Octonauts is an animated CGI children's television programme produced by Brownbag Films. It is based on a series of books by the writing team Meomi. It centres around a team of undersea adventurers whose stated mission aim is to 'Explore, rescue, protect'. During the course of each 11-minute episode, they seek to aid and assist any and all kinds of marine life that they come across whilst searching for places that no one has ever been to before, and documenting any new creature that they find. They live inside a large ship called the Octopod, and have smaller submersibles called Gups that they use to travel short distances in. They are also, for the most part, a collection of talking, anthropomorphised animals.
There are, unsurprisingly, eight Octonauts though, in a style reminiscent of Star Trek, there is a core team of three which most of the stories revolve around. The remaining team members are mostly in supporting roles with occasional moments in the spotlight. All the Octonauts are approximately the same size, which given their various genera is somewhat unusual.
Barnacles the polar bear is the leader of the Octonauts, and the only team member to wear a full uniform. We know he grew up in the Arctic and always seemed destined for great things. When a problem or an opportunity for adventure presents itself during an episode, Barnacles will call on somebody to 'Sound the Octoalert!'. The troops will then rally so that Barnacles can explain the situation and give them their orders. At some point events will come to a head, and further instructions will be needed, which will be followed with a word of encouragement – specifically 'Octonauts, let's do this!' He is brave and strong, and often at the heart of any mission.
Kwazii Cat is a former pirate, and still wears an eye patch over his right eye, though he has been seen to lift the patch revealing a fully functioning eye underneath. He often refers to his grandfather, the pirate cat Calico Jack1. He is probably the most reckless and foolhardy of the group, though this can also be seen as being brave and fearless. However he is not entirely without fear – he is known to be scared of spiders, which are thankfully in short supply on the ocean floor. He has a large knowledge of pirate-based tall tales that often provide an interesting, though completely erroneous, answer to whatever is the mystery at hand at the time. His most regular phrase is 'Hello matey'.
Peso the penguin is the ship's medic, and always carries his first aid case when out on a mission. If a bandage is needed to bind up an injury, then his flippers will move in a blur, applying the bandage in an instant. He has a large family – evident from the panoramic photo on his bedroom wall – though only two of them have been aboard the Octopod: his mother, and his younger brother Pinto. When Peso sees a creature in pain, he will introduce himself saying 'I can help, I'm a medic', and when surprised or shocked he will exclaim 'Flappity flippers!'
The sea otter Dr Shellington is the scientist of the team, and his field of study tends towards biology. He enjoys finding new species and recording them in his book. As such he is often the primary driver behind the exploration part of the team's mandate. However his piloting skills are not great, which means that he becomes the subject of the other parts of the mandate – rescue and protect – on occasion.
Dashi is a dog, well, a Dachshund to be precise. She is the photographer, recorder, archivist, and general computer operator of the team. She rarely joins in the actual adventuring, but usually monitors events from the control room of the Octopod, and therefore often passes on mission-critical information, which she can see on her screen, to the rest of the team. She wears a pink skirt and a hair slide. Interestingly, in the original books, this character was called Sauci – presumably the producers decided this name would be too, well, saucy for the TV programme.
Tweek the rabbit is the Octopod's engineer and the other girl in the team. She wears a utility belt and a pink hair band. She often makes upgrades to the Octonaut's ships, which usually turn out to be providential for the mission at hand. When given a specific task, she often says that she will get it done 'Quicker than you can say a bunch of munchy, crunchy carrots'. Captain Barnacles has been heard to attempt to say the phrase, but with only limited success.
The founder of the Octonauts is, unsurprisingly, an Octopus. He wears a bow-tie, and is most often found in the library. He has a lot of knowledge about various sea creatures, and if he doesn't already know the information the Octonauts need he can probably find it in one of his books. He has the manner of an Oxbridge don, and rarely goes out on missions himself, preferring to support the others from the Octopod.
Ah. Now this one is entirely made up. Tunip is a half-animal, half-vegetable hybrid called a vegimal, and is the ship's cook. There are other vegimals as well, and they all work in the galley. They have a strange, chirping language that only Shellington can understand. Their seaweed-based, fish-shaped biscuits are highly favoured by the crew.
The creatures that the Octonauts find on their travels – from blue whales to seahorses, with lots of others in-between – all talk too. In various different accents. For example, the seahorses have a Californian-hippy-style accent, a vampire squid sounded predictably Transylvanian, and a decorator crab was clearly Woody Allen.
The Octonauts have lots of different items of bespoke equipment which bear the prefix 'octo'. There's the Octopod – their base of operations and place of residence, which vaguely resembles an octopus; the Octohatch – the main portal of ingress to and egress from the Octopod; the Octoscope – the periscope of the Octopod; the Octocompass – a small circular device carried by Captain Barnacles which has many useful functions, including being a means of communication back to the Octopod; and lastly the Octocam – a remote camera that can be placed at interesting sites, and will send pictures back to the Octopod.
There are also a number of small craft referred to collectively as the Gups. Gup-A is the main vehicle, which Captain Barnacles generally pilots. Its shape resembles an angler fish. It'll be the great big light just above the windscreen that really makes this obvious.
Gup-B is Kwazii's preferred vessel. It's fast, manoeuvrable, and sleek. Not much room for passengers though. It's orange, and looks a bit like a tiger shark.
Gup-C is the tug of the fleet. It has a large crane on the stern and can be used to pull other ships, or to move inconvenient objects. It is design to resemble a blue whale. The design is not entirely successful. Well, it's blue, at least.
When the Gup-D is used, there's normally Tweek inside it. It's very much an engineer's vessel. Gup-D has telescopic limbs that can be used as legs or arms depending on the needs of the situation. When the limbs are retracted, it looks like a manta ray; when extended, it looks more like a crab.
The Gup-E is a dual-purpose vehicle. It can be another general use vehicle to assist the Gup-A. It can also be quickly converted into an undersea ambulance, and as such would be Peso's machine. It resembles a guppy – the name of this vessel is a clear reference to this, and so it may also be the first Gup that was originally conceived.
As there are so many programmes out there, why would a responsible parent want their child to watch this show, with its strange talking animals and bizarre, unrealistic technology?
Well, it has action, it has adventure, it has a reasonable sense of humour, and it has an overall positive message – the raison d'etre of the Octonauts is to help others, after all. But the biggest plus point is that every marine creature that the Octonauts meet is real. Well, a talking CGI version of a real creature at least. During the course of their adventures so far, they have found an oarfish, Christmas tree worms, a vampire squid, cookiecutter sharks, a combtooth blenny, some blobfish, a spookfish, and a school of humuhumunukunukuapua'a, to name but a few.
The situations the Octonauts find themselves in are based around the facts of marine life. Sometimes these are facts specific to the main creature of the episode. For example, a baby dolphin once followed the Gup-B back to the Octopod because Kwazii drove it between the baby and their mother, interrupting the slipstream the baby would normally be carried in, and diverting it into the Gup-B's slipstream instead. The team then set about finding the mother by making a recording of the baby's signature whistle and replaying it to all the dolphins they could find. In this case, both the cause of the problem and the solution are based on fact. Mother dolphins do generate a slipstream to help their offspring keep pace with the pod. Dolphins develop personal signature whistles while they are young, and other dolphins can recognise them.
At other times, it's a more general marine fact that is the main feature. In one episode, the Octopod is near an underwater volcano that is about to blow, and so Octonauts all work to clear the immediate area of any creatures that could get caught in the eruption. Of particular concern were three blobfish (technically called Psychrolutes marcidus) who lived right on the mouth of the volcano. As blobfish are mostly blobs of jelly with no real muscles to speak of, the idea of moving simply hadn't occurred to them – blobfish never move. Actually the three blobfish haven't spoken to each other in years because they are 10 feet away from each other, and that's just too far. One final fact about blobfish is the content of their diet: blobfish will eat anything, or rather, anything that floats close enough and which they can swallow whole – anything else is too much effort.
Therefore your child will enjoy it – it is great fun, promise – and learn all about marine life at the same time. Actually, if you watch it with them, you might learn more about marine life than you knew previously as well.
In addition to the main episodes, there are a number of Creature Report mini-episodes. Each of these minute-long episodes contains a song detailing the salient facts about a particular part of marine life. The song is essentially the same every time, though the creature and therefore the facts are different in each episode.
The Octonauts series has proved to be incredibly popular, and a range of books has been produced based on the episodes. Ironically, the TV series was originally based on a series of four books, and these are now outnumbered by the books based on the TV series.
In the run up to Christmas 2011, a range of Octonauts merchandise started to appear in the shops. There's a number of action figure toy sets, such as Kwazii in Gup-B, Barnacles in the Octopod, and Peso with his first-aid kit amongst others, also plush toys of Barnacles, Kwazii and Peso. A few duvet cover sets were produced too, so that your little octofan can snuggle up safe in the knowledge that the Octonauts will help them explore their dreams, rescue them if necessary, and protect them all through the night.
Find out about the original series of books that started it all.
Explore the Octonauts' world in the TV series website.
There's more for your octofan on the CBeebies page.