Monthly Archives: December 2010

Dec 25

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Just a heads-up for those of you in Ireland – the Fluffy Gardens Christmas Special will be airing tomorrow (Christmas Day) at 9.25am on RTE2. Those who happen to catch the Fluffy Gardens Christmas Special will spot a whole bunch of characters never seen before. Just who these characters are has never been revealed.

Until now.

So here, for the very first time, are the names of some of the characters glimpsed in the Fluffy Gardens Christmas Special. From left to right in the image above: Belinda the Narwhal, Mr.Simmons the Orca, Gil the Polar Bear, Neddy the Albatross, Lucinda the Reindeer and Horatio the Arctic Hare. And some penguins, of course. Those paying attention will spot some other new characters in the show too, like Kaska the Wolf, Olly the Walrus, Snoozy the Snowy Owl and perhaps one or two more.

You never know, depending on how things go in the future, you may see these characters get their own stories some day.

So, for the Irish among you, it’s on at 9.25am on RTE2. Hope you like it!

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I love Christmas. I love the lights, the atmosphere, the music, the mythology and the magic.

During most of the year, I like grounded. In fact, because so much of children’s television makes no distinction between fantasy and reality, I play a game with my eldest I like to call ‘real or not real?’ Basically we shout out things like ‘elephants!’ or ‘unicorns!’ and Daisy has to guess if they are real or not real.

I betray that game at Christmas time. And I’m okay with that.

When I finished series 1 of Fluffy Gardens, I really wanted to make a Christmas Special. I wanted to show these characters I had grown to love as they go about enjoying Christmas. As magical as that time is, I have only realised since making it that it is also about what I love about grounded. About reality. So many shows (Barney, I’m looking in your direction) feel like they’re pushing the imagination as a place to exist. How fantastic the imagination is.

And it is fantastic.

But children don’t need help with that. Children are imaginative by nature. And I’m not even convinced that imagining what television is telling you to imagine is imagination. Then fast forward to adult life and I see us living in game worlds, living vicariously through television and movies, while we put up with the real world as a necessary evil. Like it has defeated us. What can I do? We retreat into the imagination, imagined worlds, imagined reality (yes, even with ‘reality’ television).

The Fluffy Gardens Christmas Special, on the other hand, is about these little animal characters accepting that Christmas may well be ruined. And they work together to make it better. To make it the best Christmas ever. They ask themselves, what can I do? And they don’t retreat.

Mostly, however, the Fluffy Gardens Christmas Special is a sweet little story about one of my favourite times of year. About spending time with friends. About having fun. About magic, excitement and anticipation. I know here in Ireland, it will air again on Christmas morning. It is becoming quite a tradition! I’m not sure where else (if anywhere) it is airing but, if you do manage to catch it, I hope you and your children enjoy it.

And if you ever find yourself asking, what can I do? About the world, about your life, about the littlest things, I hope you realise that the answer is usually… almost anything you want.

Have the happiest of Happy Christmases!

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Even writing George the Mean Yellow Dog saying, ‘I hate that’, and having him be generally unlikeable, I always felt context was of utmost importance in Fluffy Gardens.

In his own first-series episode, George learns that being rude and grumpy gets him nowhere. His grumpiness is made look foolish and pretty pointless. In many of his other appearances, we hear him saying he hates things but then we see he secretly really likes those things. There are times it becomes very clear George the Mean Yellow Dog is, in fact, a big softie.

I have always wanted to show with George that mean, grumpy behaviour is unacceptable and gets you nowhere.

But that requires context.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a proposal for Fluffy Gardens soft toys that included a George toy that shouted, ‘I hate that!’

What parent in their right mind is going to buy a toy for their child that repeats the phrase, ‘I hate that!’ over and over? It would have to include, at the very least, a booklet on the context of the phrase and some tips on how to stop your child repeating it at every opportunity. That booklet would drive up the cost of the toy, making it an even less likely purchase. And I’m not sure it would have been enough.

I’d really have to pledge that I would personally visit the household of everyone who owned one to explain what on Earth I was thinking when I corrupted their children and turned them into social pariahs because every act of kindness was being greeted with a loud and cheerful, “I hate that!”

I wasn’t a fan of the idea.

After some conversations, it looks like the ‘I hate that!’ George is unlikely to ever appear.

Hey, but what do I know? It could be the worst decision of my life. What if the ‘I hate that!’ George had turned out to be the next Tickle-Me Elmo? I could have cleaned up this Christmas.

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Parents don’t need all the years of research into children and television to know that children are mimics (though they can certainly refer to that if they want). They only need that moment when their toddler throws back, ‘hey, what’s the big idea?!’ or, ‘that’s stupid!’ or some other phrase they picked up from some other child, their parent or, often, television.

So it’s a good idea not to write something in a children’s cartoon that you wouldn’t want a toddler to throw back at you. Or their parents.

Important to remember you’re reaching more than just your children.

Wish I’d really thought that through before I wrote George the Mean Yellow Dog saying, ‘I hate that’.