Duggee and the Squirrel Club in a scene from the TV series Hey Duggee.
Duggee and the Squirrel Club in a scene from the TV series Hey Duggee. Studio AKA

New show Hey Duggee aims to get kids involved in the action

THE bright new preschool series to hit pay-TV aims to get kids off the couch.

Hey Duggee, CBeebie's new British import, follows the adventures of the young members of the Squirrel Club and their leader Duggee.

The big, lovable dog helps the club members, who take the shape of animals like an octopus, hippo and crocodile, earn badges for new skills, including baking and drawing.

The 52-part series is from the BAFTA Award-winning and Oscar-nominated animation company Studio AKA.

"It's a show about doing things," creator Grant Orchard told APN.

"The process of watching a TV show is quite passive and I want kids watching it to be standing up and jumping around.

"We never wanted to make learning at the forefront of the show, but we did want to engage the kids as much as possible and make them enthusiastic about doing things."

Orchard said his team aimed to entertain young children and their parents in each episode, which sees children aged three to nine charmingly voice the Squirrel Club.

Comedian Alexander Armstrong (one half of the comedy duo Armstrong and Miller) narrates as the teacher's assistant in the playful series.

"It's like the Holy Grail (appealing to kids and adults) ... a lot of feature films that do it tend to be wacky but with preschool you've got to tone it down a bit," he said.

"If it doesn't make us smile at this end in the studio then we tend not to have it in."

Expanding off-screen, the show has companion activity sheets for parents to download for their children via mobile phones, tablets and computers.

"Ultimately I'd like to do the Squirrel Club handbook, with 52 activities kids can do and parents can use as a resource," Orchard said.

"Just simple things like wall charts and stickers are nice little incentives. I use them as well with my boys and they seem to like them. Even I like them. I'm quite geeky and the thought of having 52 badges is quite appealing to me."

Hey Duggee is a career highlight for Orchard, whose credits as an animator include a Sundance Film Festival Award-winning short film and an Oscar nomination.

"It's the most fun I've ever had in the 20 years I've been animating," he said.

"It's good fun. The content is fun and it's a good, healthy collaboration, which isn't always the case."

Hey Duggee airs daily at 3.40pm Qld, 4.40pm NSW on CBeebies.