I can’t say I knew what to expect here. I thought, from the title alone that this would be some sort of English Robot Wars thing but am happy to say I was very wrong.
What this show's actually about is a bunch of cute robots who have salvaged themselves from a junkyard (inexplicably that’s where they just ended up one day) and built themselves a world beneath the scrapheaps of the junkyard. They built themselves a night and day machine that casts light 12 hours and starlight the other 12 and they are entirely self-sufficient in their underground world; but for the regular deliveries of junk coming down a chute from the world above.
They then have adventures and misadventures exploring what it means to be robots in their captive universe. They are all good friends and, as follows with most series' of this sort aimed at children (hell, adults too), there are many varied and wonderful creations so as to appeal to as many folk as possible. Characters here include ‘Tiny’, the brains of the outfit who first got all the robots working, ‘Sporty’ a big guy who just loves exercising and ‘Rusty’, a cute little steam-blowing feminine robot who’s got a thing for Sporty. Then there’s ‘The Sparky Twins’ who are identical and generate electricity, ‘Stretchy’, the manager of the incoming junkheap who owns a very long neck and ‘Messy’, a robotic dog not unlike Lassie in the means of communication. Add to that the retiring actor ‘Scary’ (my personal favourite next to Tiny), the child’s ball ‘Spotty’ and 'Noisy', a collection of horns and trumpets that loves making a racket. There’s also a bat, but he didn’t really feature in this collection of six episodes, and ‘Stripey’, a peaceful, story-telling, metal-bear cuddling striped robot.
The animation here is brilliant and very colourful and is true eye candy for the kids. Plenty of primaries interspersed with the cogs and junk of our society make for a constantly interesting palette on screen and one that should see the kids’ attentions transfixed at least for the length of each ten minute episode.
One could look deeper and find all sorts of metaphors and subtle meanings attached to everything here, but the general impression I got was of the ‘new age’ of TV. That is, the politically correct without being strict and the treatment of kids like young adults and not talking down to them. Sure the plots are a little simple and the outcomes obvious, but this is pure gold to a kid. Fun and exciting adventures, gushes of colour and movement and just enough cleverly used computer composition to bring stop-motion animation to the current level of excellence.
The picture quality is razor sharp here with no aliasing and no film artefacts damaging things. Aliasing could have been a major factor here with so much junk in the backgrounds leaning at all angles, but there is nothing but sharp resolution. The colours are brilliant and if anything do lean toward over-saturation occasionally, but only a little. Certainly nothing offputting.
Delivered in widescreen at the ratio of 1.78:1, we unfortunately don’t get anamorphic enhancement. However, the picture quality is so superb this doesn’t matter (unless you have a widescreen telly, of course). The black bars even add a little something to the general junky backgrounds.
Dolby Digital stereo delivers every well-articulated word in a clear and easily understood manner. Being animation, there is an importance placed on dialogue for the benefit of lip-synch so there’s rarely an issue in animation of poor delivery (unless deliberate). Sound effects are all naturally fun and there are some genuinely funny moments for all fans of puerile and childish bodily noises. Well, I laughed.
All of these noisy effects are well synched and there are no issues with background noise. There is a moment during episode six, The Hiccalots, in which the use of computer is very obvious in the creation of the soundtrack. Anyone whose CD player has ever stuck on one brief instant and replayed it a hundred times before you can get to it will know what I mean when they hear it.
Musically Lenny Henry - who also voices the character of Sporty - has performed the theme song. This is a very catchy little song that may have parents and children alike wandering about the house humming it for hours like I was. The score features plenty of banjo (of all things) and all sorts of modern industrial sounds toned down a bit for the youngsters. It’s a nice audio package all round and does an admirable job for stereo.
There’s something mildly disconcerting about seeing a copyright warning notice written in bright and cheery colours and in a childlike font. Particularly as it discusses the fines and prison time going for such a breach. Creepy.
Anyway, the only extra we get here is that undying theme song treated to an animated karaoke rendering. This is cool and runs for 60 seconds and will drive that theme song nail even further into your brain until, almost robot-like yourself, you go out and buy every other volume of this series as it hits shelves. Clever really.
I was very impressed by the standard of animation in this series and the quality of voice talent and story. While nothing challenging for an adult, there’s plenty of humour, colour, excitement and adventure for the kids and no doubt the youngsters down your way will dig it. If you’ve never heard of the series, that’s okay, the short backstory of the gang plays for the opening titles of each episode and features that catchy theme song so you’ll know the tale over and over again until you can never forget it.
Thoroughly recommended for the kids and there’s even enough cute left over to appeal to the adult lovers of animation or cannon fodder children’s DVD. Very nice, very simple and very well made.