Author's note: Having written seven reviews for the Charlie & Lola animated series, including two in-depth looks at Season Two (episodes from which that were included in DVD Volumes Six and Seven), and since stylistically and aesthetically, there is no difference between those earlier episodes of Season Two and the ones included in this eighth volume, I've incorporated and rewritten elements from those two previous reviews to cover this Volume 8 release - with additional commentary added at the end, discussing specific episodes from this set.
BBC Video and Warner Bros. has released yet another delightful collection of animated shorts from the best cartoon out there for young children: Charlie & Lola. Charlie & Lola, Volume 8: I Am Collecting a Collection features six more episodes from Season Two of the series (which first aired in America during the 2006-2007 seasons). These episodes still star the second tier of voice actors for the show (Clementine Cowell as Lola and Daniel Mayers as Charlie), where they'll continue to voice the Sonner children until the start of the third season, when a new group of actors takes over. Fortunately, Clementine and Daniel are charming little performers, and their carefully culled voice work is the key ingredient to the success of this adorable toon.
Absolutely nothing has changed with our characters here in this six episode collection (or as Lola might say, "Actually, I'm most assured that absolutely nothing of what could happen, hasn't."). Charlie is still ever-patient with his sister (although not afraid to tell her to stop "messing about" when she's being naughty or thoughtless), and Lola is her usual irrepressible self (although perhaps a tad less bratty here). I've written before about the relationship between the two close siblings (please click on Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 5, Volume 6, and Volume 7 to read those reviews), but it always catches me by surprise how gentle and kind Charlie and Lola is, particularly considering the sometimes coarse and mean-spirited series out there for young children. Every episode has Lola (always the catalyst of any dramatic tension) either acting up (never in an objectionable way) or saddened by some disappointment, only to have Charlie gently help her towards understanding her situation, and eventually seeing the positive side of it. There's such a quiet, understated, appealing tone to Charlie and Lola - even with Lola jumping all over the place - that I find absolutely lovely.
As usual with these volume collections (which aren't gathered in chronological production or air date order), all of the episodes selected are excellent. The opening episode, How Many More Minutes? is a delightfully imaginative outing based a fairly tedious premise: the kids wait in a dentist's office while their mother gets her teeth cleaned. Soon, the bored kids are pretending to be pirates (while gazing into the office's fish tank) and interacting with the "Smiley" kids who live in the poster hung up over the reception desk (this sequence is quite funny, with Charlie and Lola gradually becoming wary of the perpetually smiling boy and girl, who go through their apples like buzzsaws). Welcome to Lolaland has Lola returning to form (i.e.: being a little stinker) when she refuses to let the boys get their globe back (they need it for a homework assignment) unless they follow the rules of magical "Lolaland" (her made-up language is very amusing, as is the boys gradually taking a shine to it). I Wish I Could Draw Exactly More Like You is visually quite nice, as the kids create collages of their own homes (and enter into the works of Van Gogh, Cedric Morris, Henri Matisse and memorably, Roy Lichtenstein - I love it when they say his perfectly geometrical, comic book-styled bed is too hard). The title episode, I Am Collecting a Collection, is a very sweet offering that allows Lola to be the one to give unselfishly to Charlie this time, when she has a dinosaur toy that he wants for his collection. Never Ever Never Step on the Cracks has some funny visuals as Lola imagines the troubles that await her if she doesn't go to bed (sea ticklers at her feet) or if she doesn't wash behind her ears (mushrooms). But certainly the stand-out episode in this volume is I Will Never Ever Never Forget You, Nibbles, a quite sad little show that has Charlie and Lola dealing with the death of Nibbles, Charlie's pet mouse. Handled in a gentle, knowing way (as indeed are all of the Charlie and Lola shorts), this may be an excellent primer for a child first having to deal with the death of a beloved pet. It doesn't avoid the issue, but it also doesn't frighten the small viewers. It's an unusually serious offering from the franchise - and a welcome one.
Here are the six, 11-minute episodes of Charlie and Lola, Vol. 8: I Am Collecting a Collection:
How Many More Minutes?
Charlie and Lola have to amuse themselves at the dentist's office while they wait for their Mum.
Welcome to Lolaland
Lola borrows Charlie's globe to help make her own magical land...and Charlie and Marv have to visit before they can get it back for their homework assignment.
I Wish I Could Draw Exactly More Like You
Lotta is having difficulty trying to make her drawing look exactly like her house - at Lola's suggestion - so the gang enters the world of fine art to help her out.
I Am Collecting a Collection
Charlie needs just one more cereal box toy dinosaur for his collection to be complete - and Lola has it.
Never Ever Never Step on the Cracks
Lola becomes deeply superstitious - particularly when it comes to stepping on sidewalk cracks.
I Will Not Ever Never Forget You, Nibbles
Charlie's new pet mouse is a delight to Lola...until she has to deal with his death.
The anamorphically enhanced, 1.85:1 widescreen video image for Charlie and Lola, Vol. 8: I Am Collecting a Collection is, as always, pristine. Colors are bright and vivid, with a snappy sharpness to the picture.
The English 2.0 stereo audio mix is strong and clear, perfectly picking up the jauntiest, coolest cartoon theme song out there. English subtitles are available.
There are a couple of minor extras on the Charlie and Lola, Vol. 8: I Am Collecting a Collection disc. First up is the Bat Cat music video, which is just a clip from an earlier short featuring Charlie and Lola watching the opening credits of their favorite film, Bat Cat. There are also two short Funny Outtakes bonuses which have brief audio clips of the child actors, set to animation (Charlie and one of the bedbugs). Again, as with Volume 7, that's a pretty meager offering of extras.
Funny, touching, bouncy, and always clever and bright, Charlie and Lola, Vol. 8: I Am Collecting a Collection features a surprisingly serious entry this go-around (I Will Not Ever Never Forget You, Nibbles, dealing with the death of a pet), which is a welcome addition to the more traditionally humorous Charlie and Lola shorts. As with the previous seven volumes, this is a must-buy for parents looking for a kind, gentle show for their little viewers. I highly recommend Charlie and Lola, Vol. 8: I Am Collecting a Collection.
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.