The animated TV series Bottersnikes and Gumbles is based on a series of children’s books featuring the homonymous characters. The short episodes follow the adventures between the lazy and grimy Bottersnikes and the chirpy and squashy Gumbles. To be fair, Bottersnikes are rarely the initiators of any adventures. They serve as a challenge, as an obstacle to overcome or simply as a source of comic relief for the Gumbles, who waltz their way round the Bottersnikes’ doorstep.
The Gumbles always manage to escape and their adventures can indeed have a moral; for example, the importance of being honest about one’s achievements or lack of them, the value of collaboration and team effort and making the best of one’s circumstances. The Gumbles are always there for one another, protecting and covering for each other’s mischief. They are fun to watch, as they stretch and bounce, hop and roll out and about, often manifesting an unexpected wit. However, they can also be reckless at times, acting on impulse and without considering the consequences of their actions. They do make it in the end, relying on teamwork or merely on physics, but this is where the moral lesson gets blurred. Is everything excused as far as the good guys are concerned?
As for the Bottersnikes, they are filthy and the non-existence of any hygiene makes them even more disgusting. They are eager to squeeze and squash the Gumbles. They even use them as a kind of nose-hair protector (!), a disturbing image which becomes even weirder when the Gumble is thrust out of the Bottersnike’s nose, along with some hairs. In other words, Bottersnikes are easy to despise, because most of the time they behave in a silly, egotistical, inconsiderate way. The relationship with one another bears no resemblance to the unconditional comradeship shared amongst the Gumbles. It is only natural that Bottersnikes are constantly outsmarted and it is easy to root for the Gumbles.
However, the distinction between the two sides is quite simplistic. Yes, the Gumbles do not always behave in an all-around ‘good’ way, since they disobey the elderly’s advice and constantly find themselves in Bottersnikes’ way. But the Bottersnikes are not your typical villain either; nothing they do bears the signs of the sly, cunning and sophisticated behaviour usually associated with ‘bad vs. good’. When ‘bad’ is so bad, there is no dilemma whose side to pick. Yet this decision is seldom so simple in real life. Bottersnikes and Gumbles is an entertaining children’s programme, but if you are looking for a moral at the end of the story, then perhaps you should readjust your expectations.
Bottersnikes and Gumbles airs on weekdays at 18.00 on CBBC.