Danger Mouse back at breakneck speed
Writer Ben Ward explains how the new Danger Mouse is James Bond meets The Simpsons.
He’s the world’s greatest secret agent mouse with a hamster sidekick and he’s back for more action.
But while the 2015 reboot of Danger Mouse, which originally aired from 1981 – 1982, comes with changes they aren’t readily recognised by fans of the show. As Head Writer Ben Ward explains, it sort of raises the question, how much does our memory of a show differ from what actually transpired?
In the case of it’s a quite a lot.
“It’s surprising how many people tell me we haven’t changed it,” he says.
“We had a round table where we asked everybody to describe the show and everything they said we kept in. So there’s anarchy, it constantly breaks the fourth wall, the humour is sophisticated, and it’s multi-layered.
“I’ve tried to write the show I remember, rather than the show that happened. I have a very clear memory of it but when I actually watched it, it wasn’t quite how I remembered it.
“So we sort of wrote that show. Which is why when people watch it, they think it’s the same show. But we’ve actually changed enormous things.
“The original is set mainly in a world of humans. Danger Mouse is a mouse living in a human world, whereas ours is a world populated by animals.”
Danger Mouse (voiced by Alexander Armstrong) still has a mission to protect the world from the villainous machinations of the evil Baron Greenback (Ed Gaughan). With his ever-faithful but always fearful sidekick Penfold (Kevin Eldon), they take on all manner of mind-blowing missions aided by tech-defying gadgets, under the watch of Colonel K (Stephen Fry).
“The new Danger Mouse is James Bond meets The Simpsons. It’s an action-spy show set in an animated world where each character has their own comedy schtick. It’s a very fast paced world with high comedy jokes, but still has the strong spy adventure,” Ward explains.
It’s also carefully aimed at children but with grown-ups in mind.
“We wrote it for a children’s audience but very much with the idea that parents would watch it too,” he continues.
“There are also nods to the original but we’ve always put in things for the younger audience.”
Ward has written for Spitting Image, Saturday Live, Smack the Pony, and is best known for Horrible Histories.
“I was speaking to the BBC about a pilot that was tonally very similar to what they were looking for with Danger Mouse. So when it came up I was lucky enough to already be speaking to the BBC,” he recalls.
“People had been talking about it off and on since it stopped happening. The boring answer is that as money gets tighter, and budgets go down people are looking for things they can be sure will work. So reboots with actors people know happen more often.
“But everybody in my generation were huge fans of it. So the 45 year olds are all now the commissioners. If you look at shows being brought back there’s always a 30 year lag and people remember the shows they had as kids.”
Each episode runs for 11 minutes at “breakneck speed”, and there are 2 longer specials. The original ran anywhere from 5 – 22 minutes, depending on the season.
Such is the reputation of Danger Mouse that it attracted profile guests for the reboot including John Oliver, Miranda Richardson, Richard Ayoade and Lena Headey. This season even introduces an Australian character, an antelope called The Australian Tour Guide, played by Morwenna Banks. For the record the topsy-turvy universe of Danger Mouse includes a koala from Cornwall, a camel from America a hippo from Peckham.
With not even half the 52 episodes having aired in the UK, Ward is optimistic of a renewal by the BBC.
“The response has been extraordinary so I’d be surprised if that conversation didn’t go well. Fingers crossed.”
Danger Mouse airs 4:45pm weekdays from Monday February 29 on ABC3.