THE ROBYN MOORE-ERA DOT MOVIES – A REVIEW BY MICHAEL C. BUNGAY

I am sorry, I just could not find it in my heart to do a full rundown of the eight sequels to Dot and the Kangaroo (1977) in one go. Once the series becomes practically a two-person show from the 4th installment onwards, the gradual decline from the heyday of the first three installments is all too obvious to see.

Dot and the Koala (1984 or 1985)

From this installment onwards, Robyn Moore takes over as the voice of Dot who does not appear straight away as for the first and only time, all the other human characters are portrayed as animals. Also from this installment onwards, the characters become increasingly cartoonish and less appealing, there is no more consistency or continuity and Moore is accompanied only by Keith Scott. The film focuses on the Animals of the Australian Bush led by Bruce the Koala trying unsuccessfully to protest against the construction of a dam in the area. When further attempts to sabotage the construction also fail, the animals turn to Dot very much as a last resort to help them do just that. Of course, Mayor Percy of Dot’s local town soon gets wind of Dot’s plan and sends the local detectives Sherlock Bones and Doctor Watson to investigate and soon the operation to destroy the dam becomes a rescue mission as well. If Dot is good for anything in this film, it is reminding her people of the risks of De-forestation and Pollution for the sake of Economic and Industrial progress.

Dot and Keeto (1985 or 1986)

Now this is where the Dot series really ventures into the realms of fantasy but that is not the problem as being a keen fiction writer myself, I know perfectly well that is the whole point of Fiction. Oh no, the main problem is if the animation standards of the 4th film did not ruin the characters’ looks and appeal then that is definitely the case in this 5th installment. This is also the last film to show even a hint of remaining true to the earlier films. Ashley Ayre returns for the final time as the live-action Dot reprimanding her brother Simon (Leaf Nowland) for torturing creepy-crawlies. Talk about inconsistency, Dot’s brother was called Ben and played by Ben Alcott in the 2nd film if I remember right. Dot tries to find the green root (Food of Understanding) as recommended by the mother kangaroo as a means of talking to animals only to consume the red version and turn first into a giant then a bug-sized midget. Dot may love all creatures great and small but the journey to find the green root and return to her normal size is fraught with danger. Dot encounters various creatures such as snails, cockroaches, ants, wasps, grasshoppers and praying mantis after accidentally getting thrown out of her home by her mother (Lucy Charles). Dot thankfully befriends Keeto the mosquito, Butterwalk the caterpillar, a ladybird and herds of slugs and cicadas as a possum and the mother kangaroo search for her in a gripping but highly humourous adventure that reminds the audience It’s the Little Things That Matter.

Dot and the Whale (1986)

There comes a time when a long-running series starts to run low on steam or in this case, ideas. Yes, I am sorry to say that for all those wondering why the whale in the 2nd film only takes Dot and friends some of the way to Japan, this 6th installment is the long-winded but hard-hitting answer. Dot no longer appears to have a family or a home from this film onwards as she first appears reading Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and conversing with Nelson the Dolphin at an Aquarium in Sydney. For the first and only time, the wilds of Australia and the animals within it are nowhere to be seen so no ‘Red Kangaroo’ theme either, Yoram Gross how could you? Anyway, Dot’s request for Nelson to teach her how to survive in water and extreme temperatures and understand his language proves handy as they hear the cry of a beached whale named Tonga. Dot learns that Tonga’s family have been wiped out by the effects of whaling and relays Tonga’s needs to the other children on the beach. Dot and Nelson embark on a perilous journey across the ocean from Australia to Antarctica in search of the legendary Moby Dick in the hope that he will be able to help them and Tonga. Of course, this means having to portray just how much we humans have been polluting the ocean by dumping waste in it to a point that Dot admits to feeling ashamed of being a human and so will we as the audience if we watch carefully. This also leads to encounters with sharks, seahorses, a sea-turtle and a crab in an old shipwreck as well as having to help a flock of penguins protect their eggs from seagulls. Yet despite all of these perils, the most dangerous thing Dot and Nelson encounter is coral, requring the intervention of an octopus to save our heroine’s life. Also, who is to say that Dot’s human friends back on the land will not have a hard enough time trying to protect Tonga from poachers while waiting for Dot to come back? If any of the Robyn Moore-era Dot movies are up to the standards of the first three installments then this is definitely the one as it points out how sometimes it takes a little voice like Dot’s to make a big thing happen.

Dot and the Smugglers (1987)

There is no such thing as good luck in the 7th installment of the Dot series. I will openly admit this is my personal least favourite and why is that? Because anyone who knows the Dot series off by heart by this time will be bitterly disappointed with what they see in this film. The standards of the animation are at an all-time low and so is the amount of fresh thought put into the plot. What you have here is a wholly unwelcome collection of recycled ideas from the earlier movies that leaves the audience feeling as if the Dot series really has run out of steam. The shortest Dot film of all mainly features Dot attending a circus only to discover how cruelly the animals in there are treated (One problem, she already did that in the 2nd film). The people running the circus are a pair of evil smugglers who are searching for the Legendary Bunyip in the hope of using the creature for their own personal gain (I believe the fish-mongers in the 6th film had the same intentions for Tonga). Dot’s home town returns from the 4th film along with the idea of her and the animals joining forces with each other to foil a common enemy. You also have two young boys who seem to be unsure whether to side with Dot or with the Smugglers (Their counterparts in the 6th film were swayed just by having Dot throw sand at them). When the Bunyip finally appears, what you get is an overly censored, overly child friendly disappointment that makes a mockery of the Bunyip Moon scene from the original. What really lets the movie down is the use of recycled footage of the Red Kangaroo sequence also from the original. Just how much effort (or lack thereof) did Yoram Gross and co. put into this film? Using recycled footage from the 1st film in the 2nd and 3rd films was understandable but footage from a 1977 film just looks out-of-place in a 1987 film. What is more, an updated Red Kangaroo sequence already features in the 5th film! One last thing, how many times does the film have to point out that Dot loves animals? As if 6 previous installments were not already enough to get that point across, even the other characters have tagged on to this by now and the least said about the singing, the better!

Dot Goes to Hollywood (1987 or 1988)

If the main problem with the 4th-7th Dot films was the animation, then that problem is rectified in this 8th installment as the series turns 1960’s/70’s/early 80’s Anime style, reminiscent of Barefoot Gen (1983). This certainly does Dot’s design some good as she regains some of the appeal that has gradually gone to pot since the 4th film but still not quite back up to Barbara Frawley-era standards. I am not doubting Robyn Moore’s skills as an actress, I just think she did a better job of playing Funny-Bunny in the 3rd film than she did of playing Dot. Anyway this film relies on the recycled idea of Dot pouring her heart out to help a needy animal, in this case, an increasingly ill koala bear named Gumley. Straight away, you know this will not be quite as heart-rendering as the 6th film but will be so nonetheless. It certainly looks like that at first as Dot and Gumley are reduced to dancing and begging on the streets of Sydney just to raise the funds for the operation Gumley needs. They’re hardly Happy Indisputably as they have no luck and to see Dot trying to nurse Gumley’s eyes as she much as she can, need I say more? The return of Dozey-Face and Grumble-Bones from the 2nd film sees the latter sarcastically suggesting that Dot does exactly what the film title implies if she wishes to help Gumley. Naturally, that is what Dot and Gumley do with Dozey-Face in tow, cleverly disguising themselves as the Qantas logo on an aircraft flying to America with the last-ever vocal rendition of Red Kangaroo to accompany this scene. Once Dot gets to America though, the film becomes clichéd very quickly and mainly filled with indirect repetitions of certain scenes from the 2nd film. Gumley’s feelings of loneliness whilst being kept in a zoo, waiting for his operation and for Dot have overtones of how Dot and Joey felt lonely whilst in London and the Russian Circus from the moment he bursts into song. Dot meanwhile has to deal with demanding and difficult Hollywood Studio personnel who have never heard of a Koala or Australia (She certainly did not have to resort to face-pulling when dealing with Walter the Mouse during her last trip to America). Dot at least gets to meet some legendary characters such as ‘Laurel and Hardy’ and learn from a former-MGM lion, an elephant and even a cabbie about how quickly one can become forgotten as a Hollywood Film Star. However, Dot remains as undeterred as ever in her quest to reach Hollywood Stardom and raise the funds for Gumley’s operation whatever happens. On the whole, the best this 8th installment can do is keep the audience interested long enough to see it through and no more, it basically succeeds where the 7th film failed and that is that.

Dot in Space (1994 or 1995)

Dot in Space? Yes that is right, Dot in Space! You cannot get any further into the realms of fantasy than that now can you? If the plot is anything to go by then Yoram Gross and co. must have had controversy on their minds when they made this film. After a few years away, pathing the way for the equally memorable Blinky Bill movie and series, the now almost completely animated final installment of the Dot series features our heroine and her animal friends watching a Russian dog named Whyka being launched into Space. Wait a minute, there is no electricity in the Bush so how could Dot, Dozey-Face and Grumble-Bones be watching a portable television set in a place like that? Oh well anything is possible in the world of Fiction! Needless to say just like what happened in real life in 1957, the launch goes well but the poor dog ends up trapped in orbit and despite her animal friends’ concerns, Dot is determined to rescue Whyka. So via recycled footage of Dot and friends travelling to America from the previous film, we switch to Dot and Dozey-Face trying with great difficulty to break into the launch-site and then Dot trying to entice a monkey named Buster to surrender his space-suit to her. Dot somehow seems to have lost her ability to talk to animals all of a sudden. Well, Buster forgoes a trip to the moon just to help Dot and she is henceforth launched into space and manages to find Whyka’s vessel and rescue her just before it self-destructs. This sends Dot’s vessel off course and she promptly crash-lands on the wrong planet. Now if that was not bad enough, Dot discovers to her horror that she has landed in an inter-galactic Nazi-Germany as she is captured, interrogated and imprisoned for not being perfectly round in shape as demanded by the planet’s evil dictator Papa Drop. At this point, the film sort of becomes a semi-autobiographical account on director Yoram Gross’ youth, especially when Dot goes on the run after another prisoner named Poley helps her to trick the so-called ‘Roundies’ into letting her escape. Unable to rescue their rocket and nowhere else to turn, Dot and Whyka simply have no choice but to find help in the form of the mysterious ‘The Party’ whom Papa Drop believes is planning to overthrow him. This final installment may sound ridiculous and pointless but the perils and prejudices that Dot has to put up with over the course of the film are far worse than anything she faced in the 5th installment. The film also has otherwise-farfetched fresh thought put into it whereas the 7th had little if any so therefore, it is not best of the Robyn Moore-era Dot movies but it is certainly by no means the worst and it is as simple as that.

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