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The Remaking of Danger Mouse – The Chiefs Speak!

// Interviews

Three days after its launch and the new Danger Mouse has already been lauded as a triumph online, in print and in public opinion, with fans young and old tuning in and enjoying the show. As popular as the original was, this level of success was never guaranteed for the new series and the tricky decision to remake a classic show is always the one that is first to be questioned whenever a show isn’t the success people would have hoped for. “Why did they bother!?”, “what were they thinking?”, “what went wrong?” these dreaded questions must flutter across the mind of the entire team working on a cult favourite in the hope that they will never be asked.

Thanks to the Danger Mouse team, those questions are far from viewers’ minds, but how were the pitfalls long associated with a remake avoided? We sat down with the team responsible for dodging those mistakes to try figure out how they did it. Sarah Muller is the creative director for scripted animation and coproduction at CBBC, Bob Higgins is the Executive Vice President of FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment and Ben Ward the head writer of the series.

Ben Ward – Everyone who worked on it was a fan, there was never an issue about changing it too much simply because the reason we’re doing it is because we love the original, the trick is to do the show that is right for now, the original is the show that was right to do in the 80’s and this is the show that is right to do now.

Sarah Muller

Sarah Muller

Sara Muller – From a CBBC point of view we worked with an audience that probably don’t know what Danger Mouse is – unless they’ve got an absolutely rabid fan in the parent they won’t know what it was. We looked at what it was and what worked and why it was so popular and why it resonated before and I think we identified fairly early on in the process the loveliness of the relationship between Penfold and Danger Mouse and that was what everything was built on, allowing them to go off in all kinds of directions. We started by trying to get the characters right.

Bob Higgins – And then trying to deliver for today’s audience, the show is 34 years old and it’s now got a different audience and mediascape, for the kids there’s a lot more options and the expectations are very, very different to 34 years ago. Nowawdays we have to jam everything and the kitchen sink into an 11 minute episode. The things that we kept from the original are the great multi level humour, lots of great verbal stuff, Rob (Cullen, Boulder Media) brought together the great physical humour through the animation. We need to compete with these great 11 minute cartoons so we have to change the blueprint to fit with what the audience is demanding.

That must be a difficult task when the audience hold the original is such high regard?

Bob-Higgins

Bob Higgins

BH – There’s always that danger with any classic property. When we began that process we sat in a room and watched every episode asking ourselves what worked, what made it so iconic and work so well. What we really had to do was get into people’s heads and figure out what people remembered because if you look at the original the remembrance of it was “huge action, huge explosions” and there really wasn’t, but what was there was great characters, great scripts and great stories so we had to create that mental image and get it on the screen so that we can deliver the promise of what was created 34 years ago and I think we’ve done that.

BW – I think it’s interesting because if you watch the old ones it’s not quite how you remember. Personally I have tried to write the show I remember rather than the show that happened and I’ve watched them all twice, you almost have to be more faithful to the memory of it rather than what actually happened and most people who watch it say it is how they remember it.

There has certainly been a lot changed, but it is still close to the original.

BW – The pace of the stories have changed because ALL children’s stories have changed, so we have to fit that pace whilst retaining the original.

Ben Ward

Ben Ward

BH – If you watch prime time comedy the banter comes at such a pace and that becomes the expectation. Children watch stuff like Family Guy and the Simpsons and then know what they want, maybe not at that adult level but that pacing and that comedy so hopefully we’ve all delivered that.

BW – The world will also grow, so there’s lots of characters in there, such as the tour guide is in about ten episodes so theres a vast cast of extras, a bit like the Simpsons where this cast all have their own schtick.

SM – I think it is also worth saying that for all the work, scripts, design and animation there has been another level that has been brought in by the cast members which we’ve been phenomenally lucky with because they’ve brought things alive in their own original and unique ways, these are not conventional voice over artists but they’ve managed to bring things alive.

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The brand new series of Danger Mouse screens on the CBBC channel daily from 6pm. Listen to the full interview on the Skwigly Animation Podcast below

 

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