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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
A thoroughly entertaining children's program with enough interest to keep adults watching too. It was well reviewed in the upmarket press which also laments that the "US invasion ends golden age of children's TV". Well this program goes some way to redress that, and other more recent programs such as Merlin and Doctor Who do too! Thank goodness for the BBC which, while not perfect, does at least manage to put out some top drawer entertainment for those of us, both children and adults who do not speak in monosyllables, can cope with having our thoughts provoked and are capable of following a plot.
I won't rehash the storyline as others have done that. The young lead actress gives a very good performance as a child who has been bereaved by the loss of her much loved mother, and further traumatised by being uprooted by her father from her home friends and family and taken to live in Scotland, is it any wonder she is moody, petulant and emotional? The rest of the characters are fun, a hissable villain, an otherworldly wizard from years ago, his humorous sidekick, and the wonderful characters of the zoo itself. Ally that with the beautiful Scottish landscape and some fine cinematography and you are in for a treat.
All I would say that as it is squarely aimed at children this program acquits itself well. All the children I have spoken to about it loved the program, as did I and many of my adult friends. Overseas friends who I have sent the program too also tell me the same, so it would seem to have a pretty universal appeal (great Christmas present!).
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