A petulant voice booms through the darkened theatre. ‘I hate homework and I HATE vegetables…’
It’s a voice I’ve heard more times than I can remember, echoing from the girls’ iPad as they huddle over the screen. I’d recognise him anywhere.
The girls swivel around, curious to see the real-life boy who brings their favourite cartoon to life. But instead a blonde woman bounds on stage. Huh?! There’s a moment of puzzled silence as everyone continues to look around.
‘Who else was expecting a boy to come up here on stage?’ asked the hosts, Dick and Dom.
All around us people are nodding slowly, still not entirely sure what’s going on… Could it really be true?! Could the UK’s favourite mischief-making boy really be… a girl?!
We’re at the Piccadilly Headquarters for an exclusive BAFTA Kids’ TV Preview, taking a sneak peak at the brand-new series of the hugely popular kids’ television series, Horrid Henry.
Another 42 episodes have been created, bringing the total number to 250 and making this one of the biggest animated children’s shows EVER in the UK (eager fans can already catch six double episodes – so 12 in total – on Netflix right now, with the rest following in the new year. The series will also be appearing on Nickelodeon early in 2019, so keep your eyes peeled).
The girls and I are excited (not to mention slightly intimidated) to be surrounded by many of the people who brought the original Horrid Henry books to the screen.
After watching one of the new episodes of Horrid Henry, writer and producer Lucinda Whiteley (who also oversaw Horrid Henry The Movie in 2011), is invited on to the stage. She explains how excited they are to bring Henry back to the small screen again and how much fun they had creating the episodes, each of which take a staggering three months to create.
She even reveals that a second Horrid Henry movie is in the pipeline… watch this space!
Some of the other cast members are introduced and are unrecognisable… until they start to speak. Suddenly it’s like all those familiar characters have leapt off the screen, and into real life.
But the biggest surprise is Henry himself, who’s been played by English actress Lizzie Waterworth-Santo since the animated series began. As Lizzie continues to talk in character the penny drops that SHE is Horrid Henry, and the room erupts into cheers and applause.
Apparently, it’s not uncommon for male and female actors to play the opposite gender – in this case, it was easier for a woman to mimic the higher pitch of a young boy (Henry’s age has never been officially announced, but it’s thought to be around 10 years).
It makes perfect sense once you think about it, but it’s still surreal to hear such a familiar voice emanating from such an unfamiliar body. A feeling compounded when Miss Battle Axe’s voice rings through the theatre.. and actor Aidan Cook joins Lizzie on the stage.
‘Whoa!’ the girls laugh, ‘Miss Battle Axe is a MAN?!’
After getting their heads around it they both find it was hilarious, and are full of questions about the other characters. The other children in the theatre are just as curious, and as Lucinda calls out the names of the animated cast, the actors seated in the audience reply in character.
‘That’s me, worm!’ replies Margaret (Sue Elliott Nicholls) from the back of the theatre.
‘And who plays Perfect Peter?’
‘It’s meeeeeee!’ calls Peter (Emma Tate) from the middle of the room.
Also in the audience are the clever artists and animators and other members of the production team. ‘Do you realise how lucky we are to be here?!’ I whisper to the girls, feeling more than a little starstruck. ‘This is SO COOL Mummy!’ they grin back.
Next, we get to watch how the storyboards are brought to life from rough black and white sketches, to the full-colour cartoon characters my girls watch endlessly on their iPads.
After watching another episode (no spoilers – you’ll just have to wait and watch the new series for yourself!), the girls get the chance to personally meet our hosts Dick and Dom, and then (omigodsoexcited) writer and producer Lucinda, and two more of the talented voice artists – Tamsin Heatley (Mum, Great Aunt Greta, Miss Oddbod) and Wayne Forester (Dad, Beefy Bert, Aerobic Al).
I knew the girls were both big fans of Horrid Henry – I’ve heard the episodes so often I reckon even I could recite some of them off by heart (it’s not easy being me, wash your face and brush your hair, nag, nag, nag, its just not fair! I’m Horrid Henry…) but I don’t truly realise what superfans they are until this very moment. They know every single character – even the obscure occasional ones – and begin to grill Lucinda about who plays each one.
Then Big Sis pulls out her notebook, where she’s scribbled down some notes (so cute!) and begins to go through them, one by one. Lucinda, Tamsin and Wayne are so amazing with the girls, answering their questions with grace and patience (despite the fact they must be dying for lunch and a cup of tea!).
We leave 20 minutes later, the girls waving and bidding them goodbye like they’re best of friends, and for the entire train ride home they grin and chat excitedly about their Horrid Henry adventures. Now they’re counting the days until the new episodes are released.
Thank you SO much to Novel Entertainment and BAFTA Kids for our perfectly horrid day!
• we were guests at the BAFTA Kids Preview Screening – read our exclusive Q&A with Horrid Henry voice actor, Lizzie Waterworth-Santo
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