|Created by||Mo Willems|
|Developed by||Mo Willems|
|Written by||Mo Willems|
|Directed by||Mo Willems|
|Voices of||Mischa Barton|
|Narrated by||Mo Willems (opening only)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||14|
|Executive producer(s)||Mo Willems|
|Running time||2-4 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Curious Pictures|
|Original release||1996 –|
Sheep in the Big City
Codename: Kids Next Door
The Off-Beats is a series of short cartoons that was created by Mo Willems. The first episodes were produced as standalone short animated films for Nickelodeon; but after the series was nominated for a CableACE Award, more segments were produced for Kablam!. The series was initially called The Misfits, but Nickelodeon had Willems change the series' title (and re-animate the intro) at the very last moment before its television debut. The series was the first to end on KaBlam! after Willems moved to Cartoon Network to create Sheep in the Big City; it too was cancelled after two years on the air.
The show features a distinct art style, with flat, dry colors. The animation is similar to that of UPA, and Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The series itself (especially in story and concept) pays homage to the classic Peanuts TV specials, especially since the majority of the voice cast are child actors. Each episode is composed with a jazz genre, occasionally includes big-band music, but mostly including a combination of a piano, drums and a double bass. Each segment was two to four minutes in length. Most of the soundtracks in the shorts are similar to The Pink Panther cartoon shorts.
The opening introduction to the shorts always consisted of this short poem, spoken by Grubby Groo (voiced by Mo Willems):
"They're nervous, they're nebbish, the small, and the Populars don't like 'em at all. But that's okay, life is sweet. They cool. The Off-Beats."
The introduction to the original pre-Big Bag shorts uses a modified version:
"They're nervous, they're nebbish, they're small, and the Populars don't like 'em at all. But that's okay, dey doesn't call it quits. They cool. The Misfits."
The Valentine's Day special uses a new version of the theme song specifically for the special:
"They're nervous, they're nebbish, the small, and the Populars don't like 'em at all. It doesn't matter, dey hip. Dey got their own friendship. But when love is in the air. It can cause quite a scare. And sometimes it's hard to define. What goes down on Valentine's."
Betty Anne Bongo - Betty Anne is the realistically thinking "leader" of the group. She can usually be found playing her bongo set. She often sings her own short theme song: "My name is Betty Anne Bongo, I sing this little song-O, I sing it all day long-O!" along with rapidly banging on her bongos (although on one occasion, she sings it without the help of her bongos). Betty is originally against puppy love as she does not see the point of it since friendship is another option, but then develops a crush on Brad Groo. She is voiced by Mischa Barton.
Tommy - Tommy loves his plaid coat, so much so that in one episode it is the basis for the plot when it is sent to the cleaners and he goes temporarily insane. On some reasons he breaks his calm nature and loses his temper causing him to shout with words coming out of his mouth, usually startling his friends and himself. Betty is able to copy Tommy's movements and yelling voice at ease, and Repunzil is able to do the same as shown in the Valentine's Day special. His catchphrase is "Let me just say..." when confronting the Populars, accompanied by his yelling (voiced by Kevin Seal). He also claims he is an outsider in the pilot. He seems to love fishing as he did it in the pilot and "The Statistic". Tommy is voiced by Mark Wagner.
Repunzil - Repunzil is the youngest Black girl in the group and can be quite naive. She is known for her floor-length long hair (named after the princess Rapunzel). She can be slow-witted at times because of her young age and does not know how to tie her shoes. Repunzil is an animal lover; she owns a lot of animals (and a toaster) in the "Sweepstakes" episode and sets up September with a duck and an elephant as a crush in the Valentine's Day special. In the same special she has a crush on Tommy and tries to give him a box of chocolates on Valentine's Day before eating it. She gets angry at her mother for doing her hair in a silly way. She tends to say: "Sometimes I hate my mom". She is voiced by Trisha Hedgecock.
August - August is the most technologically inclined brain of the Off-Beats, but many of his gadgets fail or backfire unexpectedly. While some episodes imply that August makes his gadgets himself, others imply that he purchases them. He has an interest in impressing The Populars and gaining their respect. August is the only character to appear at least once in every episode. He may have a crush on Tina since he tries to get her to be his valentine with an invention he made, which results him being thrown in the punchbowl at the party. He is voiced by Dylan Roberts.
September - August's sarcastic talking dog is usually ambivalent to most situations and plot-lines. Despite that, he does enjoy the company of the Off-Beats. September is paid to like August, as shown in one episode, and has a contract that permits him to have at least one day off. Despite his natural intelligence, he is refused to open a simple can of dog food. He can play the bagpipes, as shown in the last short. He once fell in love with a falling cat named February, which his dog friends found strange. Eventually, a dog war broke out and he and his girlfriend had to flee Paris before the dog invasion. Although she said she would be at the train station, she never showed. They finally reunited when February fell onto September's turntable during the dance, making September happy again. He is voiced by the series' creator, Mo Willems.
Grubby Groo - The beatnik-looking adult friend of the Off-Beats, and the only one who realizes what big jerks the Populars are, as shown in the pilot and 'The Sprain". He works in Cafe Ad Hoc, which is famous for its special Junkyard Sundae. He plays golf, as shown in the last short. He has a nephew named Brad (voiced by Bradley Glenn), on whom Betty Anne has a crush. Brad helps him set up the Valentine's Day dance. Grubby Groo was originally created for a short Willems made for Sesame Street in 1993. He is voiced by creator Mo Willems.
The Populars are a group of six mean kids, usually seen led by Tina, traveling in a huge nose-in-the-air clump. Whenever they come across an adult, they all put on fraudulent smiles and pretend to be nice. Grubby Groo knows that they are just hiding their evilness. The Populars not only walk together, but sleep and live together as well Each individual is allowed a bathroom break, which enables separation of the group to commence. This is how Beth is able to talk to Tommy without getting into trouble.
The Populars seem to be the inspiration for the antagonists, the Delightful Children from Down The Lane, in Codename: Kids Next Door, a cartoon on which Mo Willems has also worked.
Tina - Tina is the mean-spirited leader of the Populars. If the Off-Beats ever show any self-esteem, she is there to squash it. Despite being spoiled and her bad attitude, she seems to be intelligent, as she is curious about Betty Anne's inability to react to her negative comments. Some of her insults make little or no sense or are deemed too childish; for example, in one episode she calls paddleball "Stupid" and says that Betty Anne will get "bumpkis" once Repunzil wins the Sweepstakes. She is something of a stereotypical "school diva". She is also served as the main antagonist of the series. Voiced by Kathleen Fasolino.
Beth - Tina's best friend and sidekick in the group. It is her job to warn the Populars whenever a grown-up is near; she usually shouts "Adult!" Then the Populars begin their phony "nice" act. Once she and Tommy fell in love with each other, and they had to keep it secret. Voiced by Tara Ketterer.
Billy - A boy who wears a red beanie cap. A running gag in the series usually involves him saying something that will upset Tina, and then the Populars throw him forward into the distance, causing him to crash into something (most likely a trash can given the sound effects) and scream. Voiced by Jimmy McQuaid.
The remaining Populars are voiced by Tim Duffy (Paul), Keith Franklin (Gordon), and John Morgan (Virgil).
 The animation was choppier and the character's voices are younger. Also, the bean-shaped logo for The Off-Beats was green instead of pink and a Nickelodeon arrow logo appeared at the logo. These episodes were made to promote the premiere of '‘Ready To Fun. The episodes are on NickSplat's YouTube channel for now.
The first season features The Off-Beats pink logo without the Nickelodeon arrow logo.
Note: In this episode, Tommy is seen without his hat for the only time in the series, revealing that he is bald. This episode reveals September had a girlfriend that is explained in a backstory. This episode also proves that the Populars do in fact sleep and live together, and each individual member is allowed a bathroom break. Repunzil is shown to yell like Tommy. She is the second Off-Beat to do so; the first was Betty Anne. This was also the very last episode produced by Mo Willems, who moved to the Cartoon Network to create Sheep in the Big City.
Production notes: As the original voiceover child actors and animators returned, everyone was set for the production as cited in a press release: "We've had the same team of independent animators and voiceover kids for the past four years, so everyone really understood their characters and was ready to jam". It was produced in 1998 and aired on Nickelodeon in 1999 during the Nickel-O-Zone era rather than only on KaBlam!. This is the first 30-minute episode and the only holiday special. Willems uploaded the music score for the cartoon's theme song, the flashback of September's girlfriend's story, and the sad valentine song about September played at the dance at a low volume due to the horrific lyrics. The script for the full episode was also uploaded and then removed. Considered to be lost, the episode was finally uploaded to YouTube.