Hugh Dennis is animal crackers in The Zoo
Hugh Dennis on the show inspired by his childhood hero, Johnny Morris…
Fans of Animal Magic are in for a real treat when The Zoo starts on CBBC this week. Like the classic kids’ show, presented by Johnny Morris from 1962 until 1983, the 15-part series gives comedy voiceovers to animals, including beat-boxing giant tortoises, wise-guy baboons and penguins with an identity crisis!
Narrator Hugh Dennis, best known as put-upon dad Pete Brockman in the BBC1 comedy Outnumbered, reckons anyone who remembers Animal Magic will love The Zoo – and that today’s children will enjoy it, too.
‘I used to watch Animal Magic a lot and this reminds me of it,’ says Hugh, 55. ‘I was a real fan of Johnny [who died aged 82 in 1999] when I was a kid. I don’t get to do the voices of the animals like he did, but The Zoo is very much in the spirit of that show – it’s that thing of treating animals as if they’re human. It’s very funny!’ Here, Hugh talks about The Zoo’s standout characters, and why Outnumbered could be on our screens for a few years to come…
What’s The Zoo about?
It’s about the day-to-day life at Paignton Zoo in Devon and follows what the animals, zookeepers and vets get up to. Each episode tells a different story. For instance, in the first episode there’s an inspection, and in another there’s a new arrival.
Who are the stars of the show? There’s a hilarious gorilla called Jürgen, who thinks he runs the place and who’s always worried about whether he’ll lose his status. He has a German accent and his gorilla mate Geoffrey has a West Country accent. It’s an odd combination, but it really works.
Do the voiceovers work well with the footage of the animals?
The footage is brilliant– the BBC is a real master of doing that kind of stuff. The CGI on this show is amazingly good, too – the animals’ mouth movements are seamless.
Are there any plans to bring back Outnumbered for another special? I imagine there will be another one at some point. As I’ve said before, kids don’t leave home until they’re about 35 now, so we’ve got years and years of stuff to do.
Pete and his wife Sue (Claire Skinner) may even become grandparents one day…
Oh yeah! Grandparents take on a slightly different role; they don’t have to do any of the discipline or the nasty stuff. They just get to have a lovely time with the youngsters, who are always nice to them. So that would be a lovely series to do.
Your own kids are older now, but will they be watching The Zoo? My kids are 18 and 20 now, but I imagine students will watch it – although if it’s shown too early in the day, they’ll probably be in bed!
What else are you up to?
We start filming Not Going Out again in October, and I’ve just finished shooting half of Mock the Week for the year and then we start again in September. We never film ANYTHING in August because nothing happens – it’s a terrible time to do topical comedy. I soon learned that news only happens when people want it to – so nothing happens at the weekend, on a Monday or a Friday… or in August!
The Zoo is very much in the spirit of Animal Magic
Children’s / 6.45pm / CBBC
Paignton Zoo’s residents take a starring role in this children’s comedy series, as we meet some big characters who have got a lot to say (with computer-generated moving mouths!). Today the zoo is being inspected so all the enclosures must be spotless. As keeper Jim faces a tough task at the giraffe house, Brutus and Martin, a pair of tamarin monkeys, are plotting to take over the zoo – then the world…
Going ape… Johnny Morris and friend
Brutus and Martin are up to no good!