Roary The Racing Car: Roary's First Day Review
Fifi And The Flowertots is, of course, for girls. Stingo and Slugsy might provide a moment or two for boys but, on the whole, it's a show for little girls. Roary The Racing Car is Chapman Entertainment's follow-up show and one that with its setting in Silver Hatch, a fictional race track, is most definitely for boys. And very young boys at that, pre-schoolers even, who'll be most happy at following the bright red Roary around the race track, ably guided by the warm narration of Sir Stirling Moss.
There are five episodes on this disc, each one lasting eight minutes or thereabouts. In each, Roary and his motorised friends - Maxi, Cici, Tin Top and Drifter - race around Silver Hatch for the benefit of Mr Carburretor, the owner of the race track. Carburretor is a genial old fellow who sings opera, cheers for the cars and cries, "Mamma Mia!" at the goings on but who doesn't seem to take any professional interest in the performance of the cars. Like the most gracious of primary school teachers and their pupils, Mr Carburretor simply likes all of his cars to do well. But like the Fat Controller on the island of Sodor, Mr Carburretor doesn't like to get his hands dirty. Instead, he leaves that to Big Chris (Peter Kay) who has no time for opera or the like. Instead, the mechanic, who lives in a rusty old caravan (called, as it happens, Rusty The Caravan) eats pizza, fixes up the cars and commentates on the races at Silver Hatch. Like Cars, there's no suggestion that a driver is required to guide any of these vehicles around Silver Hatch. Big Chris, either on account of being too big or of being more the fixing rather than the driving kind, cannot fit inside any of the cars and so has to get by with peering under the bonnet. However, as the show makes clear, he doesn't do a great deal of good there either.
These five episodes begin with Roary's First Day and Roary in a panic as he prepares for a big race the next day. Unfortunately, he's not sleeping well so Big Chris, instead of changing his disc brakes or whatnot, tells him a bedtime story, reminding Roary of his first day at Silver Hatch and how, with nothing to worry about, he beat all the other cars in a race. After that, it's on to Chris Flags It Up, in which Big Chris offers to let Marsha go home for the day. Big Chris is not, however, that competent at one job never mind two and instead of looking after the flags left out by Marsha, he mistakes them for rags and wipes his greasy hands on them. In Flash Flips Out, the big bunny rabbit who lives in a burrow in the middle of Silver Hatch, finally loses his temper at the racing cars after their newly-fitted turbo chargers make them even more noisy than before. What will he do to get some peace and quiet?
Rusty Remembers is a quiet little episode in which Roary slows down and listens to what Rusty has to say as he pokes about in the empty pizza boxes and his own memories to think about all those times he was out on the open road and saw each hill as a new horizon. And Roary thought that he was built on the very spot in which he now stands, rusting as much then as now. Finally, Blue Light Job sees Drifter in trouble. The souped-up Japanese saloon car's blue neon lights have stopped working before a big race and he wants Big Chris to fix them. But Chris can't find Drifter's manual and can't, in spite of his efforts beneath the bonnet, do much without it. Where could the manual have gone and might Dinkie the donkey have had something to do with it?
Roary The Racing Car owes a lot to Cars, not only for the idea of motor cars being above to drive unaided, talk and, in the case of Roary and Cici, flirt, but also in the look of the characters and with an episode like Rusty Remembers, which is almost a direct lift from the scene when the motors of Rusty Springs mourn the building of the freeway. There's nothing very much wrong with that. If you are going to look elsewhere for stories, you might as well reach for the best but just because they look and play out not so very different doesn't mean that Roary The Racing Car has the same appeal as Cars, least not for an older audience. Instead, this is a funny, charming little show that will sit happily with the same boys who are fans of the goings-on in Bobsville and Sunflower Valley and perhaps even a few of the girls who love the Flowertots. But more, I suspect, the boys than the girls.
This doesn't look so very different from any of the other successes that Chapman Entertainment have enjoyed over the years. The design of the characters are not so very different from Bob The Builder while much of the voice cast seem to have wandered across from Fifi And The Flowertots or so it sounds. On DVD, this doesn't look at all bad. It's certainly colourful, bright and the picture is very clear with the only problem with the presentation here coming in the opening titles that are soft and blurred as the main show is sharp. In fact, in terms of the quality of the picture, this could be amongst the very best releases of recent British animation. The DD2.0 audio track is not so very different. Again, the dialogue and whizzy motor effects are clear and crisp, there's no noticeable drop in quality and it's generally a very fine listen. However, it is all too clear that little was done to the voice acting leaving Big Chris standing on a racetrack while sounding as though he is standing in a studio. Children won't notice but it is obvious. Finally, there are English subtitles throughout.
The only bonus material on this DVD is a Meet The Characters feature, which combines a bit of trivia on each character with a quiz in which viewers are rewarded with a short clip from the show if they answer three questions correctly. "What is Roary's favourite colour?" and the like, which really shouldn't trouble anyone who actually likes the show or who can work out what a red car's favourite colour might be out of a choice of red, pink and yellow.