Tings is good for Rastamouse, the TV cult hero

He’s the skate-boarding, Rastafarian felt mouse who solves crimes with a chilled-out mantra of “makin’ a bad ting good”. Yet it's parents and students who are helping to turn Rastamouse into the biggest childrens’ television cult hit since Teletubbies.

Based on the popular childrens’ books, Rastamouse was launched on the BBC CBeebies channel as an animated series with particular appeal to young Afro-Caribbean children.

Voiced by the Radio 1 presenter Reggie Yates, Rastamouse speaks in patois-inflected English and wears a traditional Rastafarian “crown” hat.

Together with his blinged-up reggae band, Da Easy Crew, the laid-back rodent is called upon to solve mysteries by the president of Mouseland, Wensley Dale, who regularly warns that “tings is ruff”.

An instant hit with its tea-time pre-school target audience, Rastamouse has now signed a record deal with EMI and the series has already been snapped up by international broadcasters.

However, Rastamouse has also attracted a surprising number of adult viewers, becoming the most-watched CBeebies programme on the BBC’s iPlayer website.

Celebrity fans include Adrian Chiles, Radio 1 DJ Rob Da Bank and the actress Tamzin Outhwaite who compared Rastamouse to the classic 1970s children’s show, Fingerbobs.

Students have detected a subversive undertone. Like The Magic Roundabout before it, Rastamouse contains coded references to drugs, it is alleged, with the constant references to “cheese” substituting for marijuana.

Rastamouse does not endorse drugs, said his creators, Genevieve Webster and Michael De Souza, who co-wrote the original books, which were published in 2003. “I can see why people might say that but there is no innuendo intended,” Ms Webster said. “There was no intention of including any language that might go over a child’s head.”

Like the Hindi-titled CBeebies series Tikkabilla, Rastamouse is intended to reflect the diversity of modern Britain. But its appeal has stretched far beyond an Afro-Caribbean audience. Some parents are baffled after discovering their children singing the joys of “irie” and insisting “me tink me know who de t’ieving mouse may be”.

One viewer complained: “Why don’t we teach children to speak English correctly before confusing them with a bastardised version of it? I feel sorry for the English teachers who have to pick up this mess.”

Rastamouse’s patois simply reflects the experience of children today, said Mr De Souza, a Rastafarian swimming instructor who began telling the stories to encourage his pupils to swim. “Children aren’t speaking the Queen’s English in the street. I talk to kids in schools and they talk in many different dialects. Rastamouse speaks in a way they can relate to.”

Ms Webster added: “The English language is beautiful but so are other dialects. We live in a lovely multicultural society and we wanted to celebrate the Caribbean dialect too. The main point is to get across Rastamouse’s positive message.”

Britain’s Afro-Caribbean community, which numbers around 600,000, has embraced the series. The BBC 1Xtra digital radio station plays clips from the show in response to listener requests and an unofficial Rastamouse theme tune remix has appeared on YouTube.

The 1Xtra DJ Young Lion, a regular Rastamouse viewer, said: “I wish there had been a programme like this when I was at school. Rastafarians were treated like outcasts. This is a childrens’ show that’s saying something different and people love the language.” The broadcasters denied that it could have a detrimental effect on children. “There’s no way that one single 10-minute show out of all the rest can make children speak a totally different language.”

Ms Webster and Mr De Souza created Rastamouse as an alternative to the staid books published for Afro-Caribbean children. Ms Webster said: “Whenever I picked up a book intended for a black audience it would be full of realistic, watercolour illustrations. There were no imaginative adventures.”

The authors wanted the CBeebies series to echo the “hand-crafted” animated series, created by Oliver Postgate, that they grew up with. Ms Webster said: “We both loved The Clangers and Bagpuss when we were young. They had a fantastic human touch.” The message of each episode is that “through understanding, love and respect, Rastamouse guarantees that redemption, not retribution, is the order of the day”.

Hit children’s shows can become huge earners – Teletubbies returned £120m to the BBC and its creator Anne Wood – and Rastamouse is now set to become an international star. The Rastamouse Company has licensed the 52-episode series to broadcasters in Poland, Australia, Canada and Israel and a range of merchandise, including plush toys and DVDs, will be unleashed.

Rastamouse has signed a record deal with EMI, which will release an album of reggae tracks featuring Mr Yates’s voice.

Reggie Yates said that he wanted the series to represent “a small step towards making the entire UK much more multicultural”.

In an interview with The Voice newspaper, he said: “There are a million and one children’s television programmes where all of the characters are either racially ambiguous or they’re very European and nobody bats an eyelid about those types of shows.

“But the minute you do something different, naturally, it earns attention. That’s not a bad thing, but it would be nice to get to a point where people just say: ‘Oh great, there’s another show that represents a different part of our community.’”

Family favourites

Justin Fletcher

The presenter, also known as Mr Tumbles, became a cult star with the Something Special CBeebies series for special needs children. The educational show using Makaton sign language became surprise mainstream hit earning Fletcher a Children's Bafta in 2008. He was appointed an MBE in the same year.

Cerrie Burnell

The CBeebies presenter, who was born with one hand, prompted complaints from parents who complained that she was scaring toddlers. Burnell said: "People are frightened by disability so they don't want to see it; yet, if they saw more of it on television they wouldn't be so frightened." She stopped wearing her prosthetic arm at primary school.

Tikkabilla

Named after the Hindi-word for hopscotch, Tikkabilla's song-and-dance approach revived Play School's formula for a modern multicultural audience. It won praise for reintroducing Play School's square, round and arched windows and features a small dragon puppet named Tamba.

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker