If you remember waking up in the morning as a child, then Nick Jr. may have been your go-to entertainment source. If you were watching Nick Jr. in the late 90s or early 2000s then you probably remember the animated shorts Amby & Dexter. Or at least faintly remember them somehow.
Amby & Dexter was a series of five shorts: Scotch Tape, Doorknob, Portraits (aka the infamous painting episode), Gardening, and Piano. The shorts were created by Paul Fierlinger, along with his wife Sandra Schuette, and composed by John Avarese. IMDB summarizes the series synopsis as “small people who transformed from a pair into hands, and back again when their adventure’s complete. Amby is the playful one who loves to dance while Dexter is the serious one. The two never talk.” That is exactly what Amby & Dexter was, and despite the summary of the series sounding so simple, that’s what actually makes it still memorable today.
Just seeing the characters again makes me suddenly wonder if I’m 6-years-old again and getting ready for school. Amby was a raven-haired girl who wore glasses, a white hat that sort of looks like a beret, and a blue blouse and skirt. Dexter was a brown-haired boy who also wore glasses, along with a white long-sleeved short under a brown vest over it, and brown shorts. When the two transformed from the hands, they began exploring the giant world around them.
“Amby & Dexter” is a play on ambidextrous, which is a term used for someone who can use their left and right hand equally well. If that isn’t clever than I don’t know what is. What really made Amby & Dexter so unique and aesthetically pleasing that so many people have found themselves discovering the shorts all over again were the sounds. I included the uploaded episode “Portraits” above because that single short represents the entire series so well. In that episode, the tiny duo Amby & Dexter paint portraits of each other. A simple plot yet there’s a reason why this is the most memorable episode of them all.
If I could rename the Portraits episode to “ASMR painting sounds”, I would with no hesitation because that is what stands out the most. Hearing the paint brush dip into the water and then in the paint, along with some other texture sounds is like music to my ears. It takes me back to when these shorts used to air daily. Come to think of it, before YouTube existed, those of us who were kids back then got to experience ASMR prior to it being a thing. Another great episode that dominated in sounds was “Scotch Tape”.
Looking back on Amby & Dexter makes me wish kids today had such aesthetically pleasing animated shorts. If you think about it, the series could’ve also been useful for teaching kids about their hearing and visual senses. Visually, Amby & Dexter is one of the most beautiful short series I’ve seen. It was like seeing old school animation come back to life in the late 90s and early 2000s. Even hearing the background music again gives major nostalgic feelings.