Charlie And Lola: Vol 4 Review
"I have this little sister Lola. She is small and very funny. Sometimes..." And so begins every story that features Charlie and Lola, a seven-year-old boy, the narrator of each tale, and his four-year-old sister. In each of the books written by Child before being adapted for this series - I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato, I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go To Bed and I Am Too Absolutely Small For School - Charlie was asked by his mother, who, in the manner of all the best kids' shows, remains unseen, to help Lola to do something. In the books, these were to get the very fussy Lola to eat something, to get a wide-awake Lola to bed and to take a very worried Lola to school on her first day. Although, it wasn't so much that Lola was worried about school and about making new friends but that her make-believe friend Soren Lorenson might not like it there. Charlie, who's wise before his years, has a very difficult time of it.
Assisted by Tiger Aspect Productions, Charlie and Lola moved off the page and onto CBeebies in a move, to parents and young children at least, as heralded as any between football teams or in the upper echelons of government. However, unlike the typical cabinet reshuffle, Charlie And Lola on television is a wonderfully inventive and utterly successful adaptation with the animation reflecting Child's unique drawing style, in which the heavily-outlined Charlie and Lola appear amongst a world of wallpapered elephants, fuzzy lions, brightly-coloured beetles and photographs (now film) of animals from around the world. Against stark white backgrounds, butterflies flutter, penguins dance and giant set-squares, protractors and graph paper measure their heights. Best of all, the voice actors (Jethro Lundie Brown as Charlie Summer and Masie Cowell as Lola) are terrific, with Lundie Brown getting the relaxed and wiser Charlie down whilst Cowell says every line as breathlessly as does every four-year-old, in which no sentence appears to bear any relation to what has gone before or will do after. No one has ever said, "A teeny, weeny snowman who lives in the freezer...how did he get in there?" and sounded more excited.
In the seven episodes here - each one lasts eleven minutes or thereabouts - Lola loses a tooth, hurries up and discovers the magic of snow in the last episodes from the 2005-2006 first series of the show. On this DVD, these open with I Like My Hair Completely The Way It Is!, in which Charlie and Lola are taken to the hairdressers to get their hair but Lola isn't so sure. It turns out that she wants to grow her hair so she can live in a tower and lower it for handsome princes to climb up...not that she's scared of the snippy scissors or anything. In I Do Not Ever, Never Want My Wobbly Tooth To Fall Out Lola is terrified at the thought of losing her very first wobbly tooth, which she never wants to come out no matter what Charlie says about growing another one in its place. But then Lotta comes round to tell Lola about the Tooth Fairy and money and suddenly Lola can't wait for her tooth to fall out.
In the third episode, I Must Take Completely Everything, Lola is going to Lotta's for a sleepover but can't decide on what to leave behind, packing an enormous suitcase before she goes. With his sister gone, Charlie invites Marv over to play but after building an enormous racetrack, find their missing one piece. Could its disappearance have anything to do with Lola's packing? Poor Lola...so small and always being hurried by Charlie. But as she says, I Am Hurrying I’M Almost Nearly Ready! Charlie still needs her to walk a bit quicker and to stop dancing with clouds, playing hopscotch and chatting to hedgehogs. Then some dragons come to the rescue and Lola can't get to school quick enough! And nor can a trip to the funfair, where Charlie's going to ride the Super Dooper Loop The Looper...but Lola's too small. In I Want To Be Much More Bigger Like You, she dreams of being bigger and bigger...but maybe life's fine when Lola is only Lola-sized.
The last two episodes in the set begin with But I Am An Alligator, in which Lola's absolute favourite thing to do is to dress up as an alligator. But she can't wear it everywhere, can she? Then Lola's asked to do a talk at her school assembly...in front of the whole school. What can Charlie do to stop her dressing up as an alligator? Or dressing up at all? Finally, in Snow Is My Favourite And My Best, Lola is excited at the thought of snow falling and can't sleep, finally settling when she sees the first snowfall of winter. Getting up the next morning, Charlie and Lola take their sledge to the park, where they have snow races and make snow angels and see that snow is just the very best thing ever...until it melts. A very sad Lola heads for home but how can Charlie make his little sister realise just how special snow really is?
With rather a simple but very unique style, Charlie And Lola often can't help look anything but good and on DVD, this is no exception. Like Roobarb And Custard, much of Charlie And Lola takes place against a white background but all of the foreground action looks impressive, with an obvious clarity and only a little edge enhancement. Otherwise, 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. In particular, the sheer thrill in Masie Cowell's delivery is perfectly captured.
Coming with a better selection of extras than the other BBC releases on the same day, Charlie And Lola features a mix-and-match game with the animals who are dotted about the show and a Funny Little Clip (1m00s), which is literally, Charlie and Lola laughing at the adventures they have with the backgrounds. There is also a set of Out-Takes (4x, 1m00s, 1m15s, 56s and 46s) from the recording booth, which, being better than most of these, are animated, with each character (Marv, Charlie, Lotta and Lola) appearing before a microphone.
For adults, there's also an Interview With Lauren Child (6m00s) in which she describes her inspiration for the Lola character as well as her interest in seeing a show and many more stories being developed out of her three books. Finally, there is a Trailer For Series 2 (2m42s).
I've long banged on about Lauren Child on the pages of this site, not only about Charlie And Lola but also Clarice Bean, who is a better character but aimed at an older audience, and the flights of fantasy into the world of fairy tales with Herb. However, she really is one of the very best writers and illustrators of children's books, offering a complete style that presents her stories in a flattering and very unique manner. Indeed, if she had never done anything else, her inspired illustrating of Soren Lorenson is quite wonderful and if she hadn't been awarded it for I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato, she ought to have been the recipient of the Kate Greenaway Medal. This, in turn, is a marvellous show and can't fail but captivate children between the ages of six and eight. That it's also charming enough to win over adults is reason enough to ensure that this will be a welcome release in many, many homes this Christmas.