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The Octonauts (2010-2021)
Director: Wilson Yip
Action & Adventure

The Octonauts is a British children's television series, produced by Silvergate Media for the BBC channel Cbeebies. The series is animated in Ireland by Brown Bag Films but uses British voice actors. The TV series is based on American-Canadian children's books written by Vicki Wong and Michael C. Murphy of Meomi Design Inc. The Octonauts follows an underwater exploring crew made up of stylized anthropomorphic animals, a team of eight adventurers who live in an undersea base, the Octopod, from where they go on undersea adventures with the help of a fleet of aquatic vehicles. The subject matter is reminiscent of Star Trek and Thunderbirds blended with Jacques Cousteau. Although it is science fiction as regards its technology, the exotic creatures and locations that the crew encounter are real marine animals in their natural habitats.

The Octonauts (2010-2021)

The Swimming of Being

Saying something interesting about children’s programming requires a critical shift, acknowledging that we are not the primary consumer. Actually, for much of this media, I think parents are that target audience. Sesame Street cannot possibly be as educational as advertised, but great effort is obviously spent convincing parents that it is.

Well, here we have something that is educational in a narrow sense, but very well engineered for kids. Let’s set aside the specification of the character set, the determination of the animation style, the jokes, the pace…

What impressed me is how the synthetic world is placed. Suppose that a goal of the project is to introduce kids to the marvels of living creatures and systems of living creatures. Choosing the oceans is almost a no-brainer because of the diversity and strangeness of the creatures, plus the fact that kids normally don’t encounter sea creatures.

Much harder is deciding how to span our world with theirs. Look at what has been done here.

The representative of our work is a band of anthropomorphised animals. We explore with them and also get educated by them, but the emphasis is on exploration and care of the explored. The Octonauts are headed by a sea creature, an octopus that oddly breathes air not water and seems the most human of the band. The group also — and essentially, I believe — includes ‘vegimals’ a further hybrid that blends animals and plants. We (the humans in the audience) are blended, folded into our representatives, and they are folded into what they observe.

Now look at the other side of the divide: the sea creatures are themselves anthropomorphised, but to a subtle lesser extent. They speak English to the Octonauts; they have the same emotional vocabulary as well. But they are apart, of nature.

I cannot think of a more creative approach to the cinematic problem of brining the world of the child to the world of the sea, in a way that carries observation and message.

Posted in 2015

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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