Since Emma Wiggle announced she would be passing the iconic yellow skivvy onto someone new, 15-year-old dancer Tsehay Hawkins, we have become mildly obsessed with looking back at The Wiggles’ history and how they have evolved over the years.
One of the most beloved children’s entertainment groups, The Wiggles have left an indelible mark on generations past and present – not only in Australia but across the globe.
Whether it’s how the group started, the insane amount of money they have earned, or the super strict rules all members must follow, here are 12 fun facts you definitely didn’t know about The Wiggles.
Let’s hop in the big red car, and away we go!
Watch: ‘Sleep Safe, My Baby’ encourages parents to put their babies to sleep safely. Post continues below.
How The Wiggles started.
It all began with a young Anthony Field, the only original member to still be in the current group.
The Blue Wiggle went to complete his degree in Early Childhood Education at Macquarie University in Sydney. It’s where he went on to meet his fellow future group mates, Greg Page the Yellow Wiggle and Murray Cook the Red Wiggle. Purple Wiggle Jeff Fatt soon came on board as well, the four of them deciding to busk together.
In 1991, while still at uni, Anthony decided to write a children’s album. It was a project that he would dedicate to his late niece. One of those songs was called, ‘Get Ready to Wiggle.’ And the rest is history.
Anthony knew he was onto something when he gave a copy early on to one of the mums of the preschool where he was teaching and she gave him some good feedback. “The next day a lady came in and said, ‘I want to strangle you. 43 times my child played Dorothy the Dinosaur’.”
Their first album cost just $4,000 to make and sold 100,000 copies.
The band would perform during the school holidays when they had time off from their real jobs, taking the act around Sydney and NSW. They would perform at daycare centres and shopping malls, often with fellow ABC children’s programming talent.
When their popularity grew, The Wiggles started doing their own gigs.
Within a year of officially forming, they were Australia’s most popular children’s entertainers, and a few years after that, they were touring the US.
They also opened their own recording space called Hot Potato Studios and have a big red car ride at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast.
The Wiggles are proud supporters of Red Nose Day, for a very personal reason.
For 30 years, The Wiggles have made it their mission to help Red Nose Australia raise much-needed funds and awareness for eradicating sudden and unexpected death in infancy in Australia.
There’s a personal reason why Red Nose Day is of such great importance to the group.
Before they were Wiggles in the 1980s, Anthony Field and Purple Wiggle Jeff were in a rock band called The Cockroaches. The band broke up when Anthony’s brother and fellow bandmate Paul Field lost his infant daughter to SIDS in 1988, otherwise known as sudden infant death syndrome.
“A beautiful thing she was,” Paul said in a recent interview with Today Extra. “It’s something you never ever get over, it’s still with me today. So, we still played a bit [The Cockroaches] but the joy had largely gone out of it.”
Alongside the group, Field, who is the managing director of The Wiggles, has been able to raise a significant amount of funds and awareness for Red Nose Australia, something Paul says he is very proud to have contributed to.
“SIDS has been reduced by 85 per cent since the safe sleeping campaign was introduced. That’s 10,000 babies who are alive today because of this.”
The business behind The Wiggles.
In the late 1990s, Anthony’s brother Paul signed on as their manager.
The group decided to remain independent, forming The Wiggles Propriety Limited. This ensured the group retained full creative control and ownership of every aspect of the business. They formally consolidated that business in 2005.
All Wiggles decisions were made in consensus with its members, and when they had some difficulties creating a show in partnership with the ABC, they self-produced the series.
They kept things simple: relying on friends and family to plug holes when they needed help, financed the business themselves and made cash selling the merchandise they made themselves out of a suitcase after the shows.
They answered only to themselves: no executive team, no board members, no shareholders.
How much money are The Wiggles worth?
From around the time that The Wiggles consolidated their business, they started to show up in Australian ‘Rich Lists’, named Australia’s richest entertainers from Business Review Weekly for four years running in 2004 to 2008.
In 2009, The Wiggles earned $45 million dollars.
Profits were down in 2011 following the global recession, earning them $28 million.
In 2012, Anthony, Jeff and Murray retained 30 per cent ownership each of the brand. Paul Field and Mike Conway, their management team, owned 5 per cent each. Founding Yellow Wiggle Greg was paid out $20 million when he left the group and business back in 2006, replaced by Sam Moran.
Despite the massive number of little kids buying Emma dolls and yellow bows, the new generation of Wiggles aren’t partners in The Wiggles Propriety Limited. They’re employees of the company.
So how much money do they make, you ask?
The Wiggles themselves don’t ever talk about their paycheques, but it has been reported from sources over the years that Anthony owns a majority share in the group, worth an estimated $50 million. That’s on top of what he earns from the royalties and performances. Some of those earnings are then invested back into the business.
It was reported that Emma Wiggle has a yearly salary of $750,000.
The strict rules The Wiggles must follow.
The team have expanded over the years but all of them must adhere to strict Wiggles ‘no tolerance’ policies: that includes no swearing, no drug use, no drinking, no smoking.
The relationship with the audience must be positive and respectful. And that’s where the famous Wiggles finger move comes into play: it’s to ensure the group has no physical interaction with the audience at all.
Speaking to Claire Murphy on Mamamia’s podcast The Quicky, Anthony said: “We’re all about promoting self-esteem. When we were started, the three of us were early childhood teachers so it was really easy to keep that early childhood ethos going. Murray, Jeff and Greg are very supportive of where we are at the moment.”
The story behind The Wiggles’ coloured shirts.
According to Anthony, the group used to wear different coloured shirts, not skivvies, and the shirts had really busy patterns.
The group all soon travelled to a Sydney department store, and each picked out a colour: Murray red, Jeff purple, Greg yellow and Anthony actually chose green but later moved to blue.
The Wiggles have adults-only concerts.
To the delight of adults across the country, the iconic group will be heading out for an over-15s tour across Australia next year.
The OG Wiggles Reunion Tour is set to have the original gang back together: Anthony, Jeff, Greg and Murray.
“30-somethings are coming to the show and they want to remember their childhood in a different environment. Some of them [the audience] are having a few drinks, and it’s just fun to see a mosh-pit going crazy to ‘Fruit Salad Yummy Yummy’,” Anthony said on The Quicky.
Emma’s rise to fame with The Wiggles.
She was the first female Wiggle and has been idolised by kids (and adults) across the world.
Emma Watkins became the Yellow Wiggle in 2012, a decision that resulted in major commercial success for The Wiggles. She undoubtedly encouraged a generation of kids to move and dance – and have a love for dressing up.
Emma, Anthony would later admit, would become one of the group’s most popular members. “Having a woman in The Wiggles has been such a wonderful change of energy,” Anthony said on The Quicky.
“Girls used to come to the show and Dorothy was there, and when we do shows and look out into the audience, you would now see 80 per cent of the children dressed like Emma.”
Listen: Mamamia’s The Quicky speaks to the Blue Wiggle himself and a journalist who grew up as a fan of the band to find out how the group runs a tight ship business. Post continues after audio.
Although Anthony and The Wiggles team are very sad to see Emma go, who is off to pursue her PhD and work with the deaf community, they are grateful to have a great new generation of Wiggle entertainers.
“It will be some sort of readjustment. Some people won’t love The Wiggles as much as they did, but we are a group. We’ve got some brilliant new people coming in but of course we will miss Emma – she’s wonderful.”
Kiran Gupta, an Arts and Law student at the University of Sydney majoring in Media Studies, has closely followed The Wiggles and their success.
“Emma has become a bit of a cult hero because so many children look up to her. Most of the merchandise produced is Emma-specific,” Kiran notes.
“In the same way that Emma has broken those barriers in terms of having a female Wiggle on-screen, I think Tsehay will continue that.”
The history of The Wiggles’ members.
In 2006, original Yellow Wiggle Greg decided to leave the group due to health issues.
The group however copped some backlash in 2012, when Greg returned and ousted the replacement Yellow Wiggle Sam after his five years in the role. But that same year, Jeff, Greg and Murray all decided to retire for good: making way for a new generation of The Wiggles.
Of course, in came Emma, Purple Wiggle Lachlan ‘Lachy’ Gillespie and Red Wiggle Simon Pryce in 2012.
Just this year, the group announced four new members for their Fruit Salad TV venture, exclusively available on The Wiggles’ YouTube channel.
The four new members include 15-year-old dancer Tsehay Hawkins, Aboriginal woman and ballet dancer Evie Ferris, Justice Crew member John Pearce who is of Filipino descent and Chinese-Australian Kelly Hamilton who is a skateboarder and dancer.
The new members were a further push towards representing both gender and ethnic diversity better.
And with Emma announcing her departure, Ethiopian-Australian Tsehay Hawkins has been chosen as the new Yellow Wiggle.
It’s a fantastic decision, Kiran Gupta said on The Quicky.
“I think The Wiggles are a very savvy business first and foremost. They know what they’re doing and they’ve probably received a response from audiences that Tsehay is someone who is going to bring in people for them.”
“Broadening out the audience means more people are going to be interested in The Wiggles. Children need role models who they can identify with, and the more you market to that diverse background and people of diverse experiences, the more children have a role model to relate to on the screen,” he notes.
The Wiggles are a hit on Triple J.
Triple J’s Like a Version is a radio segment where bands and artists go into the studio to create their interpretation of a popular song already produced.
Case and point The Wiggles performing Tame Impala’s ‘Elephant.’ And what a performance it was! Blue Wiggle Anthony, along with Emma, Lachy and Simon performed the song, along with OGs Murray and Jeff joining in as well.
“We wanted to choose something Australian,” Emma said in an interview with Triple J. “For most of the time that we’ve had the honour of going to The ARIAs, we get to see Tame Impala a lot on stage.”
The response for the song was fantastic, with the video clip that accompanied it going viral on social media.
The Wiggles are going gangbusters on TikTok.
Who would have thought The Wiggles would now be a cult favourite on TikTok as well.
“We’re already starting to see that Tsehay is the one who is leading from the forefront in terms of engagement,” says Kiran Gupta.
“The videos with Tsehay on TikTok are getting way more views than some of the other videos. I think when she puts on that yellow skivvy, her popularity is going to skyrocket.”
Blue Wiggle Anthony doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon.
When asked on The Quicky whether any retirement plans are on the cards, Anthony shared that his role being the Blue Wiggle isn’t going to end anytime soon.
“Again with diversity, it’s also good for kids to see older people, younger people, people from different cultures, people with different coloured skin. We’re not like a commercial television show that just replaces people when they get older.”
“I’m happy to keep going: I started it and I still love it!”
Feature Image: Instagram @thewiggles