The cartoon world of the 1970’s was ruled by stop frame animations. From the Flumps, the Moomins, Paddington Bear, to Morph, there is a whole generation that believed all alternative realities plasticine was king.
Chorlton & the Wheelies one of these stop motion animation series. And perhaps the most surreal of them all (I know! What an achievement…) The episodes take place in "Wheelie World", where the "Wheelies" live (they all move around on wheels – hence the name). The wheels are replaceable, and suitable wheels grow on vegetation found in Wheelie World.
The wheelie society is in constant fear of Fenella the Kettle Witch, who resides in Spout Hall - an oversized kettle (naturally). She is magical and can teleport where she wishes (a fact that terrified my as a nipper). She has magical assistants including a talking book (called 'Claptrap Von Spilldebeans' – if I ever have a cat, that’s what I’m calling it) and O'Reilly the Telescope, which advise her on magic spells. She has lots of helpers called Spikers and Toadies – which as you can imagine from their names aren’t the prettiest creatures.
Brilliantly weird and funny, the writers of Chorlton and the Wheeliers seem to have just thrown every creative idea at the series and somehow it’s worked.
Fenella the Kettle witch hates happiness, and uses her powers primarily to make the wheelies unhappy. Also, she has a very strong Welsh accent. (I’m sure there's no deeper reason for that)
However (and you’re going to love this) Chorlton (our main character) isn’t a wheelie, he’s a “happiness dragon”, and while being clueless, he neutralizes Fenella – indeed he doesn’t even see Fenella as evil, he sees her as a “little ol’ lady”
Oh, and Chorlton also speaks with a strong Yorkshire Accent and says “ay up” a lot.
Other characters included Pablo Perdito - A world famous Latin American dancing duck.
Absolutely wonderful. I love to imagine someone going to the commissioning editor of CBBC with this idea today.
But for all that it really worked, and while I did find the series, and Fenella, absolutely terrifying when I was knee high, it is wonderful watching as an adult to see how barmy and charming children’s television shows of the time were. There’s a DVD out, and I think I might be buying it just to put on a showing at my house in the near future!