Hit Video Births a Sequel

By June D. Bell

Published December 23, 2005, issue of December 23, 2005.

The latest buzz at Tot Shabbat — and isn’t there always a grape juice-induced buzz? — is about a video that’s equal parts Baby Einstein, Jewish camp sing-along and JCC preschool fare.

“OyBaby,” a half-hour of gentle Jewish songs, giddy kiddies, cheerful puppets and Hebrew vocabulary, has been quietly finding its way into the playrooms of the sticky-fingered set since 2003.

Creators Rob and Lisi Wolf figured they’d be lucky to sell 1,000 copies. The Seattle parents were astonished when sales topped 10,000. The popularity of “OyBaby” prompted the Wolfs to rustle up a gaggle of toddlers for a sequel.

The just-released 42-minute “OyBaby 2” remains a homespun affair, filmed, like its predecessor, in the Wolfs’ garage-turned-studio. The Portland, Ore.-based Schneiderman Sisters again provide their signature delicate harmonies. Vocalists also include Craig Taubman and Rick Recht.

Rob Wolf, a 34-year-old MSN product manager, and Lisi, a 33-year-old stay-at-home mom, handle everything for the OyBaby franchise, from “directing” dozens of tykes (including their own, David, 3, and Sadie, 1 1/2) to distributing their product to Judaica stores. They also fill orders through www.oybaby.com.

“We’re equal parts crazy and ambitious,” Rob Wolf admitted.

Their success story calls to mind Baby Einstein’s fledgling years. The company began in 1997, when a mom filmed an educational home video for her daughter. Disney acquired the company in 2001. Today, its products account for about 90% of the infant developmental media product market.

Rob Wolf says he wouldn’t dream of taking on the behemoth, but if Disney wants to talk, he’ll be happy to listen.



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