Bottersnikes & Gumbles - the award-winning kids’ CGI animation show - premieres on CBBC on 25 July 2016, airing at 6pm every week day.
The series brings to screen the much-loved 1970s classic children’s books by Australian author S.A. Wakefield and illustrated by Desmond Digby.
Each episode features the charming adventures of the loveable Gumbles as they endure timeless battles against the evil Bottersnikes in a forgotten valley of abandoned junk.
Harry Potter star and BAFTA winning Miriam Margolyes voices ‘Weathersnike’, one of the nasty Bottersnikes – whilst fellow Harry Potter and Hollyoaks actor, Jeff Rawle, voices Happi, a wise old Gumble.
Proving this is no ordinary CGI show, Bottersnikes & Gumbles has already picked up this year’s Pulcinella Award for Best Kids TV Series at the prestigious international animation festival ‘Cartoons on the Bay’ in Venice.
My youngest loved the two episodes that we got to watch. The stories are set in a far away forgotten valley, heaped with long abandoned junk, a timeless battle rages between good and evil… and also between squashy and scaly, happy and grumpy, clever and wily… cute and plain old ugly. This is the land of Bottersnikes and Gumbles.
We were treated to two funny episodes that saw all the kids giggling and clapping. The children were then invited to play various games. They were given some colouring to do and encouraged to display their creations on an animation machine. They all got some tattoos and masks too.
We sat down to natter with Akiya Henry who plays Willi & Jolli. (She's on the left in the stripy dress) As well as major theatre roles, Akiya is also in the exciting animation Bing Bunny for Cbeebies and Titty Walker in Swallows and Amazons. Several kids had already had a sneaky chuckle at her character's name being Willi so we decided she'd be a favourite character for the "rude factor" alone! Akiya confirmed that they were provided with a little character synopsis prior to the recording so she could imagine the characteristics Willi would display. I saw her chatting to a young boy earlier and when his Mother explained that this *lady* spoke the words uttered by Willi he recoiled at the thought and hid behind his Mum! He had assumed that Willi was a boy gumble, so the actor must be a man. Not so - Akiya said she liked the character being hard to define in terms of gender - how relevant to today. When quizzed about how to select the right voice in terms of pitch, Akiya explained that as Willi's character breakdown paints a picture of Willi-gumble always looking up to Tink, she effected her voice to adopt a Tink-inflection. She said this was easy when spending time in the studio with Jason Callender who plays Tink. Jason also plays Dexter Harris on the 4 O’clockclub, aired on CBBC.
My daughter is about to step onto a big stage at the grand age of 5 years old - we've been persevering with drama club in order to help her overcome her shyness. Her question was how could she be more brave; Akiya confessed that when she was young, she was very shy indeed. Her top tip for children is when you're about to perform, think about where would be your favourite place to be performing your lines. Akiya told us that sometimes she imagines she's in a fairy tale and she's in a big castle and is just saying her lines to her friends. Hope that will help with the massive stage fright I'm predicting on Saturday!
Before we parted, I told Akiya that I couldn't let her go without addressing the kids TV programme that seems to have amassed a cult following: Bing Bunny. Akiya plays Amma and I asked her, did she realise how massively popular it had become, and just how "into it" parents were?! There are various threads of Mumsnet and even between my friends on Twitter, the intricacies from various episodes and questions that adult viewers told me to ask, had me giggling away! Why one character can't keep trousers on, why when Bing pee'd his pants that became "it's a Bing thing". I told her that Mums & Dads wondered who Bings parents were, and how come he never calls anyone Mummy or Daddy? Well the answer is that in a child's world, they see a "responsible adult". In fact as we chatted, we realised that some little ones may well spend more time with a grandparent, nursery nurse or other carer than with Mum or Dad.
As we left, we were given a goodie bag which included a revised copy of the Bottersnikes and Gumbles story, which we've already raced through two chapters of.
Roll on July 25th though, as I have a rather impatient little girl who keeps telling me she wants to watch Buttersnikes and Gumbles! Hope your little ones enjoy the new show. I'd love to hear what they think x