Thursday, 8 March 2012

Budgie the Little Helicopter

The 90's were a great time for animation. It was, for all of us growing up then, the ultimate period for Saturday Morning shows which were entertaining, high of quality and above all else, original. Whether for preschoolers or older, you can guarantee that there was always something different with the "new blood" rising.

Budgie the Little Helicopter is one of these, who actually has quite a regal back-story.
The little chap started out as a line of children's books written by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, influenced from her flight training in the Royal Navy. Aircraft Characters weren't exactly new at the time - Jimbo and the Jet Set, Dilbert, Harold the Helicopter - but Budgie had such an appeal with his airborne adventures that the Sleepy Kids Company and Fred Wolf Films got together to create a series from the books, to be broadcast on CITV (UK) and Fox Kids (US) respectively.

Based in Dublin, Ireland, the quality of Fred Wolf Films's shows are just an example of what can still be achieved with traditional animation today - since they helped bring to life James Bond Jr, Dino Babies, Disney's The Wuzzles or the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So it's little wonder why the character designs in Budgie have such a Disney-type feel to them, but the setting of Harfield Airfield was strictly British nonetheless.

Another remarkable note of this series was that all three seasons (bar a few episodes) were written by Cosgrove Hall veteran Brian Trueman. You know it's a Trueman episode when there are chunks of continuity, adventure, imagination, research and comedy - but above all, true characterisation throughout.
Budgie and Pippa
Right from the start when "Pippa Arrives", Budgie, Lionel and Chuck have many a tailspin during the show's run - travelling to the Arctic and Holland, constructing a new Airport (with visits from Concorde), saving their own from demolition and many others - while along the way meeting new friends, airborne or grounded. All featuring the voices of Richard Pearce (Budgie), Abigail MacVean (Pippa), Jeremy Nicholas (Lionel), Gorden Lorenz (Chuck) and Jeff Rawle as the Storyteller.

Despite production running between 1994 - 1997, the series is still being shown today overseas, and has done extremely well with its success. Merchandise galore included tie-in books, comics, toys, bath-towels, audio CDs, VHS cassettes...and yet the demand for a complete DVD set is minimal, with just a few measly releases scattered here and there. Perhaps Classic Media should be a little more considerate with the UK Programmes they now have as part of their Product Catalogue - we Brits care, too, you know!
Dedication from the Duchess!
So if you remember the series or curious to know more, you need only watch the Playlist below - whether to entertain a young family member or if you happen to be an Aviation Fan =)


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