Thursday, 10 July 2014

Little Robots (2003)

It is no stranger to all in the media biz that these days, any series or movie that features a "big time celebrity" is instantly branded a hit - when in truth, it is partly used as a marketing ploy in order to get the public's attention to what the producers hope will be the next best thing.
That all depends on the quality of the show or the performance of the celebrity (or more importantly, if said celebrities are chosen because they fit the character rather than how important they are). If neither manages to hold up then the efforts of the production team involved will be for none.

However, this show, from what I have seen, succeeds in both categories...

As with many kid's shows, Little Robots started out life as a children's book written and illustrated by Mike Brownlow way back in 1999. It's a cute little read full of rhymes about various types of robots - spotty ones, messy ones, noisy ones of all colours and shapes and sizes. And it caught the eye of Cosgrove Hall / Create TV & Film Ltd at some point, who brought Mike on to adapt his little book as an animated series, which involved designing and defining a full cast based on the many robots he drew.

The series focused on 12 little robots, who create their own special world beneath a scrapyard, proving that it's not just the Wombles who can recycle junk! Next to the fun scripts and the colourful stop-motion models crafted by Mackinnon and Saunders, the cast list is just as impressive - and it's helped greatly that each have a comedy or acting background to boot;

  • Tiny, the helpful little mechanic, was played by Hayley Carmichael (co-founder of theatrical company Told By An Idiot), who lives in the Nut and Bolt tree with his dog Messy
  • Lenny Henry played Sporty, a fitness fanatic
  • The grumpy but organised Stretchy was played by long-standing writer and voice actor Jimmy Hibbert (of Cosgrove Hall fame)
  • Rusty, the shy little lass, was played just adorably by Morwenna Banks (who these days is kept very busy playing 'Mummy Pig' for Peppa Pig)
  • The gentle giant Stripy, who is never without his Teddy, was played by Martin Clunes (who is best remembered for his work on Men Behaving Badly and Doc Martin)
  • Su Pollard (Penny Crayon, Hi-De-Hi!) fits into her role very nicely as questions asked!
  • The (literally) well-rounded Spotty was performed by Emma Chambers. Very different to her role as the naive Alice Tinker from The Vicar Of Dibley!
  • Comedian Mike Hayley played one of my favourite characters - the theatrical Scary, with a touch of Donald Sinden involved...and like Tiny, he has his own companion in the form of Flappy the Bat
  • The Sparky Twins were played by comedian duo Mel and Sue (Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins respectively) Mel has also lent her voice for Mist: Sheepdog Tales and is currently the presenter for the 4 0'Clock Show for BBC Radio 4 Extra, whilst Sue became recognised for her work presenting The Great British Bake Off.

As I've said before, unless celebrities involved in any production don't fit their characters at all (or at least perform them well) then the show or movie will very likely flop. As it is, for this series, each and every one played their parts just beautifully. With so many characters to play off from, each with their own distinctive personalities, it allowed the writers to come up with many clever episodes, enough to teach the kids a subtle moral while also giving their parents something to giggle at, too.

And it has since paid off - the series became more recognised when it was broadcast overseas via BBC Worldwide, and the characters have even taken part in Peter Kay's All-Star Animated Band for Children in Need.

All four seasons can still be watched today on the cBeebies digital channel - proving how an electrifying series like this can make proper, careful decisions when casting celebrities into their ideal roles. It helps as well that pre-school shows such as these don't have to be Dora the Explorer clones to keep kids amused ;-)


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