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Colorado-born eleven year old Marnie McBride is mourning the loss of her beloved mother as she settles into her new home in Scotland with her widowed father, who takes her to a run-down junk shop on her eleventh birthday. There, she is given a box of toy animals by a mysterious old man, which spring to life the next morning. She soon learns from these creatures that they are on an important quest to find an ancient book that holds a dark magical power within its pages, and need to find it before the evil shape shifter, Toledo does first. Marnie reluctantly offers to help, but finds she has her own fair share of problems to deal with, as she tries to make some friends at her new school, as well as put up with the classroom bullies. Written by
This much hyped Canada/Uk co-production aired in 2004 on BBC ONE as a children's fantasy TV series with cutting edge special effects. It concerns the destiny of a Canuck girl, recently relocated to Scotland after the death of her mother, after she finds a box full of walking, talking miniature animals: an eagle, a bear, a snake and a rather sneaky wolf. She discovers from an old wizard that she is 'The Chosen One' and, with the aid of her new friends, must battle against an evil Shapeshifter to find an ancient book that could hold mankind's fate in the balance..
There, I've just made the plot go about ten times faster than it actually does during the course of the programme. In reality it takes about half the episodes of the first series (The second is unseen by me) to get anywhere near the quest, in which far too many pointless scenes and aimless talking have been added to space out the run. Maybe this would have been better condensed into a six-part arc. Worse, in my opinion the girl (Vivian Endicott Douglas) who plays the main character (Marnie) is a pretty rotten actress, she lacks charisma and doesn't exactly impress with her wooden delivery. The young Scottish lady who plays the supporting role 'Laura' (Krystina Coates) would have been a much better choice.. but I guess as this series was mainly bankrolled with Canadian dollars, they wanted someone from their home nation as the focal point.
Tony Donaldson and Peter Mullan ham it up as the representatives of evil and good respectably, and David McKay is amusing as the Shapeshifter's lackey, coming up with many of the drama's best lines. The computer animated beasts are great, all perfectly voiced by the likes of Rik Mayall and Alan Cumming in such a way you forget it's them and you just become absorbed in the personalities. It's just a shame that they're not on-screen for longer, because when they're absent.. things tends to get a bit dull.
One thing I must mention is I had just finished watching 'The 10th Kingdom' on DVD before coming to 'Shoebox Zoo', and it is every way a superior production to this. Both have very similar aspects, like the magical fantasy setting and having young females in the lead roles, but where T10K scored was having a sympathetic heroine who could do things for herself, where as Marnie in TSZ comes across as a whiny brat who is helped out at every turn by the good wizard Michael Scot. Some 'Chosen One'!! Subsequently I didn't much care whether she found the book or not, and only lasted the course because of the animals and the odd funny moment provided by Mr Mckay. There's some very good and original ideas here, but too much padding to go with it. A little note addressed to the makers: Remember, it's always QUALITY, not QUANTITY that matters.
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