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Noah and Nelly in the Skylark

Noah and Nelly in the Skylark (1976-1977) is a children’s cartoon series produced by Bob Godfrey’s Movie Emporium that lasted for 15 episodes.

Noah and Nelly was created by Grange Calveley, writer of the earlier and better known Roobarb cartoon. The five minute films depict a world loosely based around Noah’s Ark. However, Calveley’s surreal interpretation involves two-headed talking animals reminiscent of the pushmi-pullyu known to Doctor Dolittle. Each animal has a cheerful, optimistic head at one end and an unhappy, pessimistic head at the other. Even the SkylArk itself is a longship with a figurehead at either end, one smiling, the other frowning. Although there is only one animal of each type, they are referred to in the plural – Brian the lions and Rose the Elephants. As with the earlier Roobarb, the main narration is provided by British actor Richard Briers. However, co-narrator Peter Hawkins manages to find a different and appropriate voice for each of the many animals.

The story follows roughly the same pattern each episode. Captain Nutty Noah consults his map and randomly picks out a place to visit. The Skylark is then shown travelling to its destination by balloon, on wheels, underwater with snorkelling figureheads or occasionally even by sea. On arriving at their destination, the Skylark’s crew find various strange inhabitants such as talking television sets who are suffering some kind of problem they can’t solve themselves (for example, the television sets are stuck showing the news over and over again and getting bored). The animals often help in some way, but the day is invariably saved by Noah’s wife Nelly, who uses her knitting skills to create machines which solve the problem in some way. Nelly knits everything from drilling rigs to crash helmets; her supply of wool seems almost inexhaustible but she occasionally has to unravel the ship’s sails when she runs out.

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