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Toon Thursday: Looking for some sheep thrills? Check out Playhouse Disney's "Timmy Time"

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Toon Thursday: Looking for some sheep thrills? Check out Playhouse Disney's "Timmy Time"

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So a woman walks into an office. And this man hands her a sheep and says: "Do you think you can do something with that?"

I know. The above sounds like the set-up for a pornographic joke. But this actually happened to Jackie Cockle, the producer of Bob the Builder, back in January of 2007. When she met with Miles Bullough, the head of broadcast / executive producer at Aardman Animations.

Only the sheep that Miles handed Jackie wasn't a live one. It was a tiny teeny clay one named Timmy. One of the co-stars of Playhouse Disney's popular "Shaun The Sheep" TV series.


The cast of "Shaun the Sheep." (That's Timmy in the lower right-hand corner)
Copyright Aardman Animations Ltd. All rights reserved

"Aardman was toying with the idea of producing their first-ever preschool series. So they placed an ad in the trades," Cockle said. "I responded to that ad and then met with Miles in Bristol. And that's when he introduced me to Timmy."

Now given Jackie's years of experience with preschool shows (Cockle got her start in the biz building props for Wind in the Willows & Noddy. And then - over time - moved up the animation food chain to the point that she was directing, developing and producing shows like Rubbadubbers and Pingu), you'd think that she'd be the perfect person to create this "Shaun the Sheep" spin-off. But even so, when Cockle shared her vision for "Timmy Time" (i.e. a show with no dialogue that was bright, colorful and stylized), Miles and his team didn't immediately spark to this idea.

"Aardman was initially scared of 'Timmy Time' because it was so different from what they've done previously. But Miles eventually gave me the go-ahead," Jackie continued. "And - in the end - I think that we were both pleased with the way that this show turned out."


Jackie Cockle, the creator, producer and supervising
director of "Timmy Time." Copyright Aardman
Animations Ltd. All rights reserved

Of course, what really helped here was Cockle's previous experience with producing preschool shows. Which meant that she was able to quickly assemble her "Timmy Time" production team. Hiring just the right number of animators & set builders so that production of Aardman's first-ever preschool series could go as smoothly as possible.

"It's kind of a balancing act. Aardman's known for its beautiful production values. But at the same time, 'Timmy Time' is a TV series. Which meant that - for the first season of this show - we had to complete 52 10-minute-long episodes," Jackie explained. "That's over 8 hours of stop-motion. Which is why we were lucky to have the experienced crew that we did. Who could each produce a minute of polished stop motion every day."

Another thing that sped things along was that each episode of "Timmy Time" (before it went into production) had a completed script. Which - given that this show doesn't actually have any dialogue - was something of a challenge to write.


Copyright Aardman Animations Ltd. All rights reserved

Which isn't to say that "Timmy Time" is a completely silent show. All of those baby farm animals that Timmy goes to preschool with make noise. And finding just the right vocal performers to do all of that yipping, quacking and meowing for these preschoolers proved to be something of a challenge for Cockle.

"That was actually the toughest part of producing this show. It took us three months to pin down all of 'Timmy Time' 's voices," Jackie stated. "We were looking for voices that were characterful, unusual and appealing. And finding just the right snuffly, barking sound for Stripey the Badger was really tough."

And - in one case (i.e. Yabba the Duck) - finding just the right voice for that character ultimately proved to be impossible. Which is why Cockle wound up doing all of the quacking for that duck.


Copyright Aardman Animations Ltd. All rights reserved

"This is the first time that I've ever done a voice of a character on one of my shows," Jackie said. "But during auditions, when we were bringing people in to try out for that character, I'd do Yabba's voice for them as I envisioned this duck sounding. And they'd then quack back at me. But it just didn't sound right. Eventually the folks at Aardman convinced me - rather than bring in any more actors to audition for Yabba - that I should just do all of the duck's quacking."

But in the end, all of this extra effort paid off. For from the moment that this "Shaun the Sheep" spin-off premiered in the UK  on CBeebies in April of 2009, "Timmy Time" has been this huge success. Viewers were quick to embrace this warm & funny preschool show. So much so that Aardman Animation already has Season 2 of "Timmy Time" in production.

But from Cockle's point of view ... While it's great that Aardman's first pre-school show is so popular (which is why Playhouse Disney - hot on the heels of "Shaun the Sheep" 's success - decided to acquire the US broadcast rights for "Timmy Time"),  what makes Jackie happy about this particular show is it's actually smoothing the way for many kids who have yet to head out for preschool.


Copyright Aardman Animations Ltd. All rights reserved

"So many of the problems that Timmy faces are the very same things that young kids deal with when they enter preschool. How to get along with others. How to share your toys. Why it's important to clean up after yourself," Cockle explained. "That 'Timmy Time' can teach these sorts of lessons in a non-preachy way but still have that same sort of charm & humor that we've come to associate from Aardman ... That's what I consider 'Timmy Time' 's greatest success to be. Which is why I'm so proud of what we've done with this show."

So if you'd like to get in the sweet charms & sheep thrills that are associated with Aardman's new stop-motion animated TV series, be sure and check out "Timmy Time." Which premiered on the Disney Channel  this past Monday  and now airs on Playhouse Disney weekday mornings at 7/6c.

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  • Considering the rest of the dreck Disney's currently peddling on Playhouse Disney (Special Agent Oso is possibly the single worst show ever created!), DW and I have found Timmy Time to be a cute, funny alternative thus far. DS3 (and to some degree DD8) were big Shaun the Sheep fans so seeing Timmy get his own show has been a treat.

    I have to say, though, that Playhouse Disney has dramatically dropped off in terms of the quality of programming from when DD was a toddler. The days of Stanley and PB&J Otter and Rolie Polie Olie and JoJo are sorely missed in our household.

  • Although I can't agree completely with Ian, I will have to WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree that Special Agent Oso is HORRIBLE. At least as horrible as the crud that they show on PBS.

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