The Wiggles' unbelievable story cooked up for new Hot Potato documentary

Josh Leeson
October 20 2023 - 9:00am
The original Wiggles Greg Page, Anthony Field, Jeff Fatt and Murray Cook remain as popular as ever. Picture supplied
The original Wiggles Greg Page, Anthony Field, Jeff Fatt and Murray Cook remain as popular as ever. Picture supplied

IF you've been a parent in the past 30 years, you've undoubtedly at some point been forced to endure a rendition of Hot Potato, Dorothy The Dinosaur or Fruit Salad.

The Wiggles are an Australian icon.

TV reports from the '90s and 2000s often described them as the "world's No.1 children's band" and "the Beatles for toddlers."

When watching scenes from new feature-length documentary, Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles, it's impossible to dismiss those claims as media hyperbole.

Hot Potato goes beneath the yellow, blue, purple and red skivvies to detail the unlikely story of how early childhood university students Anthony Field, Murray Cook and Greg Page, and Field's Cockroaches bandmate, Jeff Fatt, became Australia's top entertainment export.

At the Wiggles' late-2000s pinnacle they were Australia's top-earners for four years in a row, which included $45 million for 2009. They even sold out New York's iconic Madison Square Garden a dozen times.

Even though the Wiggles are a children's band, this is no kiddie documentary.

It is very much aimed at older fans who have since become adults and at parents curious to know more about a group that were an integral part of their children's lives.

But don't expect any rock'n'roll scandals either.

Hot Potato feels safe and carefully stage-managed to present all parties in the best possible light.

The Wiggles have become such a corporate entertainment and merchandising juggernaut, that at times, the documentary feels like giant advertisement for the brand.

The closest the documentary comes to presenting any kind of simmering bad blood and tension is discussing the controversial 2012 removal of Sam Moran, in favour of original yellow Wiggle, Page.

Page was replaced by Moran in 2006 due to suffering from orthostatic intolerance, which is the inability to stand upright because of impaired cardiovascular autonomic function.

I know it's weird, they know it's weird. It just means for an hour they can be kids again.

- Murray Cook

At the time news of Page's departure featured on the front page of US newspapers.

During the majority of his interview, Moran speaks positively of his Wiggles' experience but when asked about his 2012 departure, he diplomatically offers: "I certainly feel a sense of sadness in how it all happened for me."

The 2018 divorce of second-generation Wiggles Emma Watkins and Lachlan Gillespie is also skipped over quickly.

The most intriguing part of the documentary is the wealth of behind-the-scenes footage from the formative years of the band.

There's footage of the Wiggles, along with songwriter Paul Field, Anthony's older brother, busking "Hot Tamale", which later become their most famous song, Hot Potato, and playing birthday parties to 10 kids.

Anthony Field also takes the viewer through the educational theories that underpinned the group's appeal, such as the theory of "parallel play" used in Rock-A-Bye Your Bear's dance moves and talking down the camera during their TV show.

There's also moments of sensitivity. Fields speaks honestly about his battles with depression and you can clearly see the emotional impact Page's near death from a heart attack in 2019, during a Wiggles OG show at Castle Hill RSL, had on his bandmates.

However, the strangest moments are the most recent footage of seeing 20 and 30-something adults singing and dancing at Wiggles OG shows.

"I know it's weird, they know it's weird," Cook says. "It just means for an hour they can be kids again."

If anything, the Wiggles show the powerful influence of nostalgia - and particularly childhood nostalgia - in today's world.

Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles is streaming on Amazon Prime from October 24.

Josh Leeson

Josh Leeson


Josh Leeson is an entertainment and features journalist, specialising in music, at the Newcastle Herald. He first joined the masthead in 2008 after stints at the Namoi Valley Independent and Port Stephens Examiner and has previously covered sport including the Asian Cup, A-League, Surfest, cricket and rugby league.