“Sarah and Duck”: TV Review

Pre-school animation appears to have something of a stigma in the United States. Cartoons targeted at children aged 6-11, such as SpongeBob SquarePants, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic and Adventure Time, have picked up adult followings of varying sizes; however, there seems to be an assumption that anything aimed at the 5-and-under crowd will be too simplistic and didactic to interest older viewers.

In Britain, things are slightly different. Most animated television series made in the UK today are aimed at the preschool audience, but often cater to any adult viewers who appreciate gentle whimsy. In this way they can be seen as continuing the tradition of Bagpuss, The Clangers and Noggin the Nog, children’s series which were not intended specifically for the preschool demographic but now find themselves pigeonholed into that area when they are rerun – and yet still maintain fond adult followings.

Sarah and Duck, a recent CBeebies series created by Sarah Gomes Harris and Tim O’Sullivan of Karrot Entertainment, has plenty of charm and is sure to net itself a number of adult admirers. Its appeal for older viewers lies not in any winking asides above the heads of the target audience, but in its way of evoking the more fondly-remembered aspects of our childhoods.

The series follows the exploits of a seven-year-old girl and her pet duck. The third central character is the narrator, who serves as the only true adult presence as he interacts with the characters, giving them advice but never intruding into their world. The storylines deal with simple subjects, such as visiting a shop, building a kite or drinking honey and lemon while poorly, in a way that gently pushes tidbits of information at the audience. Older viewers will be taken back to how, during early childhood, even the most mundane activities can be a fascinating journey of discovery.

This is reflected in the colourful and sometimes strange world which Sarah and Duck inhabit. When they leave their house, a line of talking onions in the garden bids them farewell. They often bump into an elderly woman, well-meaning but somewhat absent-minded, much to the annoyance of her short-tempered talking bag.

There are shades of Tim Burton in Sarah’s quirky, wide-eyed design; meanwhile, the fact that so many inanimate objects are prone to sprouting faces and talking suggests Fleischer Studios. The series is not self-consciously creepy or surreal, however, and merely reflects just how odd the world of childhood imagination can be.

Although the visual style is simple, the characters are injected with genuine vitality. They are not bundles of stock poses and expressions, but instead react to their surroundings in a well-observed and believable manner—such as when heroine develops a slumped posture, dawdling gait and half-closed eyes in the episode “Sarah Gets a Cold”.

As an example of engaging character animation created with a minimalist visual style on a television budget, and a cartoon for pre-school children which does not talk down to its audience, Sarah and Duck is right on target.


Sarah and Duck was developed, designed, written and animated entirely in-house at London-based Karrot Animation.The show is animated in CelAction2D. Visit the Sarah and Duck Facebook page for regular updates.

CREDITS
Director: Tim O’Sullivan
Writer: Sarah Gomes Harris, Benjamin Cook
Producer: Jamie Badminton
Animation director: Tim Fehrenbach
Lead animators: Alastair Park, Rachel Thorn
Storyboard: Tony Clarke
Senior Design Team: Rufus Blacklock
Art Direction: Annes Stevens, Rebecca Whiteman


  • Tomm

    Charming

  • Peter Gray Artist

    The best thing to happen in a long time..at last imagination and fun..

  • T.

    I enjoy the positive, informative articles you write, Neil. I have never heard of this show before but I will be scouring the internet for more, now.

  • Kitty Jimjams

    Ohhh, Sarah and Duck is the absolute best. Even better than Abney and Teal, and I LOVE Abney and Teal.

  • Jason Cezar Duncan

    Being English I find this quite funny. Most modern cartoons made in the UK are intended for preschoolers, yes, but this is a rather interesting exception as most of them are indeed kiddie rubbish. Think animation is underrated in the US? It’s disrespected where I come from and that’s a big reason I’m not going back. Don’t get me wrong, they love and respect the stuff that comes from the US, but tell the BBC or ITV you want to produce a cartoon that’s not specifically intended for their preschool block, and you’ll be blocked and budgeted out of there. Just look at what BBC did to Mongrels, and that was a freaking puppet show with actors! If you want to make something with genuine artistic integrity in Britian, you have to do it on your own. And so far, only a few (but honorable) individuals and companies have managed to do that. The climate and attitude just isn’t in an animators favor as it is here.

    • Aaron Mincey

      I kind of noticed how a lot of puppet, and model animation were very big in the U.K. I mean I grew up with Thomas the tank engine and it was kind of a unique way of animation cause it was live action with a certain way to tell a story through one narrator. Now its CGI and its amazing how flexible how the show is now but there was something about the models I still love.

      • Snakedad

        I had some friends who worke on Thomas, they were all gutted when it change to CGI which was wholly a cost cutting measure, the little engines cost about £20k each as models so there was quite a high price to old style charm!

    • Elsie Starbrook

      I agree, I’m currently studying animation in the UK right now and the attitude here with cartoons is very, very low. If it isn’t imported from America then it doesn’t count.

    • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com ElliotCowan

      1) It is no different in the US. Worse in fact.

      2) The reason that US based series are popular there is because it’s cheaper to buy something that already exists than to make something new. They are neither loved or respected except by accountants.

    • Eggy

      The Amazing World Of Gumball (modern cartoon) was made in UK, and it’s popular.

      • Jason Cezar Duncan

        Funded by American lead Cartoon Network, who seem to be making sure it doesn’t get too “foreign”.

  • Nance

    Good thing it was made in and for a U.K. audience. Had it been done in the U.S.A. it would be wall-to-wall dialogue and zero visual subtlety.

  • Roberto Severino

    Nice! This looks like a lot of fun. It’s cool to see a cartoon that doesn’t need to be mean spirited or vulgar to work.

  • pizzaforeveryone

    i could have watched another hour of sarah and duck clips

  • Joel

    Looks like I’ve found a new show to watch! C: That song’s gonna be stuck in my head all day, too.

  • M Rahman

    I’m either too young to be held down by preschool to kindergarten nostalgia or…..
    no pretty sure that’s it

    Anyways it reminds a lot of that CGI show that also features a duck, a kid all dressed in blue & yes, the narrator plays a pivotal role

    It’s fun/interesting to look at, yet as soon as I hear anyone speak, I’m reminded that I don’t exactly have any kids to share this moment with….

    but i don’t feel the need to befriend infants just so I could watch this with them
    ;3

  • Larry Ruppel

    Charming to the max, with perfect simple animation. Incredible how un-contrived and sincere the show feels!