Thursday, 15 August 2019

Coconuts (1990)

Richard Briers was such a versatile actor. He had the kind of face and voice that could apply to almost any role that was offered to him. From radio to stage to television to voice-overs, there are those who will remember him for one specific show or character - whether it'd be 'The Good Life', 'Roobarb', 'King Lear', 'Watership Down', 'P. G. Wodehouse', 'Monarch of the Glen' and an endless list of audiobooks (my personal favourites being the 'Wind in the Willows' sequels written by William Horwood).

In fact, Richard has starred in so many roles - leading and secondary - that it would be difficult to try and list them all. Some of these end up being sidelined and forgotten for some reason or other. This is one of them.

'Coconuts' is a little gem of a cartoon. Set on the tropical island of Guacamole, it focuses on the (mis)adventures of the clever, self-important Parrot, Minister to the bad-tempered, eccentric King Lion, who dotes on Parrot to do his every Royal bidding. Often, though, Parrot enlists the help of his assistant - the obliging but dim-witted Monkey - to do the jobs that Parrot tries to avoid. But it's not long before things go awry and then Parrot is forced to pull his weight by putting things right. Most of the time, if there is an opportunity for financial or personal gain, Parrot doesn't hesitate in trying to grasp either.

The title of the series seems rather fitting then that things become a little "nuts" in some shape or form!

On closer inspection, much of the humour for this series seems to draw inspiration from the popular Blackadder - ironically, Coconuts was released not long after Blackadder Goes Forth had first aired back in 1989. In fact, it's all too easy to imagine Blackadder and Baldrick reimagined as Parrot and Monkey (with Prince George more-or-less in the role of King Lion). Whether that was intended or not is hard to say. What I will say is that Coconuts is not only cleverly written, but nicely animated, designed and very pleasing to watch, made at a time when made-for-TV animation was slowly starting to pick up in terms of quality. 
In short: it's just plain fun! And bringing Richard in to voice all the characters is the cherry on this colourful cake.

The series was created and written by Graham Garside. Most of his life was dedicated to being Senior Graphic Designer and Animator at Central Television (ITV). These included Cosgrove Hall's 'The Talking Parcel', 'Jamie and the Magic Torch', 'Spot's Magical Christmas' and several title sequences - 'Bullseye', 'Emu's World' and 'Bloodbath at the House of Death' (not one for the kids!). He has also co-written/drawn the book 'Learn To Draw Animated Cartoons' with Janet Nunn.

Another surprise for me was discovering that Paul K. Joyce provided the theme tune and instrumental music here. In fact, this was his first television work as a composer. He would later go on to write music and theme tunes for many other shows afterwards, including 'Budgie the Little Helicopter', 'The Worst Witch' and 'Bob the Builder'.

Coconuts aired on ITV and ran for thirteen episodes. Unfortunately, all that remains is a single VHS cassette tape. I knew nothing about this until I came upon the episodes online by chance, as one often does whilst browsing on YouTube these days. Like many things in life, it was short but sweet, and so deserving of a proper DVD release if the master copies still exist somewhere (Or failing that, new life on a streaming app / service somewhere).

As for Graham: he too seems to have disappeared off the radar. But wherever he is, I'm sure that those that he worked with are grateful for his contributions to the animation world, however small they might have been. And it's only fair that people like me ensure that they don't go unnoticed.

"...And so it was!"



2 comments:

  1. There's a bit of the 'Maid Marian and her Merry Men' baddies about this too. The king also kind of looks somewhat young (lack of a mane) so he could be a parody of monarchs who succeed to the throne at a young age.

    The overall style is nice and has a familiar feel to it. Reminds me of the Um Bungo adverts.

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