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How American Ninja Warrior Junior changed its obstacles for kids

How American Ninja Warrior Junior changed its obstacles for kids
American Ninja Warrior Junior's floating shelf grab obstacle, from a preview of the new season on Universal Kids.

American Ninja Warrior Junior, a spin-off of the NBC summer competition series, has contestants ages 9 to 14 who will run a modified version of the course. How will it be different than the adult version, which now has contestants as young as 19?

First, some background: the new season starts Oct. 13, airing Saturday at 7 on Universal Kids—right before Top Chef Junior, which is now in its second season.

Akbar Gbajabiamila and Matt Iseman host, as usual, with Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez joining them as the sideline reporter and co-host.

The contestants will compete in three age brackets:

  1. Ages 9 and 10
  2. Ages 11 and 12
  3. Ages 13 and 14

There will be a winner in each group.

The show filmed in July, and like USA Network’s American Ninja Warrior: Ninja vs. Ninja  (the show previously known as Team Ninja Warrior), the course is actually two courses side by side. It’s also filmed during the daytime.

The American Ninja Warrior Junior obstacles

American Ninja Warrior Junior warped wall

The American Ninja Warrior Junior warped wall, as seen in a preview for the new spin-off show, has notches that will be opened based on the ages of the contestants.

Kids will run a six-obstacle course, with the same obstacles as the adult version—just “they’re just scaled down just a little bit for the different heights and the different sizes of the kids we’re dealing with,” according to executive producer and director Kent Weed.

In the video below, he walked through the course’s six obstacles—apparently the ones that will be used during the qualifying rounds, as the preview for the season shows kids tackling different obstacles, including Spin Cycle.

The six obstacles Weed discussed are:

  1. Archer Steps, which are now 2 feet apart from each other, and 3 feet and 4 feet tall. Kids will leap off the second one and grab a rope to swing to the platform.
  2. Tic Toc, a pendulum that swings, has been reduced to a 30-inch diameter. Kids will jump from it to a cargo net.
  3. Devil Steps, which Weed describes as “for the 13- and 14-year-olds,” has six steps on each side with a 3-foot gap in between.
  4. Floating Tiles, the same obstacle that’s been on Team Ninja Warrior, which has six tiles connected by springs; the fourth is larger than the others.
  5. Floating Shelf Grab, which Weed says will have a distance of 6 feet between the first two, and 5.5 feet from the second to the third.
  6. The Warped Wall, which is now 13 feet tall—”a little bit shorter,” Weed says. That’s the height 13- and 14-year-old contestants have to reach. But the warped walls have a key difference: two openings to add a place for kids to grab and step:
    • For 9- and 10-year-old contestants, that opening is 10 feet up the wall.
    • For 11- and 12-year-old contestants, it’s at 11.5 feet.

American Ninja Warrior Junior was announced late last spring. In a press release this summer, Universal Kids GM Deirdre Brennan said,

“American Ninja Warrior Junior celebrates a kid-centric movement that everyone can be a part of and enjoy together. Kids are already deeply connected to the primetime American Ninja Warrior on NBC—young people across the US have been caught up in the spirit of this incredible show and they’ve been asking for the opportunity to get more involved. Now they can.

American Ninja Warrior Junior is fun and inclusive. It’s thrilling to watch but has incredible heart—Matt, Akbar and Laurie capture this feeling so well. This show will encourage and inspire all kids to push their limits and not shy away from challenges, because there is always success in trying. Arthur, Kent and their talented team at A. Smith & Co. have built American Ninja Warrior Junior to be something truly special for audiences, from the course design to casting. They’ve embraced the show’s youngest fans with total respect for who these kids are and what they can do.”

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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