Queue Up Your Preschool Playlist, 'Peppa Pig' Has Just Dropped 'My First Album'

Jul 31, 2019
Originally published on August 1, 2019 6:42 am

Fun fact: The 17-year-old voice actor who plays the beloved cartoon character Peppa Pig actually lives on a farm and has her own pigs who are (of course) named Peppa and George. "They're very cheeky," says Harley Bird. "There was one time when I went in to feed them in the morning and they started eating my Wellies whilst I was still wearing them."

Bird and her family live in Tring, a village about 40 miles northeast of London. She travels to the city to record the award-winning British cartoon, then returns home to feed the chickens.

In the show, the 4-year-old pig shares sweet adventures with her little brother George, Mommy Pig, Daddy Pig and her animal friends. Peppa Pig airs in more than 180 countries — she's starred in movies and stage shows, and has her own YouTube channel. There are Peppa Pig games and toys, and even a theme park in England. And now, Peppa has dropped her first album, titled simply: "My First Album."

YouTube

Bird, who has voiced Peppa for nearly 13 years, is visiting the U.S. with her mom, and her younger siblings Olivia and Rosco. They're on vacation, but she's also promoting Peppa's album, in which she sings about friendship, balloon rides and her favorite pastime — jumping in muddy puddles (wearing her boots, of course). The album includes songs such as "Bing Bong Zoo," "The Class of Madame Gazelle" and "Peppa's Party Time."

Peppa Pig debuted in the U.K. and Australia in 2004, and has been on Nick Jr. in the U.S. for the past eight years. The cartoon was voiced by two other actors before the producers found Harley Bird (that's her stage name).

Harley Bird, now 17, landed the role of Peppa Pig at her first ever audition, when she was 5 years old.
Mandalit del Barco / NPR

Gill Riley, Bird's mom, realized her daughter had a dramatic flair, so she found an agent for her. "She was just a little quirky, little bit different and she definitely had something about her," Riley explains.

Bird was just 5 when she landed the role in her first-ever audition. "I just sounded like a pig — that's it," says Bird. "I couldn't really read at all — I mean, I was five."

Along the way, she learned to read ... and to snort like a piggy. (Click here to see her switch into her Peppa voice.) More than a decade later, she now has to change her voice to sound younger, higher and more kid-like. She says it's getting to be more of a struggle, and at some point she probably won't be able to keep it up. "My voice still is changing," she says. "There probably will be a point when I'm going to have to pass the pig."

In addition to playing Peppa, Bird has some other notable entries on her resume: She has a black belt in kickboxing, she works at the village pub and Prince William once waved to her. She's studying for her A levels to get into university, and would like to become a casting director. Bird acted in the 2013 movie How I Live Now, had a small part on TV's Doctor Who and starred in the Disney series So Sammy. As Peppa, she won a prestigious BAFTA Award when she was just 9.

She seems surprised to learn that some critics call out the show for fat-shaming Daddy Pig. And she's only heard bits and bobs about the news that Peppa Pig is considered a subversive symbol in China.

"I don't really have anything to say about it," says Bird, adding that Peppa is "such an innocent thing, that for it to be made into anything more is a tiny bit ridiculous."

Bird doesn't take her singing too seriously either, and jokes about performing at Coachella as Peppa Pig. She's super excited about a shoutout she got from rapper Little Nas X. "He was tweeting something about doing a collab," she gushes. "I am so in with that. Definitely. I mean, I'm in America. Find me. Let's collab!"

Peppa Pig's album dropped the same day as Iggy Azalea's, prompting the rapper to tweet "It's over for me now." Peppa tweeted back: "Peppa's so fancy, you already know."

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Preschoolers and their parents may know this voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PEPPA PIG")

HARLEY BIRD: (As Peppa Pig) I'm Peppa Pig. (Snorting) This is my little brother, George.

OLIVER MAY: (As George Pig, snorting)

BIRD: (As Peppa Pig) This is Mommy Pig.

MORWENNA BANKS: (As Mommy Pig, snorting).

CORNISH: The award-winning British cartoon about Peppa Pig, her family and her animal friends airs in more than 180 countries. She's starred in movies and stage shows and has her own YouTube channel. There are Peppa Pig games and toys, even a theme park in England. And now Peppa's released her first album. NPR's Mandalit del Barco caught up with her.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Harley bird, the voice of Peppa Pig for almost 13 years, sits poolside at a Santa Monica hotel as children splash about.

BIRD: Hello.

DEL BARCO: The peppy, redheaded 17-year-old is here with her mom, her little sister Olivia and little brother Roscoe on holiday.

BIRD: Ooh (laughter).

DEL BARCO: Bird's also here to promote Peppa Pig's first album, in which she sings about friendship, balloon rides and her favorite pastime.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUMPING IN MUDDY PUDDLES")

BIRD: (As Peppa Pig, singing) Jumping up and down in muddy puddles - splish (ph), splash, splosh (ph), splish, splash.

DEL BARCO: "Peppa Pig" debuted in the U.K. and Australia in 2004 and has been on Nick Jr. in this country for the past eight years. The cartoon was voiced by two other actresses before the producers found Harley Bird.

BIRD: Peppa is a 4-year-old pig. She is very cheeky and funny. She's quite bossy. She's quite a bossy piggy.

DEL BARCO: Harley Bird - that's her stage name - was just 5 years old when she landed the role. Here's her mother, Gill Riley.

GILL RILEY: She was just a little quirky, little bit different, and she definitely had something about her.

BIRD: My mom just realized that I was quite a dramatic girl, and I just sounded like a pig. That's it. I couldn't really read at all. All I knew, I was just speaking because, I mean, it was my real voice at the time. I mean, it's still my real voice, but I have to, like, change my voice to, like, sound younger and a bit higher and more kid-like.

Hello. I'm Peppa Pig.

DEL BARCO: Along the way, Harley Bird did learn to read and to snort.

(SOUNDBITE OF SNORTING)

DEL BARCO: Here are some other fun facts about Harley bird. She has a black belt in kickboxing. She works at the village pub. And Prince William once waved to her. She's studying for her A levels to get into university and would like to become a casting director. She and her family live on a farm in a small village called Tring. She travels to London to record "Peppa Pig," then returns home to feed the chickens.

BIRD: I have two pigs called Peppa and George. They're very cheeky. There was one time when I went in to go feed them in the morning, and they started eating my wellies whilst I was still wearing them.

DEL BARCO: Bird acted in the 2013 movie "How I Live Now," had a small part on TV's "Doctor Who" and starred in the Disney series "So Sammy." As Peppa Pig, she won a prestigious BAFTA award when she was 9.

Bird seems surprised to learn that some critics call out the show for fat-shaming Daddy Pig and that Peppa Pig is considered a subversive symbol in China.

BIRD: I don't really have anything to say about it. It's such an innocent thing that to be made into anything more is, like, a tiny bit ridiculous.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BING BONG ZOO")

BIRD: (As Peppa Pig, singing) Bong (ph) bing (ph) boo (ph), bing bong bing, bing bong bingly (ph) bungly (ph) boo.

DEL BARCO: Harley Bird doesn't take her singing too seriously and jokes about performing at Coachella.

BIRD: Lil Nas, who did "Old Town Road," he was tweeting something about doing a collab (ph). I am so in with that, definitely. I mean, I'm in America. Find me. Let's collab.

DEL BARCO: Peppa Pig's album dropped the same day as Iggy Azalea's, prompting the rapper to tweet, it's over for me now. The piggy tweeted back, Peppa's so fancy. You already know.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S PEPPA PIG")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) She's Peppa Pig. She's Peppa Pig.

BIRD: (As Peppa Pig) I am Peppa Pig.

DEL BARCO: Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BING BONG ZOO")

BIRD: (As Peppa Pig, singing) Bing bong bing, bong bing boo, we're all animals at the zoo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.