Tommy Zoom Review
Nappies, babygrows and Moses basket? Bath and bottles? Car seat? It's easy to go shopping before and immediately after the birth of a baby and have in everything you think you'll need but what no midwife, NCT class or concerned relative tells you is how becoming a father or mother quickens the turning into your own parents. It wasn't until my first child was born that I ever considered telling anybody to eat up all their dinner and to think of the starving children in Africa. My car doesn't move until all seatbelts are on, faces are washed prior to leaving the house and teeth are cleaned twice a day. And the ten minutes prior to TV-and-supper to tidy rooms can easily become twenty or thirty as the picking up of a couple of books and the putting away of shoes ends in the kind of, "Because I say so!" reasoning that - I fear! - might have my children running around shopping centres with automatic weapons shouting, "I don't WANT to put my pens away Daddy!"
Thankfully, I can rest my voice a little now Tommy Zoom is here. Beginning as a cartoon on the CBeebies website, Tommy Zoom moved to the CBeebies channel and, proving its popularity, on to DVD. Each episode takes the form of a morality tale with Tommy (in the real world) doing something terrible only for the voice of Daniel, his dog, to ask, "What should Tommy do? What would Tommy Zoom do?" At that point, Tommy is whisked away into a world of Macromedia Flash animation, Smogg the cat and Polluto, at which point Tommy, who's now superhero Tommy Zoom, learns what might happen if his wastefulness, his eating of sticky sweets or his keeping bugs in a glass jar went unchecked.
Granted, most of these morality tales go to the kind of extremes that even the most imaginative of parents would have trouble reaching. Where Tommy puts a few bugs in a glass jar in the real world, Tommy Zoom has to free a few giant aliens from behind the bars of Polluto's intergalactic zoo. A bit of spilled water in the kitchen leads to Tommy Zoom battling Polluto to clear the smog and to enjoy some rain water while the eating of a couple of bits of chocolate cake lead to Tommy having to shut down Polluto's sticky-sweet machine with which he'd threaten to drain the energy from everyone in the entire world.
Everything, including the animation, is really rather simple but Tommy Zoom is a colourful, enjoyable piece of animation and it was certainly able to hold the attention of my three, even my youngest who, at two, gets bored easily by almost everything, much of CBeebies excepted. Yes, there is a touch of the BBC preaching to an audience of pre-schoolers with Tommy Zoom, not least when Tommy Zoom has to fight Polluto and his giant, gas-guzzling, greenhouse-gas-emitting pickups in Monster Mega Mucky Trucky or the cutting down of trees in Paper but I dare say that it's only the most rabid of Daily Mail readers (and writers) who would concern themselves with complaining to the BBC over Tommy Zoom. After all, Tommy Zoom and Daniel do explain to children to look after the environment, not to waste food or water, not to eat too much sugar and not to drop little and I would expect that most parents would rather their children not do any of those kinds of things, even if it's only for economic reasons or those concerned with civic pride. Tommy Zoom can be heavy-handed, or at least it can to a parent, but with an audience of pre-schoolers to reach, it's understandable that it doesn't try to be very subtle in its message.
That is equally evident in the design of the animation, which is as bright and chunky as Fisher Price. It may cost all of tuppence an episode, half of which goes to Jerome Flynn as the voice of Daniel, but Tommy Zoom is a cheerful and colourful cartoon that catches the eyes of a pre-school audience. Only it's a pity that there aren't three or four episodes out of the ten to drive home the message that children ought to keep their room tidy, which is what I really need of it.
Tommy Zoom is up to the usual high standards of the BBC's Children's DVD department, although, in this case, we're not looking at a show that will trouble the format. Like Bobinogs, it's been produced using Macromedia Flash and without any great stylistic flourishes gives the show a clear look. This technique means that even when the characters are moving, the DVD is barely troubled by what goes on and with a direct-from-digital source, Tommy Zoom looks fine on DVD. There are not even any complaints about softness as the characters are sharp against the backgrounds. Similarly, the audio track sounds fine with the dialogue provided by voiceover sounding clear, even the cackling of arch-villain Polluto. Finally, there are English subtitles.
There are no extras on this DVD.