Are you a fan of Peppa Pig? Of course, you are! Who isn’t? And with our Porcine heroine currently rolling in the gold plated mud of her third cinematic outing (Peppa Pig’s Festival of Fun), it really is time to look at Ashley Baker’s other superb, albeit short-lived children’s show. One which (gasp) is actually better than Peppa Pig (really it is!)
So follow us somewhere hidden amongst thorny brambles to a world of Elves and Fairies because the I’m talking about, of course, Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom – an absolute gem that has as much subtle adult’s humour for mummies and daddies as it does bright colours, fun characters and wandy goodness for the little ones.
The show follows the exploit of two main characters, a Fairy princess called Holly who lives in a typical Fairy castle along with her father – the put upon ‘King Thistle and his beloved wife Queen Thistle (both of whom, much in the way that Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig probably have real first names, are never called by them (I think Daddy Pig in Peppa is called Terry). The Thistles are a loving family with the usual set of domestic problems: maniacal twin girls (the sinister Daisy and Poppy), insane parents, high-concept artistic siblings (the Marigolds) and the day to day traumas of being abducted by dinosaurs, having your pants disappear or getting invaded by sentient singing trees – the usual run of the mill stuff.
And of course the day to day struggle of dealing with Nanny Plum.
The other half of the equation is Ben is a little Elf boy who lives with his family in the Great Elf Tree – essentially a huge block of flats created in the inside of the tree. Ben too lives with his parents, the hard-working Mr Elf and the slightly panic-stricken Mrs Elf along with the rest of the Elf population and their de facto leader the Wise Old Elf aka Smarty Pants. (Who you can guess, is an Elf… and old… and wise).
Now the Elves and the Fairies live quite harmoniously in the little kingdom – a miniature world full of pirates, witches, dwarfs and he most annoying Gnome in the world (I’ll take that as a yes). The Elves are a productive bunch using clockwork technology to assist Santa in making toys for Christmas, growing vegetables, breeding animals or providing help and assistance in their Elf Rescue Service (Think wind-up Thunderbirds) while the Fairies, to be frank, are a little lazy and really spend most of their days practising magic and trying to undo the chaos caused by of the real star of the show – the aforementioned Nanny Plum.
As with the Simpsons the perceived main characters are not really the main reason to watch the show, and while Ben and Holly are a lovely pair – giving the show a wide-eyed childlike innocence – the real star of the show is the classic show-stealing Nanny Plum – a sort of domestic goddess character equipped with a magic wand and snarky attitude.
Nanny Plum’s job in the show is of a pseudo-housekeeper for the little castle, cook, Daisy and Poppy’s magic teacher (amongst other things) but really her main role is to wind up the Wise Old Elf. This sarcastic, self-indulgent and hilarious mischief-maker assumes everything can be resolved with magic. If there is a big person causing a problem for the little kingdom well that’s easy… just turn them into a frog. If the Wise Old Elf is being too grumpy, turn him into a frog, if Mrs Witch is being too rude well it’s Frog-Time!
You can, of course, see some kind of see a pattern here – but really they were getting in her way so all these amphibious transformations are fully justified.
On a daily basis (it’s repeated most days on Channels 5’s Milkshake) the characters get up to all kinds of things. From the kids pretending to be superheroes and villains (Spoiler… the villains win) to babysitting Gaston the ladybird’s nieces and nephews (and Keith), to rescuing lost pirates from garden centres, playing in Elf games, trying to catch the monster fish Big Bad Barry or assisting in making it rain on Planet Bong (“I’m a Fairy helper, not a Not an interplanetary terraforming bioengineer!” Nanny Plum) the show while being under ten minutes long is packed full of ideas, lovely characters and just enough adult humour to be appreciated on numerous levels.
Ben And Holly’s Litte Kingdom may not have had a new episode in over five years, but it’s well worth your time. And here are five of the very best:
Top 5 episodes
- Daisy and Poppy go Bananas
When Holly’s grandparents turn up they bring with them dangerous magical artefacts such as sinister wands, which of course they give straight to Daisy and Poppy who for the rest of the episode transform the population of the Little Kingdom to rabbits, stones and even make the sky go all swirly.
- Nanny Plum doll
Daisy and Poppy (again) accidentally turn Nanny Plum into a talking stuffed doll. Seizing the opportunity, the Wise Old Elf decides that a squidgy Nanny Plum doll would make the perfect toy and proceeds to manufacture thousands upon thousands of them.
- Planet Bong
A representative from planet Bong beams down to earth to ask help from Smarty Pants. The intrepid crew take part in a rescue mission/beach holiday and on the way, flood a space-ship with magic jelly, eat the ruler of Planet Bong (Gaston’s fault). Meanwhile Nanny Plum and the Wise Old Elf have the worst game of Eye Spy in deep space ever.
When the annual regatta takes place a team of Elves and Fairies compete to create the best boat, not knowing that the other side has put a spy in their midst.
Ben, Holly, Strawberry and the gang decide to play superheroes and the evil villain Strawberry Ice-Queen holds the entire Little Kingdom in her icy grasp as she creates an evil winter to envelop the entire Kingdom (it’s a bit like Frozen… only a lot better).
Not convinced about it being better than Peppa Pig? In that case, check out our look at the Best Non-Pig Characters in Peppa Pig.