Wigglemania has gripped New Zealand. Since announcing a national tour here last week, the brightly attired Australian children's entertainers have seen demand climb so high, and parents get so desperate for tickets, that twice this week they added extra shows. A publicist told me she'd never seen anything like it.
"I don't know if we expected that would happen," Emma Watkins, aka Emma Wiggle aka The Yellow Wiggle, says over the phone from Wiggles HQ in Sydney.
"We've sold out so many tickets in the pre-sales I joked to the guys: 'Why don't we just add a whole other week on the end? Just go back and do every city again so nobody misses out.' We're gonna try and squeeze in as many shows as we possibly can. We're honestly so excited. We love New Zealand and are so looking forward to coming over."
This is not just lip service. The troupe usually wiggle around the country every year and had planned to tour this year until Covid scuttled their plans. Subsequently, they've only played three gigs this past year. It's been a challenging time, Watkins says, as they typically spend 80 per cent of the year on the road. When things ramp up again next year, she says we'll be the first cab of the rank as far as their touring goes.
"It's been a real moment for us to find a way to pivot and still connect with children and families overseas," she says.
"It's given us time to reflect on the way we do things and how we see the business going forward."
With the group unable to tour, she formed a "Wiggle bubble" with fellow Wiggles Anthony Field, Simon Pryce, ex-husband Lachlan "Lachy" Gillespie and their camera operator and set about making as much new content as they could at their studio.
"It was pretty quiet and very subdued initially," she says. That changed as worried parents from around the world began contacting them asking for advice or support in explaining social distancing rules to their children.
"They were like, 'help!'," she laughs, before getting more serious. "But at that time even we, as adults, didn't really understand what that phrase meant either. You can't really tell children, 'Oh, stand 1.5 metres away from each other'. That's a really confusing concept."
So they sat down and wrote "Social Distancing", a jaunty Wiggles jangle explaining concepts like washing hands, keeping distance and why children can't visit their Nan in an accessible, kid-friendly way.
"It's a very different landscape of a song for us. It was just the four of us in here and that particular song reconnected us with so many people around the world. It's been amazing."
She says when they sit down to write a new song they aim to capture the same excitement that pre-school children naturally face the world with.
"It's really encapsulating that positivity and encouragement around a certain subject or concept and making it really fun and relatable for them."
Then she laughs, adding, "and hopefully making music that parents can bear".
If you've been scratching your head over the cryptic title of the upcoming tour, We're All Fruit Salad, Watkins says all will become clear in January, when they release a song with the same title.
"The lyrics [explain] that we, as people, are all fruit salad in the same bowl," she says. "It's like everybody in the world is a different piece of fruit but essentially we're all part of the one fruit salad."
To that end, the song is filled with global cameos, including Aotearoa's Robert Rakete who sings in Māori on the track.
The tour is in March and Watkins hopes Covid restrictions will have eased. But if they haven't, she says The Wiggles are determined the shows will go on.
"We're just laid-back Australians," she laughs. "If we have to quarantine when we get there then of course we will."
By necessity, The Wiggles are squeaky clean, but everyone has their vice. With just time for one last question before Watkins has to wiggle off I ask what her vice is.
"Oh, mine's chocolate and it's not good," she enthuses. "It's chocolate all round. I don't drink either so I'm always ordering tea and having chocolate. Chocolate ... it's really bad. Lachy, he's obsessed with cake."
"The problem with New Zealand," she says gravely, "is you've got really good chocolate and really good cake so we'll be in a bit of a pickle!"
• The Wiggles tour New Zealand in March. For tour dates visit livenation.co.nz.