‘I’m Peppa Pig. This is my little brother George. This is Mummy Pig. And this is Daddy Pig’ – by the seventh time the opening of animated kids’ TV show, ‘Peppa Pig’, these words will be seared into your memory. Of course, for most parents thinking of taking their pre-schoolers to see Peppa’s ‘First Cinema Experience’, this introduction to Peppa’s corpulent family will already be second nature. If you can imagine what sitting through nine straight episodes of ‘Peppa Pig’ would be like, and don’t bridle at the notion, then this ‘special cinema event’ is a serviceable distraction for young kids when you’ve run out of things to colour in at home and you’ve already gone for a walk to the park every other day this week.
The nine new episodes are interspersed with an actual person, the unfeasibly upbeat Daisy (Emma Grace Arends), interacting with large puppets of Peppa and George in a ‘Play School’-style set (think bold colours and blocky design). Daisy and her offsiders try to keep things moving along between episodes, with renditions of classic children’s songs like ‘The Wheels on the Bus’, ‘Hokey Pokey’ and ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’, and games demanding plenty of responses from the audience. I’m not sure if it was just my screening or the fact that the target audience hasn’t mastered language yet, but the audience interaction that I was witness to was somewhat lacklustre.
The first four episodes entail Peppa’s family holiday, which takes the Pig clan Down Under to visit Peppa’s friend Kylie Kangaroo. While in Australia, the Pigs enjoy an Outback picnic, a day at the beach, a trip to the Great Barrier Reef and a boomerang throwing lesson (any geography, biology or anthropology employed in the show is done with a liberal approach to facts). Comedian Sam Simmons makes a fun cameo as Mr Wallaby, the owner of a house the windows of which seem to act as boomerang magnets, and Kylie’s Dad’s growing frustration about the length of the Pigs’ extended stay is a surprisingly knowing wink to parents in the audience.
The other five episodes take place back in England, and include a lesson on bike safety from the police, a visit to the zoo and a jaunt on a canal boat. The brief highlight of the film is an absurd class fieldtrip to London, where Queen Elizabeth II drives Peppa and her classmates on a double-decker tour of London, culminating in Liz making her case to join the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise by launching the red bus over the gaping maw of an open Tower Bridge.
The animation is the same quality as the show (bold caricatures with stick arms and legs), and I’d hazard that the voice cast is the same too. There are a few more cameos that might help protect parents from utter boredom (look out for British quiz show stalwarts David Mitchell and Jo Brand), but even the younger kids in my cinema were up out of their seats and preferring to interact with each other than watch patiently with 20 minutes to go.
Did I enjoy myself? Not exactly. Am I the intended audience for ‘Peppa Pig My First Cinema Experience: Peppa’s Australian Holiday’? Definitely not. Objectively, I would say that the best thing about the film is that it is the youngest-pitched movie I have ever known to be playing in cinemas. Consider it cinemagoing training for pre-schoolers – after all, in a few years, they’re supposed to be the target audience for two-hour long and far more thematically dense Pixar movies. It could well be their ‘First Cinema Experience’, but they no doubt have plenty of superior experiences in their futures.
Review by the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting