- 21 million subscribers: July 18, 2019.
- 22 million subscribers: August 13, 2019.
- 23 million subscribers: September 8, 2019.
- 24 million subscribers: October 5, 2019.
- 25 million subscribers: October 26, 2019.
- 26 million subscribers: November 17, 2019.
Video View Milestones
- 1 billion views: December 23, 2016.
- 2 billion views: September 12, 2017.
- 3 billion views: December 2, 2017.
- 4 billion views: March 2, 2018.
- 5 billion views: June 17, 2018.
- 6 billion views: September 29, 2018.
- 7 billion views: January 7, 2019.
- 8 billion views: April 2, 2019.
- 9 billion views: June 29, 2019.
- Baby Shark is one of the most disliked videos on the channel.
- The videos are in Creative Commons.
- The videos are claimed to be created by experts.
- The website link is a Korean domain, but the country listed on the channel claims it's from the United States.
- Baby Shark was also the most popular video which reached 3.46 billion views and reached number 8 in the most viewed YouTube music videos against "Sorry" by Justin Bieber and "Sugar" by Maroon 5.