As regular viewers of the BBC’s preschoolers channel CBeebies will know, Hey Duggee is an animated series about a friendly dog who runs Squirrel Club, an activity group for assorted youngsters of all species: mouse, crocodile, hippo. (Everybody’s welcome in this inclusive, anthropomorphic utopia.) Alexander Armstrong narrates in plummy, jolly tones, animator and assistant director Sander Jones does Duggee’s droll “woofs”, while young actors voice the rest of the cast.
This package, assembled for theatrical release, collates several of the show’s best episodes and it’s not hard to see why the series is so treasured by fans of all ages. Much like Peppa Pig, which it resembles a little too closely, the character design, supersaturated colour palette and highly stylised animation have an easily decipherable, eminently replicable simplicity, all the better to appeal to young minds and spawn a million items of merchandise. Every plot revolves around an effort by the troop to win badges, like Cubs or Brownies. Troop leader Duggee awards them to those who have completed tasks such as running an obstacle course.
Yet every episode is salted with grownup-skewed gags – for instance, references to Apocalypse Now appear in an episode about going down a river. Another richly amusing segment features tadpoles repulsed by the suggestion that they will grow up some day, experience voice changes that will cause them to “ribbit”, and spout arms and legs. Before you know it, they’re fully grown and off to do gap years, study mechanical engineering or get jobs in the financial sector. The climax is, as fans of the show would expect, a rousing rendition of that EDM floor-filler, The Stick Song, a ditty as infectious as nits in a playground, featuring lyrics that go: “Stick, stick, stick, stick, stick, stick, stick, stick, stick, stick, stick, stick, sticky sticky stick stick!” ad infinitum. I want it played at my funeral.