Charlie and Lola Three: My Little Town and More Stories! is the third volume released in the U.S. of the delightful, sweet cartoon from England's BBC, based on the marvelous children's books by Lauren Child. This brightly hued cartoon, featuring what looks like pencil drawn figures, colored, then cut out like paper dolls, is computer generated, using a 2D cell animation collage approach, with photomontage, paper and fabric cutouts, and real photos. The jerky movements and "crude" articulation perfectly captured the look and feel of children's art. As Charlie will tell you at the beginning of each episode, "I have this little sister Lola. She's small and very funny." In Charlie's conversational way, he talks about what he has to go through every day, in trying to help his parents by watching over Lola, a delightfully real little girl whose funny flights of fancy make up a large portion of each episode.
Through irrepressible Lola, we see how a child can't quite comprehend why the world doesn't see things exactly the way she or he does. And importantly, we see how Lola, through her strength of character, continues to insist on seeing the world her way. It's a good message for little girls to see. Charlie and Lola, with its shifting perspectives within the story lines, perfectly captures the way children can have fantasy and reality exist side by side in their daily lives, in the perfectly reasonable and logical way that little children have, through the power of their imaginations.
Besides the sweet little stories that gently teach a lesson (if the child wants to hear it -- the messages aren't in any way "preachy" or intrusive), it's quite a funny show, and that's mostly due to the charming vocal talents of Jethro Lundie-Brown as Charlie and Maisie Cowell as Lola. While her British accent is adorable, it's also a real, believably young voice. She speaks with all the slightly daffy, eccentric logic that any highly intelligent four or five year old girl possesses. Cheeky, darling Lola is a little willful, a little annoying at times (what little child isn't?) but she's always good hearted and kind, and just as important, she's her own person. Independently minded, many of the stories involve Lola's determination to see the outside world in her own special way, and often, she doesn't stray from this vision at the end of the story. I would imagine most parents of little girls would love Charlie and Lola precisely because it shows a strong role model for their girls. She's obstinate and stubborn sometimes, and utterly beguiling.
Charlie is also a good role model for younger boys. He's the kind of big brother we all probably wish we had. Indulgent of Lola's willful ways, he's always patient and kind in his guiding of Lola's actions. He also readily admits that Lola makes him laugh, regardless of how grating she is; just when he should be getting mad at her for pushing him beyond his patience, he starts to laugh at one of quirky little doings, and he's giggling right along with her. So don't hesitate to have some of your older children sit down and watch as well.
Here are the six, 11-minute episodes of Charlie and Lola Three: My Little Town and More Stories!:
I Can Do Anything That's Everything All On My Own
Lola decides that she will do everything for herself now own, including getting her own pink milk, buttoning her coat -- and using a seesaw.
There is Only One Sun And That is Me!
Lola desperately wants to be the sun in the school play -- but she's saddened to find out she's only to be a small, brown autumn leaf.
I've Won...No I've Won...No I've Won
Lola always has to win -- even when Charlie really does.
It Wasn't Me!
Lola breaks one of Charlie's prized possessions -- and then lies about it.
Lola must stay neat and clean until it's time to take her first school picture.
My Little Town
Charlie and Lola's new activity box contains hours of fun -- until Lola feels left out of Charlie's playtime.
The enhanced for 16x9 TVs, 1.85:1 widescreen video image for Charlie and Lola Three: My Little Town and More Stories! is pristine.
The English 2.0 stereo audio mix is strong and clear, perfectly picking up the jauntiest, coolest cartoon theme song out there.
There are a couple of cute extras on the Charlie and Lola Three: My Little Town and More Stories!. First up is a Snap Game, which should be fun for the kids. When they win, there's a code to a CD-ROM feature that will allow your child to make and print up playing cards on your computer. There's also a Dancing Clip and a Sporty Clip: two 30 second clips from several episodes. There's also a short Funny Outtakes bonus which has two brief audio clips of the child actors voice Charlie and Lola, set to animation.
Charlie and Lola Three: My Little Town and More Stories! is the perfect cartoon to watch with your young children during that precious time when they're still innocent, and not jaded. Charlie and Lola Three: My Little Town and More Stories! is a delightful way to spend some time in front of the TV with your child, who may learn a lesson or two, while you giggle along with Lola's infectious mischief. I highly recommend Charlie and Lola Three: My Little Town and More Stories!.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.