Creepy Children’s Programming Review: OCTONAUTS

6630bc3207651991e913e0e48d119eeeaa360e59So here’s the new hotness:  Octonauts, a show about British (mostly) animals (mostly) who live underwater in a giant octopus and Do Science.  Most of them, as I said, are various flavors of British, and their accents are region-specific.  Then there is the one with the southern accent (and by “southern accent,” I mean “southern US”) and what might be an attempt at a Mexican accent, maybe, since the character’s name is Peso?  Only they’re all done by British voice actors, and they are perhaps done by British voice actors who have never met southerners or Mexicans, because the southerner (“Tweak,” the rabbit) sounds like the worst stereotype of a toothless Mississippi white-trash hick you’ve ever heard and the Mexican accent sounds so un-Mexican that I thought the character was supposed to be Asian at first.

Here are the Octonauts.  They are so, so, so British, even the ones who aren’t British.

587d105778baebb5135df748f2f31a2d.jpgYou’ll recall I said they were mostly animals.  Note the plant on the right.  His name is Tunip, but I thought it was Turnip until seeing it in print just now.  The rest of the characters have personality and agency; Tunip and his other plant-based lifeforms appear to be either vegetable-based Oompa Loompas or actual slaves, and they really don’t fit into the rest of the show very well.  It’s bizarre.

At any rate: Every episode involves the Octopod tooling around in the ocean and dealing with some sort of sea animal’s problem, or sometimes the sea animals are the problem.  The animation is kind of cool and the ocean backgrounds are really neat even without the massive, Thomas the Train-level Britishness.

So goddamn British.

There’s a weird colonialism thing going on here, too:  the white … polar bear? in the middle up there is Captain Barnacles, who has the Britishiest of the accents, and he’s in charge.  He’s supposed to come off as this nineteenth-century naval captain dude.  In practice, this means that he assumes in any situation that whoever he’s dealing with will understand and assume that he’s rightfully in charge and what he says is the best thing for everyone.  Even if it’s a indigenous culture species of animal they’ve never seen before, obviously everyone ought to just agree with what the white animal thinks.  He’s the Captain!  Don’t you understand what that means?

Then there’s always a song at the end.  It’s the Creature Report.  It lives in my brain now, and I hear it all the time, everywhere I go, no matter what, forever.  Let it be in your brain now:

I like the show.  It makes me crave crumpets, and I don’t know what crumpets are, but I like it.  That said, if I try to drift off to sleep one more night with the Creature Report running through my head, I will kill a substantial portion of the Midwest’s population.

No big deal.

19 thoughts on “Creepy Children’s Programming Review: OCTONAUTS

  1. In the grand scheme of kid shows to be watched repeatedly, at least this one is somewhat educational. But thanks for ultimately explaining why my 4yo calls the turnip Tuna

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  2. Just looking at the pictures, I think maybe “Peso” the penguin is supposed to be from the Falkland Islands — they have penguins. Now I’m guessing you’re right about the “colonialism” thing. Does Shellington sound Australian?

    For some reason, Brits always choose a Southern US accent as the one to imitate. Maybe they can’t quite hear the differences between their own accents and most others from here.

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      1. I bet Sauci is Indian.

        I’d guess the American character is supposed to be from Georgia or Virginia. Can’t think of any other Southern accent that makes sense here. (Massachusetts would make a lot of sense, but Brits don’t do Northeastern US accents — not different enough… I’m thinking about this way too much.)

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      2. Kwazii is the Aussie, IIRC.

        My 2 year old was really into this show for a couple of weeks. It’s not terrible for kids’ television, although I didn’t care for the gender imbalance. There’s only 1 or 2 women on the team, and they’re rarely even on-screen, at least in the episodes that I saw.

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  3. Eek, I see what you mean about the British flavour and Capt. Barnacles also has a military edge to his speech [psst, it is Thomas the Tank Engine… the Brits are very sensitive about this as the Fat Director (later the Fat Controller) will come and sort you out if you get it wrong].

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  5. Belated summary of the international differences (based on watching a lot of it with my kid on both sides of the Atlantic) –

    Two characters were revoiced for the US version – Peso (who’s always called Peso) changed from nervous and English to apparently-Mexican (voiced by an American actor, not a British one). Dashii changed from being a Kiwi to being American. Tweak’s accent remained as is – to this British person’s ear it’s classic “Dukes of Hazzard” southern. The Dukes of Hazzard was on British TV a lot a few decades ago, which probably explains that. Other than that, Barnacles and Inkling are mid-20th century English heroic-explorer / aristocrat respectively, Kwazii speaks textbook Piratey English, and Shellington’s a Scot. For good measure, the walruses are Liverpudlian (took me way too long to figure out why), and sharks always seem to be Glaswegian.

    I’m not sure there’s much traction in any “colonialist” arguments – these are anthropomorphic animals, not humans, and Barnacles is white because he’s a polar bear, not as a statement on race. (Bear in mind here that Octonauts is actually made in Ireland and not the UK..)

    Another difference is that the Creature Report sections aren’t aired as part of the episodes in th UK – they go straight from the end of the story to the closing titles. The Creature Reports very occasionally appear as a standalone thing on CBeebies, but mostly they’re DVD extras. That seems to work better – putting them within the episode seems to ruin the pacing of the ending.

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