Sunday, April 10, 2011

Couch Po-tah-to: Spot-On Children’s Media from Great Britain

She’s cheeky, she’s Britain’s Peppa Pig, the gentle British series about a group of animal friends. Peppa Pig’s the “soccer” of children’s television: wildly popular all over the planet but just catching on here. Nick Jr. just started showing Peppa Pig twice a week, and I’m betting the show will soon demand a daily time slot. And unlike her British cousin, runaway train Thomas the Tank Engine, Peppa and her friends retain their British voices; no dubbing into “American” here and thank heavens! Why not use the show to introduce your child to the concept that there are other countries in the world?

Nick Jr. accurately describes the show as “teaching sharing and caring while nurturing social and emotional development.” Peppa Pig Producer Richard Lewis told BBC Mobile that the secret to Peppa’s success is the show’s support for parents’ values. Peppa shares and takes turns and is a sweet little “gal.” Episodes often end with the entire cast of animals falling to the ground in delight, laughing and rolling about. It’s disarming.

You can watch Peppa Pig on Nick Jr. and there’s a large cache of episodes on YouTube. Older kids can utilize the foreign-language Peppas on YouTube to practice their French, Italian, or Spanish, to name just a few of the languages into which Peppa Pig has been translated.

Another British creation in the same spirit as Peppa Pig is Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, starring Ben Elf and Princess Holly and their exploits in the secret world “under the brambles” of your garden. The animation style resembles cut paper with interesting camera work that peers through the “layers” of the garden to find Ben and Holly. There’s a good supply of episodes on YouTube and at their own site at And sweet Roary the Racing Car has all the excitement of the race course but gentled down for the preschool set. The animation style is similar to Bob the Builder. Roary The Racing Car can be seen on PBS’ Sprout Online and on YouTube.

You can sample from a nice selection of British children’s series at Nick Jr.’s U.K. site at Even if these shows don’t catch on in the U.S., you can follow your favorites through any number of Internet portals and of course, on YouTube.

The latest issue of The Wallace and Gromit Newsletter is excited to report, “Nick Park has recently been immortalized in yellow as he guest stars in an episode of The Simpsons!” Nick Park’s scene in the recent “Angry Dad” episode is set at the Academy Awards. Not surprising as the multi-Oscar winning animator is a favorite of the Academy; and rightly so.
His Wallace and Gromit series is a “go-to” dvd at our house. Wallace is the hapless inventor and cheese-loving “owner” of clever, long-suffering dog-to-the-rescue Gromit. Park’s work includes feature films, several shorts, and a spin-off series, Shaun the Sheep and can be found packaged in many different dvd incarnations available new and used at and elsewhere.

My young daughter loves them, but young kids may need to watch with their folks, as there is drama there. My daughter got sad when Gromit ran away from home in the rain in the short film, The Wrong Trousers. She’s really come to care for that doggie!

The animation is old-school clay, and your big-screen television will reveal the artist’s fingerprints on the characters. Subscribe to the newsletter yourself at where you’ll also discover the greater world of Wallace and Gromit. Like Peppa, they’re as big as soccer is in the rest of the world.

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