Animal Kwackers on DVD

A UFO shoots through the galaxy before depositing four unusual passengers on Earth via a telescopic fireman’s pole. The aliens are Rory the blue (yes blue) lion, Boots the tiger with an eye-patch, Kwang the monkey and Bongo the dog. Collectively they are a band called Animal Kwackers, and their mission on our planet is to play rock and tell colourful adventure stories. As you might have guessed by now, we are talking about a children’s series from the 1970s, the British answer if you will to the American Banana Splits.

Each ten-minute episode comprises an opening song, then a story told by Rory in large spectacles to the refrain of ‘Rory, Rory tell us a story’, interrupted mid-way through by a second song, and a closing song ties everything up. Then the Kwackers wave goodbye as they climb back up the pole and shoot off in their zippy spacecraft, leaving the audience slightly bewildered as to what they have just witnessed.

Animal Kwackers on DVDNetwork DVD’s box set contains 37 of the 39 episodes from the three-series run (the remaining two are missing), meaning you get over six hours of zany kids’ entertainment crammed onto two discs.

I vaguely remember this series from its original transmission way back in 1975, but I suspect it would not take someone coming to it afresh very long to get into the groove. The costume-sporting cast do initially look quite alarming, with exaggerated head pieces and hanging jaws that move roughly in time with the music.

Rory is particularly distressing with his enormous blue mane and skin-tight leggings, strumming away on an acoustic guitar. Bongo the drumming dog is almost too close to the Banana Splits, with a hat that looks like it is on loan from that series. Just as well he is hidden at the back of the jungle-dressed studio set!

Rory’s tales (from ‘Popland’, wherever that is!) are accompanied by illustrations which tie in with the rather low-fi nature of the series, but actor/musician Roy Apps livens things up with some great voices and enjoyably laid-back story-telling. Imagine Ronnie Corbett’s segment in The Two Ronnies, but with less jokes and more fur.

According to Wikipedia, the original cast was Roy Apps, Nick Pallett (Twang on bass guitar), Geoff Nicolls (Bongo on drums) and Tony Hannaford as Boots on lead guitar. The third series introduced a completely new set of adults keen to monkey around: Bev Doyle as Rory, Step Morley as Twang, Atlanta Harmsworth as Bongo and John Basset as Boots.

There are no extras on the discs; kids will probably not mind but nostalgia-hungry customers like me would have liked to have seen a retrospective featurette. Still, at least Network has seen fit to release this obscure, long-forgotten classic!

Animal Kwackers (1975-78) is released out now on DVD, courtesy of Network DVD. The two-disc set has a running time of 370 minutes approx, carries a ‘U’ certificate and retails for £19.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

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