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Rex the Runt

Entry updated 15 April 2024. Tagged: TV.

UK stop-frame animated tv series (1998-2001). Aardman Animations for BBC Bristol. Created by Richard Goleszowski (aka Richard Starzak). Executive producers: Paul Kofod, Peter Lord, Colin Rose, Michael Rose, David Sproxton and Tom Van Waveren. Writers include Andrew Franks, Richard Starzak and Kevin Wrench. Directors include Richard Starzak. Voice cast includes Steve Box, Andrew Franks, Elisabeth Hadley, Andrew Jeffers, Colin Rote and Kevin Wrench. 26 ten-minute episodes. Colour.

This is the story of four ordinary plasticine Dogs living in late-nineties Britain: Rex (Franks season one; Rote season two) is a Tony Hancockian everydog; Wendy (Hadley) is competent but cynical; Bad Bob (Wrench season one; Jeffers season two) wields a gun, loves food and is able to knock up a Time Machine from an old tin can; and Vince (Box) is the anarchic utterer of non-sequiturs ("trousers", "sausages", "Tuesday") and source of short operatic outbursts, a medical condition known as "Random Pavarotti Syndrome".

Plots often lean towards the surreal: for example, the quartet's drilling at the North Pole deflates the earth like a balloon, so they ride around the universe, stopping off at a space service station (see Space Stations) where a yokel-voiced alien – deducing they're not from around those parts – warns them to avoid the local Black Hole; nevertheless they are sucked in, to find Rex's Cyborgized ex-maths teacher mopping the floor; she advises them to take a taxi back to the Earth at a time prior to its puncturing ... which they do. In another episode they undertake a journey in Fantastic Voyage (1966) mode into Vince's head, though the Miniaturized vehicle – a submarine – isn't that much smaller than the head itself (at the story's end they believe they have exited Vince, but in truth they are still caught within his dreamworld). The series does not always feature genre elements, but has included Time Machines, Doppelgangers, the prevention of ageing through mad science, holes drilled through the centre of the earth (see Hollow Earth), shrunken Cities, artificially created life and very British Alien tourists ("this is Rick, an old school friend of mine who's just tagging along ... he's been up Everest you know, big pipe smoker") who look like the Easter Island Statues.

Rex the Runt was one of the few animated British television shows not aimed at children. Its guest voices included many well-known British comedians, among them Kathy Burke, Eddie Izzard, Paul Merton, Bob Monkhouse and Stanley Unwin. The first series is the strongest – Vince is sadly under-utilized in the second – but this was a consistently enjoyable show that undeservedly found itself overshadowed by other, more celebrated, Aardman productions. [SP]


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