ITV's freaky and long-buried children's show. Abandon sense here.
When Adam and Joe described Animal Kwackers as like "a repressed child abuse memory," they were - as usual - on the money. That covers the night terrors aspect of it, and the fact that after it was gone, no one ever talked about Animal Kwackers. It never made it to VHS, never nabbed a Nickelodeon repeat slot, never made it to the pub talk canon of kids TV chat. Until that Adam and Joe commentated clip on Channel Four's TV Hell in 2000, many thirtysomethings had never thought about Animal Kwackers since it breathed its last in 1978. And there it was again, like some shuddering memory of Uncle Ray sticking his index up your poo-hole.
Now, Network (who else?) have excavated Animal Kwackers, sans two missing episodes (are they AWOL because they're too freakazoid even for 21st Century eyes?). It's certainly a thumpingly odd show, and designed for a dozen or so widely different demographics all at the same time.
It's a pocket money-budget ITV reinvention of The Banana Splits, in that it's four actors in animal costumes, miming along to songs. Except The Splits had zip and pace and well-produced sugarpop, and Animal Kwackers had four barely animate humans dressed in ratty, jumble sale animal outfits, miming to a bizarre combination of sea-shantys, pop songs and Granny favourites.
Given that the Jackanory part of the programme, where Roy (the eyepatch-wearing lion) reads a short story clearly aimed at four to five year olds, it's an odd choice of songs sandwiched either side of it. We'll forgive Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, as most toddlers weren't likely to be pointing out to Mum, "Hey, the initials to that song are LSD!" But where does What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor? fit in? "Mummy, what does drunken mean?" "It's like your Dad every night of the week, Billy." On Top of Old Smoky? Surely that's not a children's favourite, or is my memory cheating? The Sun Has Got His Hat On and Tiger Feet we get, but having a prescriptive John Peel type in charge of the playlist doesn't make much sense when the audience have only just got bored of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
There are no extras here, nothing to contextualise or explain where Animal Kwackers fits in. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe nothing can ever make this one appear normal.
Animal Kwackers is available now.
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