Saturday, July 23, 2011

Drawing out the meaning of life - review of Little Howard and the Magic Pencil

LIttle Howard and the Magic Pencil of Life and Death, at The Hexagon, Reading, on Friday, February 5, 2010

As CBBC viewers will know, Little Howard may only be an animated six-year-old, but he’s not frightened of some pretty big questions, asking them regularly in his television series, Little Howard’s Big Question.

So, when experiencing feelings of jealousy towards his human sidekick “Big” Howard Read’s baby son Samson, Little Howard isn’t afraid of asking some of the biggest existential questions of all: Would he be more real if he wasn’t two-dimensional? Why hasn’t he got a nose or ears? Can Big Howard sell Samson?

Little Howard thinks he’s found the answer when Big Howard shows him the Magic Pencil of Life and Death which he was drawn with, but Cartoon Death wants the pencil too, and possibly utilise the eraser at the other end...

Whether entirely two-dimensional, or undertaking coloured glasses-enhanced 3D adventures, Little Howard “live” was just as a believable a character as in his television series, despite being confined by logistics to a giant screen or Big Howard’s laptop. His witty repartee with Big Howard and the audience belied his tender years, and appeared so natural that it was hard to remember it would have all been pre-prepared.

Little Howard may be a 2D character, but his audience interaction was fully-rounded, as he demonstrated his inability to catch a ball (although it could knock him over quite convincingly), and he and Big Howard conducted a game of human Guess Who?. 

George was blown away by the 3D elements of the show, and I’m sure Read and co-animator Martin White would be delighted to hear that their work stands up in the mind of a seven-year-old to that of Avatar. Meanwhile, I particularly enjoyed the songs, including the “strangely soothing” ukulele-backed Unpleasant Lullaby, designed to paralyse any child in their bed through fear for the entire night.

“Even funnier than the Chuckle Brothers” was George’s verdict, and I must admit, I’m really rather excited myself that another two series of Little Howard’s Big Question have been commissioned by the BBC. And I would like Little Howard to know that if Big Howard ever gets too distracted by Samson, he can always come live in my laptop.

  • First published in Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, February 11, 2010

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