Friday, 14 August 2015

The Adventures of Massey Ferguson (2004)

As mentioned before in previous blogs, farms are one of the most popular settings for a children's series, but it takes a lot of imagination and research to make one show different from most. This one manages to do so in so many ways...

Very much like Tractor Tom, the main characters in Massey Ferguson are the various anthropomorphic farm vehicles - including the title character himself, named after the type of tractor he is based from. Keeping Massey company are his friends Gracie the quad-bike, Beaut the Ute, Max the Big Green Tractor, Mrs Milk the milk tanker, Rusty the old car and Slow-Mo, the mobility scooter.

Massey and 'Genny' the Generator
And it's not just the farm vehicles that can talk either - generators, chainsaws, even railway crossing barriers manage to play their part across the series' run.

Based on Ferguson Farm, all the machines provide work for Farmer Murray, his wife Heather and dear old Gran whilst encountering various problems within and beyond the farm. That's where Massey uses the "tractor factor" to help put things right. It not only encourages friendship and teamwork but it also teaches its preschool audience how to appreciate and look after the countryside.

But here's what else makes this series stand out...

Don't let their accents fool you - the show takes place not in Australia, but in New Zealand! And because of the setting, it gives children across the world an insight of a different way of life rarely seen in cities or British farms even.
The show demonstrates the rural areas of New Zealanders, seeing the characters going through droughts, floods and how to "lay a Hangi" using honey stones, not to mention coming across the local wildlife like Possoms and Pukekos. One episode even features a Rally Car from the New Zealand Rally Championships!

Rebelling Pukekos!
As well as covering every area of New Zealand farm life, the strongest force in the episodes are, of course, the characters themselves. Each one has their own recognisable traits that help to drive the storylines along - from Mrs Milk's motherly nature, to Beaut's vanity, to Rusty's grumpiness, no character is left by the wayside for long. And they're all brought to life just wonderfully by the small yet versatile voice cast: Jim Mora, Jason Hoyt and Jackie Clarke

Massey meets 'Snowy' and Sir Edmund
The greatest surprise comes near the end of the series where Massey learns more about his basis - meeting the famous mountaineer / explorer Sir Edmund Hillary and the original Massey Ferguson tractor used for his venture across the South Pole many years ago.

The visuals of this show was another aspect that grabbed my attention - a seamless blend of CGI and 2D Animation, with a unique design by animator Eion NcNaught and animation provided by Flux Animation Studios (funded by New Zealand On Air). Although the the vehicle characters were intentionally given colours to help make them stand out more, the 2D Animation for both human and animal characters offers such great, expressive acting. To see them in action, it's clear that no corners have been cut at all to provide such high-quality stuff.

The show was created, written and produced by Jim Mora and Brent Chambers. Thanks to its inspirational setting and a strong cast of characters, each of the five-minute stories are clever, fun and just right for the youngsters to enjoy "the greatest little tractor in the land" from beginning to end.

There's no denying it, New Zealand has used the best they had to offer here, with little to no outsourcing required!

"That's the Tractor Factor!"


Saturday, 8 August 2015


Behold! An Otter + Gemsbok combination - those horns are very useful when fishing, I can tell you... ;P