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Rastamouse has Arrived! Retro Reggae & Retro Animation
Rastamouse is a new UK-made animated stop-motion series featuring Jamaican-Caribbean Mice puppets, based on 2 children's books.
It was first shown on the UK CBeebies channel, for very young children under 6. It's the first show with Jamaican animated characters it has become much wider known than any other similar program, due to how the UK media have covered it.
Rastamouse is a dreadlocked & Tam (woolly Rasta hat) wearing Mouse & his 2 supporting mouse characters are Scratchy, a oddly 1950s styled female mouse & Zoomer, a modern styled male. Others include Bandulu the Cook and the rather scary Bagga-T the heavily-blinged Orphanage guy. Others are President Wensley Dale, Fats the Garage owner, Missy D, Rubba & Dub the sporty twins, Saul the Trainer shop owner and Little Patch the Radio DJ.
The stories are uncomplicated but generally enjoyable even to an adult. Some stories can be a bit too simplistic with thieves & crooks getting off very lightly & having just to do a helpful thing for the Mouseland community. This echoes the Jamaican & Black idea of not liking "Babylon" and making their own sort of lifestyle rules here & Rastamouse can get a bit preachy in the less well written episodes. But for a young kids program that this clearly is, this is fine & the baddies getting heavy treatment wouldn't make a nice show.
People have much criticised this show in the early weeks, but to me there is nothing at all wrong with it. For a start, the show uses Black actor voices, if they used Jamaicans straight from Orange Street, we'd have trouble understanding the accent as you find in "The Harder They Come" film. The Scratchy character sounds very 1950s like 'Mammy Two-Shoes' from Tom & Jerry.Here just a few Jamaican Patois words are used, eg "Wha'gwan" meaning "what's going on" a lesser known word "Cris" meaning cool or similar and "Irie" meaning "good happy great".
The reggae is the late 70s-early 80s styles revived & the animation is very like "Paddington" with furry puppets & a 2D drawn background. It is a very appealing show to look at & the bright colours, happy music & upbeat nature to it make it a nice show to watch. The character puppets are around 12" tall, as a short-lived BBC website slideshow showed. The eyelids blinking are on pegs & are changed using tweezers. You sometimes see the fur by the eyes move as this is where the animators grip the puppets to move them. One scene showed Rastamouse has a hollow head, else he'd overbalance. Light could be seen through his hat! President Wensley Dale has no trousers in his outfit, yet wore some when playing golf!
After having watched all 26 episodes in the first series, some were in the wrong order introducing characters long after they first appeared, making the story lines jump awkwardly. The right order to watch them in is this: Da Crucial Plan; Da Bag A Bling; Double Crossin' Diva; Bakin' and Breakin'; Da Missin Masterpiece; For Real FM; Mice Camera Action; Hot Hot Hot; Da President's Pie; Toots Re-routes; Shorty Shapes Up; Boom Bada Boom; Rollin' Ragga Twins; Wicked Threads; Da Marathon Mystery; Da Cool Cruiser; Da Monstrous Fib; Cheesy Rumbles; Pie Without Cheese; Da Ice Cold Criminal; Master of Disguise; Lady Uptown; Sole Rebel; Hot Sauce; Sugarcube; Da Rhyming Teef. Then it will make better sense.
A few questions raise themselves about the show: why is no-one related apart from the odd nephew? What "bad ting" did Rastamouse & the gang do to be so obedient to the President's every call? Why do none of the characters have any family? Who bit Bandulu's ear? Why does Bagga T wear so much bling & where did he get it from? How does the President know Rastamouse will come when called as the Radio is a one-way one? Who were & what happened to the Orphans parents? Why do so few characters have a proper name, most if not all are nicknames.
It was first shown on 31 January 2011 and as expected YouTube got a copy of it & after 36 hours it got 120,000 hits before the makers didn't like that (as it admittedly gives the show away for free) yet decided within a week to use YT themselves to promote the show! 'Hypocrites' as Mr Marley once sang...
The controversy you will find elsewhere is largely about the first episode where "cheese" was repeatedly mentioned but none being seen until towards the end leading "typical forum types" to link cheese to other powdered goods linked to Rastafarianism. It is tiresome, but I suppose it is like "Magic Roundabout", having a hidden thing for an older audience to enjoy makes the show more popular, despite the expected denials of the makers! Rastamouse has become a name known in the UK way beyond it's basic Kids TV meanings within just a few weeks.
Apart from the main character, the Rasta theme isn't really mentioned, perhaps they should have really called it "Reggae Mouse", but then there would be less of a hint-hint that the media picked up on, controversy does get a product known fast after all & Rastamouse hit very big & very fast.
Non UK viewers will likely see the show in their country as it gets bought up Worldwide and we'll hear what they think of it. Will it be shown in Jamaica? That's the reaction we do want to hear.
I give it 8/10, some of the weaker & unsatisfying endings to stories let it down a bit, but overall it's "watch with a grin on your face" TV as it's so nicely made. If the show becomes a hit soft toys of the characters will be welcome here!
Respect to our Brethren as Rastamouse would say. And be nice.
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