Charlie And Lola: Vol 5 Review
They were always going to get a second series. Or, if they hadn't, it would be such an injustice that mildly-annoyed middle-class parents would have taken to their Basildon Bond writing sets in anger. Children, on the other hand, might well have just taken to the books, the colouring-in sets, the activity packs, the games and all of the other things that followed series one of Charlie And Lola, a superb animated show adapted from the equally wonderful books by Lauren Child and which is one of the very best shows currently broadcast on CBeebies. Seven-year-old Charlie, who is very wise for his years, has to look after his very little and very funny sister, the four-year-old Lola and as their unseen other mother and father ask them to carry out chores, take them to the beach and offer them outings to the park, it is Charlie who must guide his little sister towards doing what is right.
All of which might sound dreadfully decent of it but what Charlie And Lola does best of all is to capture the excitement of being a child, of the sense of wonder that comes from such things as bubbles, clouds and of nighttime and of the giddiness that comes with playing. When Lola and Marv giggle at making bubbles in their milk, it's impossible not to laugh along. And when she's dropping off to sleep in Can You Maybe Turn The Light On?, one yawns in sympathy. This time around, Charlie is played by Daniel Mayers whilst Clementine Cowell, likely to be the little sister of Maisie Cowell (from series one) takes over the part of Lola. They're just as good as before, with Mayers doing well with the wise Charlie and Cowell breathlessly excited, sad and angry as Lola. The animation is wonderful, being entirely in keeping with Lauren Child's original artwork, but its the voices that are most memorable about Charlie And Lola. One wonders how long it takes to record all of this, at getting the children to read all of the dialogue whilst not letting them get bored, but it is, as the quality of this show proves, worth it.
You Can Be My Friend: Charlie has Marv to play with and Lola usually has Soren Lorenson. But then Marv's little brother Morten calls round one day and when Marv and Charlie leave for the park, Morten says behind. Lola wants to play! But this is extremely difficult as Marv doesn't say very much and Lola doesn't know if he's having very much fun at all, not even when the world turns upside down and they are hanging from the ceiling. When it's time for pink milk, Lola makes Marv smile. And he even talks!
Too Many Big Words: It is extremely hard to learn to read and it is not helped when Lola's squiggles go all down the page on their own. And counting is hard too! So Lola decides that she will not ever go back to school. She has ten fingers and ten toes and never eats more than ten biscuits in one go. And she does not need to read and write because she has the telephone and it is much more straightaway! But she has a book about a tiny little bird home from school and so wants to read it.
I Will Be Especially Very Careful: Lotta has a beautiful new coat and Lola is oh so happy when she agrees to let Lola borrow her coat for Lola's clippy handbag. But it is very difficult looking after a fluffy white coat. Shopping trolleys do not help, sticky tape in the post office is much too sticky and Lola is not happy when it rains. It might not look like new ever again! But Lola is too absolutely sad when the coat is lost. How can she ever tell Lotta what happened?
Can You Maybe Turn The Light On?: Charlie is reading a very scary book about the ogre to Lola just before bedtime and it is very exciting! But when he switches off the light, Lola sees the ogre hiding in her bed, on top of the wardrobe and outside the door. "I will ever never sleep in the dark again!" Lola opens the door, switches on the light and has her night light shining moon-and-stars over her room. Now Charlie can't sleep! But maybe the ogre is actually a nice monster and what they need is a lullaby to help them all sleep that night. Even the ogre!
Yes I Am, No Your Not: Mum and Dad are asking Charlie and Lola to help tidy up the house before they can go see a puppet show. This is so very hard for Lola who can't help but squabble with Charlie even if she does not like doing it. Charlie and Lola try to read a book...he wants to read Bat Cat but Lola wants one about dogs. They try playing but Lola is banging too hard. They try colouring in but Lola wants all the nice pencils. "You are the meanie!" "No, you're such a meanie!" Mum sends them both to the squabbling chairs where they must sit until they are happy again. But time is running out, will Charlie and Lola ever get to see the tiny puppet show?
Please May I Have Some Of Yours: Charlie and Lola are going to the zoo but Lola is so excited that she is eating all of her lunch before she even gets there! And she is taking photographs with the camera when they are still in the car! At least she has the money that she has been saving up to buy a seal toy for her bath just like the one that Lotta has. But it is a very long walk to the shop where she can buy the toy and Lola does need a balloon, a drink and another sandwich but she is keeping all of her money for her seal toy! Or is she?
The truly marvellous thing about Charlie And Lola on DVD is that it absolutely mirrors Lauren Child's very complete artwork in the original books. Charlie and Lola look identical on the screen to how they are portrayed in the books and this television show has all the colourful pink wallpaper, swirly writing and bits and bobs of photographs (and stock footage) that Child had also included. The BBC transfer does a very good job with this disc, keeping Charlie And Lola simple but very clear, with all of the foreground action looking impressive. There are no obvious faults and nor are there any in the noiseless audio track, which is clear and with a good separation between the left and right channels. Once again, the shrill but very charming delivery of the children is a big part of what makes Charlie And Lola such a thing to treasure and this is captured perfectly well on this DVD. Finally, the BBC have included English subtitles on the main features as well as the bonus material. And that Charlie and Lola present the various options on the DVD menu just seems like the perfect finishing touch on this very thoughtful DVD.
There isn't a good deal here, with The Bestest In The Barn (2m54s) being a Lola-and-Lotta-starring hoedown in which the two friends teach a chicken, a super duper moo cow and the bestest piglet how to sing, dance and play saxophone, trombone and electric guitar! This song is also available on the tie-in album, Charlie And Lola's Favourite And Best Music Record, which I didn't know about until a minute ago but which seems evidence of a growing industry around these two characters. There are also a pair of very short animated features, showing Lotta (Morgan Gayle, 14s) and Lola (Clementine Cowell, 10s) recording their parts.
In a case of life working backwards, Lauren Child, who had published three books before Charlie And Lola arrived on television, has taken four scripts from the first series and turned them into books. Happily, the likes of Whoops! But It Wasn't Me, We Honestly Can Look After Your Dog and But Excuse Me That Is My Book sit easily alongside I Am Too Absolutely Small For School and I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato, which is evidence enough to know this is a show of a very high quality and ought to already be considered a classic of BBC children's television. This is a marvellous show and has been very well treated on this BBC DVD release.