Ahoy! An Intelligent Children's Show At Last!

by Chris Robinson

All images © BBC Worldwide Ltd.

Now most of you know that I'm not exactly a mainstream animation fan, however now that I've got a youngster I certainly watch a lot more kid's animation then I did. Frankly, before I became a parent the idea of a TV show made for babies and toddlers kind of sickened me. But now I understand that it's impossible to hang with the kid all day. TV becomes tempting. Of course we're careful. We guide what the boy watches. As such, I've become fully exposed to this new world of kid's TV. Honestly, most of it has been fairly unimpressive. Teletubbies was good for a lark, however, I want to strangle most of the sickeningly sweet characters that parade across the screen.

Thankfully, this past fall in my post-festival leisure time, I discovered this bizarre little show that takes place on a pirate ship. This puppet animation show features a gang of little pirates who say nothing more than "Yoho" and "Ahoy." The first thing that struck me about the show was the obvious Buster Keaton influence on the antics and dead pan glares of the cast. At the same time, each five-minute episode finds the characters, very much like Keaton, using their material environment to solve a problem.

View a clip of Yoho Ahoy.
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Ah, What Gentlemen
Every episode focuses on one of the ship's crew who have outlandish, nautical inspired names: Bilge, the bitter, peg-legged captain; Booty, the snotty princess type; Grog, the handless cook; Cutlass, the butch pirate; Poop, the always yawning deckhand; the innovative Jones; Swab; Plunder; Plank; Flamingo; a cat and some rats.

The Yoho Ahoy cast of characters aboard the pirate ship Rubber Duck.

Yoho Ahoy is the brainchild of U.K company, Consortium of Gentlemen (COG), specifically Mole Hill, Mark Slater and producer Julian Roberts. Mole Hill might be known to some in the animation world through his work on The Plague. Prior to Yoho, Hill and Slater worked on the children's series, PB Bear. While the trio have worked together for years, COG was established specifically for Yoho Ahoy. While the company has a number of ideas in development, Yoho is their only series under the COG banner to date.

The primary creator of the show is Mole Hill who came up with the concept and design. Yoho Ahoy was inspired by the birth of his daughter, a love of pirates, sleep deprivation and the awareness of "how cute babies can be." Says Hill, "I've always liked pirates and wanted to do a series combining pirates, babies and French rococo painting." Hill also acknowledges the silent comedy influence: "I wanted it to be like a Buster Keaton film."

Slater and Hill then worked out the world of characters and defined the universe that they lived in. According to producer, Julian Roberts, "The primary aim of the show is to entertain and amuse its audience. What children should take away from the show is the understanding that although rubbing along with your peer group can be difficult, it can also be fun."


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