Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Poppy Cat Review

When i was so kindly asked to review some fabulous Poppy Cat merchandise in the run up to the new TV show coming to Nick Jr I was all over it like a rash as my eldest LOVED the Poppy Cat books when she was little.
We fell in love with her by accident really as one of the lovely board books came in one of those first readers bags you get from the health visitor way back when.
We read it over and over until the board pages where frayed and splitting and i was positively sad when she eventually outgrown those simple books. Relieved for more content for sure but so sad to leave little Poppy Cat behind.
Who's Poppy Cat you are probably now screaming through the screen at me well here's a little bio:

The first Poppy Cat book was published in 2003 by Campbell Books (Macmillan). Written and illustrated by Lara Jones, the series has sold over 2.5 million books across 30 titles to date. 1.5 million of these have been sold to a number of international territories, including Spain, France, Italy and Brazil.
Poppy Cat books have won many awards including: Book trust Early years Award – Poppy Cat’s Farm Practical Pre-school Awards – Swap the Scene, Poppy Cat
Right Start Best Toy Awards – Poppy Cat Hug Prima Baby Reader Awards – The Poppy Cat series

By Kate Boutilier & Eryk Casemiro Poppy Cat begins where the Poppy Cat books left off. Lara Jones’ colourful and appealing characters spring to life from the page to the small screen in stories of friendship and fantasy play. The series is aimed at the upper end of the pre-school age range, but the stories are suitable for children of all ages.
Seen through the eyes of Poppy’s young owner, a little girl called Lara, each story is a celebration of imaginative play as Poppy Cat and her friends embark on fanciful journeys through fantastical lands. Told with humour and great heart, these stories give children a glimpse of their own potential for imaginative play and creativity through the tales of a very special cat and her equally interesting band of friends. Each episode is eleven minutes long and comprises an ensemble cast of three boy and three girl characters.

At the beginning of each story we meet Lara, a girl who invents fantastical and extravagant stories for her beloved cat, Poppy. Created with a child-like whimsy, Lara’s stories feature a hero named Poppy and are the sort of adventures she believes her own cat would have in a make-believe world. But whilst featuring fantasy-play adventure, the stories of Poppy Cat are primarily about friendship, focusing on social and emotional development relevant and familiar to a four year-old child. As the leader of the group, Poppy approaches every situation in an enthusiastic, creative way, and her imagination takes them all to the most exciting places.
Each of the main characters is broadly drawn to maximize their comedic personalities while allowing a core curriculum to be addressed. The characters are Poppy Cat’s best friends but most of the challenges arise directly from their real and relatable flaws: fear, vanity, recklessness, self-importance or naivety, and these are played out in their adventures.
While our friends never fight amongst themselves, their character flaws will often steer the adventure, for good and bad. It’s then up to Poppy and her non-judgemental, compassionate stance to lead them to safety, leaving our characters with a greater awareness of themselves and the world. In the world of Poppy Cat and her friends, modes of
transportation can appear in a flash, distant locations can be travelled in one day, and there is no problem that Poppy Cat encounters that cannot be solved.

And now to my utter surprise (I'm so not on the ball when it comes to Nick Jr now a days as my youngest two are cbeebies mad!) She now has her very own show!!!

Joanna Page becomes the voice of Poppy Cat
on Nick Jr.’s new adventure packed show

Launching on Monday 2nd May at 10.00am on Nick Jr and shown every weekday throughout May
An animated series full of adventure and fantasy for preschoolers

Joanna Page, who won the nation’s hearts in Gavin and Stacey, will make her preschool TV debut in May on Nick Jr.’s new animated series Poppy Cat. Joanna voices the show’s leading character, Poppy Cat, a cat with a thirst for adventure and a colourful eclectic mix of animal friends. Based on the award winning books by Lara Jones, which have sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide, Poppy Cat will take preschoolers on fantastical adventures and excite their imaginations. The series features 26 x 10 minute episodes.

The show revolves around Lara, a young girl who invents stories for her beloved cat Poppy. Once she starts reading, preschoolers are transported into the fantasy world of Poppy Cat where animals walk upright, talk and have extraordinary adventures. With a flick of Poppy Cat’s patchwork bandana, fantastic vehicles appear, such as sailing ships and hot-air balloons. Poppy Cat and her friends then travel to magical destinations, including the Marshmallow Mines and the Trumpet Tree Forest, where they encounter other animals - pink dolphins, royal toads and even giant space squids! 

Poppy Cat celebrates the fun and power of inventing and sharing stories. Preschoolers are encouraged to use their imagination as a way to solve problems and pursue their goals. The stories of Poppy Cat also focus on friendship, and on social and emotional themes which are relevant and familiar to preschoolers. But above all, Poppy Cat is about Making Adventures Extraordinary!

Poppy Cat premieres Monday 2nd May at 10.00am
…only on Nick Jr (Sky 615, Virgin 715 and TalkTalk 318).

Now here's a little interview by Joanna herself on the lovely new series:

What is the Poppy Cat series about?

The Poppy Cat series is about Poppy Cat’s adventures with all of her friends. They all play together but then every episode something happens — there's a bit of drama. Then Poppy Cat unfurls her bandana and magics up a ship or a rocket or a submarine and they all go off on an adventure together and solve the problem.

What was it that attracted you to being the voice of poppy cat?

I was attracted to being the voice of Poppy Cat because Poppy Cat is just brilliant! I’ve always wanted to play some sort of animated character and I adore animals, so to play a cat is just fantastic. But I also love Poppy Cat because she’s strong, she’s determined, she’s not scared of anything, she’s very brave, she’s lovely and kind, she’s not selfish, she looks after her friends and she doesn’t back down from anything — and I think I’ve got some of those qualities! It’s just really exciting to play a cat who is so strong and really up for it. 

And also everybody loves Poppy Cat; the books have been such a success. So to actually play Poppy Cat is such an honour – I’m over the moon.  

What preparation did you need to do for the role?

My preparation for Poppy Cat was actually to study my Jack Russell dog! I’ve studied her for about ten years of her life and I think I’ve incorporated all of her animal ‘things’ into my voice. Listening to all of the other characters it’s really funny because everybody is so suited to their character. And it’s so well written, that you just say the lines. And they’ve cast it so well that naturally you’re very similar to your character. So I find that when I’m reading Poppy Cat I would probably react the same way as she does about lots of different things.

I think my research is to make sure my voice is okay and to make sure that I don’t go too fast and that I get the right feel for it because it’s aimed towards children. Just to try and get the story, try and put across what you want to put across, and make your voice understood. Try and get the essence of Poppy Cat; try not to be too giggly or too scared — just know the way that Poppy Cat would play the story.

How different is being a voice artist to appearing on stage or on television?

Being a voice artist is completely different to performing on stage or on TV. You’re very lucky – if you’ve got to be in very early in the morning, you could turn up in your pyjamas if you want to! You don’t have to wear any make-up or look particularly good because it’s all in your voice. 

But because it’s just your voice that people hear you have to know what you’re playing. You have to know the story, completely commit to it and know what’s going on. Because if a voice artist is feeling a bit nervous, or they’re not confident, or they don’t know what they’re doing the audience will hear it straight away and you won’t believe it. Whereas on TV and in the theatre there’s so much going on and the audience is watching and listening to stuff so you can get away with a lot more. But if you’re on radio or you’re voicing a character you really have to be spot on.

How long does it take to record an episode of Poppy cat?

With the rest of the cast recording an episode of Poppy Cat can take all day because we’ll be giggling and messing around a lot! But the other day I was on my own – I went in at 1.30 and I worked until five and I recorded 12 scripts, because I don’t like to stop; when I’m in the flow of it I like to just keep going and doing all of the episodes. So it takes a good few hours and I’ll probably go through and record about 12 episodes.

Who are your favourite characters from the series?

I love Egbert because he’s so sweet! I love his voice. And I feel so sorry for him because you want to include him. All the other characters are really sweet because they do try and include Egbert and he’s the one who doesn’t really want to be included. And I also absolutely adore Owl. I love it that he’s so wise but also slightly sarcastic. I do think that adults watching will like Owl as well. He does make me laugh! I can’t listen to Chris [Neill – voice of Own] because when he’s speaking to me all I see is a big owl and that makes me laugh so much! And I love Zuzu’s voice! But I’ve got to be honest: Egbert and Owl are my favourite characters.

What are you favourite moments from the series?

My favourite moments from the series are always when we’re in a submarine and we’re underwater. I think it looks absolutely hilarious when we’ve got our scuba diving helmets on – and when we’re swimming. You can see Zuzu's feet and Poppy cat’s feet just sort of floating and it looks so comical! I adore all of the scenes when we’re all under the water.

How does it feel to hear your voice spoken by an animated character?

I always think it’s really strange hearing your voice spoken by an animated character because I don’t think I sound like I do – especially when I’m doing Poppy Cat’s voice which is slightly higher and a bit cuter. In my head I think I’ve got a very deep mature-sounding English voice. And then I hear my voice as Poppy Cat and think, “Oh my gosh, I actually do sound like I’ve got quite a lilt in my voice and my voice is quite high.” 

If you could be an animal which would you be and why?

If I could be an animal I would like to be a dog because they get a brilliant life. I would basically like to be my dog because she gets fed amazing things, she gets smoothed all the time, she gets to sleep in bed and she’s carried around everywhere. My life revolves around making her life really good fun — so she gets amazing clothes, amazing food, she gets pampered, she gets to sleep and I massage her all the time as well. So I would like to have the life of my Jack Russell dog called Daisy.

So after all that reading and background info, lots i clearly didn't know, me and the girls sat down for a snuggle and watched the two episodes that i was so kindly sent.
Well the girls certainly loved it, we had peace and quiet for the entire episode and like me they marvelled at how well the characters came alive. We are used the reading the books so seeing how well it translated into TV was glorious.  They had managed to keep the lovely bright colours and the glorious charm of hand drawn characters from the book. The voices all worked well and i was as equally happy to sit and watch as the children where. I find with most book adaptations that a lot of the appeal from the books is lost once it reaches TV but not this, the whole charm and loveliness is there and i think that's what children find endearing. You can now go away and read the books and match the characters with real voices and personalities. Long may children's TV be as glorious as Poppy Cat!

You would be mad to miss this lovely show so stop by Nick Jr weekdays in May for a chance to catch all their exciting adventures!!

L xx

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