Hugh Den­nis is an­i­mal crack­ers in The Zoo

Hugh Den­nis on the show in­spired by his child­hood hero, Johnny Mor­ris…

TV Times - - News - Han­nah Davies & vic­to­ria Wil­son

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!

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