I have to admit, I have a long-held fascination with weird little creatures. Since I’m currently a little short of new Beasties to post, I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce you to some of my favourite monsters…
… And by extension, all the characters created by Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop – from Fraggle Rock to Mopatop’s Shop. One of my earliest TV-related memories is of watching “The Muppet Show” with my family, and I’ve been a fan ever since. And while Miss Piggy and Kermit always steal the show, it’s the antics of the monsters in the supporting cast which have kept me watching all these years.
Does anyone else remember this? If not, here’s what you missed… Stoppit and Tidyup was a series of short cartoons, which aired in the mid-to-late 80s. Each episode told a story about cheeky red fuzzball Stoppit, his better-behaved friend Tidyup and another of the characters who lived with them in the Land of Do-As-You’re-Told. You can meet them all by watching the show’s intro… and yes, that is TV legend Terry Wogan narrating.
I love the illustrations in Dr Seuss books – try as they might, film adaptations just don’t do them justice. They’re so simple, but they capture everything perfectly. He’s especially good at showing furriness, and his not-quite-human, not-quite-animal creatures always have incredibly luxuriant fuzzy hands and feet. My brother and I got a hand-me-down copy of The Dr Seuss Storybook from our older cousins, and from the first story (“McElligot’s Pool”, featuring pages of fantastic imaginary fish) I was totally hooked.
Or, more correctly, the part of the 1951 animated film where Alice finds herself in Tulgey Wood. The multicoloured mome raths in the picture are joined by a forest-full of other nonsense creatures, including some pretty imaginative birds.
And not just the Totoros, either… although they are a great introduction to the universe of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. Most of the films feature a charming animal sidekick, a backing cast of beasties drawn from Japanese mythology or (best of all) both. Add in some beautifully-painted backgrounds and stories which manage to be heartwarming without descending into saccharine sweetness, and you’ve got a winner. Want to see more? This article handily introduces some of Ghibli’s best incidental characters.