It is Charlie’s first day at school, but he doesn’t want to go. He worries that he won’t be like the other children. On the way there with his dad, he dreams of taking helium balloons from the florist’s and floating away to Cloudland where he can just dance freely and be himself. As they part at the school gates, his dad says, “It’ll be fine,” a little nervously.
Miss Muffin introduces Charlie to the class. He is very shy and quiet. Miss Muffin asks Anna Lou to help Charlie settle in. Anna Lou is determined to help. The first lesson is baking. Anna Lou invites Charlie to work with her and Ella. Anna Lou and Ella love baking, but Charlie doesn’t. Lots of funny things go wrong – the Narrator commentates like it’s Masterchef. But because it doesn’t go well, Charlie feels he’s not like the other children.
At break time, Anna Lou invites Charlie to play football with her and Eddie. Anna Lou and Eddie love playing football, but Charlie doesn’t. Lots of funny things go wrong – the Narrator commentates like it’s Match of the Day. But Charlie again feels he’s not like the other children as he doesn’t like football.
At lunchtime, Anna Lou asks Charlie if he wants to come and sit with Ella and some of the other girls. Eddie asks if Charlie wants to come and sit with him and the others who played football. But Charlie wants to sit on his own. Anna Lou feels disappointed that she hasn’t helped Charlie to settle in. But she is determined not to give up. She suggests that Charlie meet Margo.
Charlie goes to see Margo, who senses that something is wrong. Charlie has difficulty articulating, but Margo manages to get him to firstly recognise that he has a problem, then to put it into words. He says he doesn’t like school. “There’s no one like me here”.
But Margo thinks this is a good thing. “There’s no one here like me either. Do you see any other rainbow llamas?” “Er, I guess not.” “Exactly. I’m the only one. And I’m fabulous!”
Charlie asks what he can do to be like other people and like doing the things they like. But Margo says he doesn’t have to be like other people. He can just be Charlie – he’s good at that already. In fact, he’s the best.
The last lesson is dance. Anna Lou asks Charlie if he wants to join in with her and Ayesha, expecting him to say ‘no’. But Charlie says, ‘Yes’. He isn’t able to follow their moves though, and it seems like everything’s going to go wrong again. The Narrator commentates like it’s Strictly. But Charlie does his own thing, not worrying about anyone else and performs an amazing, expressive routine, like his one in Cloudland. Anna Lou and all the other children now want to be like Charlie! Margo declares it to be “Fabulous!” and Miss Muffin congratulates Charlie for settling in so well.
Charlie’s dad picks Charlie up and nervously asks how his day went. Charlie smiles and says, “It was fine”. He wasn’t like the other children, but that was a good thing. Charlie’s dad gives him a surprise present – a helium balloon. He’d seen Charlie looking at them that morning. It is shaped like a bow – just like his new friend Anna Lou’s.
More Stories from Anna Lou and Friends
On her way to school, a dog barks and jumps at Hannah. Hannah imagines herself in a scary film, being chased by dogs. The Narrator does a film trailer voiceover: “Be afraid. Be very afraid...” At school, Anna Lou reminds Hannah about their play-date that afternoon, but Hannah is reluctant to go now. She keeps hearing the voiceover: “Be afraid”, and makes excuses that she doesn’t want to go. Anna Lou, not knowing what is going on, worries that Hannah isn’t her friend any more. Hannah goes to see Margo and confesses that she’s scared of dogs and doesn’t want to go to Anna Lou’s in case she has a dog. Margo asks if Hannah even knows that for sure. Hannah realises that she’s worrying about something that might not even be real, so she asks Anna Lou if she has a dog. But Anna Lou says she does: Buzz. “Be afraid!” warns the Narrator. But Margo suggests Hannah tries to think of a practical solution to overcome the problem, otherwise she’ll miss out on something nice. Hannah says she’d love to go to Anna Lou’s, but could Buzz be kept in a different room while she’s there? Hannah agrees and they have a lovely play-date. Until Buzz escapes and joins them! Anna Lou is mortified. “Be afraid!” says the Narrator. “Be very… oh, he’s such a cutey!” Confronted by her fear, Hannah sees the Buzz is nothing to be scared of and they all play together.
TRAIN OF THOUGHT
Eddie isn’t interested in Ella’s yoga session. He’s too busy practising his football skills for the big match that afternoon. He’s training hard, but it seems like the more he practises, the worse he gets. The Narrator does a football commentary, highlighting everything that goes wrong for Eddie. Eddie imagines himself messing up at the big match, and this makes him even more anxious, which makes him play even worse! But how can he be playing so badly when he trains so much? Margo suggests that there is more than one kind of training and exercise. He is training physically, but you can train mentally too – to relax and become mentally stronger. Is there something he could try to do that? Eddie asks Ella if he can join her yoga session after all, and is soon relaxing. The Narrator does a football-style commentary as he slowly changes from a tree pose to downward-facing dog: “And let’s look at that again in slow motion!” Suitably calmed, Eddie plays brilliantly in the match and scores the winning goal.
When things go wrong for Zac he imagines himself as a huge monster, smashing up the school. His tantrums cause problems with his friends until Margo suggests some techniques for him to try to cope with angry feelings.
Ella is devastated by the death of her hamster, Snuffles. Margo helps her to talk about Snuffles with her friends, remember the happy times she had with him, and to find a suitable way to commemorate him.
Jasmine is having a bad day. Every single thing has gone wrong from spilling her lunch to breaking her favourite hair slide. She can’t imagine anyone anywhere having a worse day – this must be a world record. But a chat with Margo makes her try to think of three things that she is grateful for.
Lucy finds herself worrying about so many things. She’s even worried by the amount of things she’s worrying about! Margo suggests making a worry box to write down and put her worries into, to look at at a set time later that day. Margo also knows some distraction techniques for Lucy to use until then. When it’s time to look at the worries, Lucy realises that most of them never came to pass.
IF AT FIRST...
Ayesha is struggling to play a piece of music on the fife – she thinks she’ll never manage it and should give up. Margo helps her to see how much she’s already accomplished by perseverance, and how much more she can achieve if she sticks at it.
Teddy accidentally breaks Anna Lou’s toy car, but lets Zac get blamed for it. The guilt weighs on Teddy, getting harder and harder to live with until Margo helps him realise that there is only one way he is going to feel better.
Hannah is used to going along with what everyone else wants to do, even if it doesn’t make her happy. Margo helps her to speak up for herself. And when she takes it too far and is too domineering over her friends, Margo also helps her rein it in a bit.
Anna Lou is having trouble sleeping at night. She tries everything: a story, warm milk, soft music… Margo introduces her to the idea of counting llamas and soon she is fast asleep. And so is Margo!
Anna Lou is worried about going to the dentist. Even the Narrator doesn’t like going to the dentist, and they’re 46! But a trip to the vet with Margo shows that there is nothing to worry about – dentists are people who help keep us healthy. The Narrator agrees!
Watch the Movie
Anna Lou’s Christmas story has been selected by a major UK theatre production company to become a puppet theatre show in the UK in Christmas 2021. The show will be a total of 58 theatres across the country.
We hope for it soon to be bought into living rooms and share episodes on You Tube as well so that more children can watch the show. We would like the children watching the show to feel that they are watching situations that they experience at home and at school with family and friends.
We are very keen to include characters who represent children who don't normally see themselves on TV. Diversity is something we really care about. Sonoko “As a Japanese, I sometimes feel there isn't enough representation from the Asian community. In Anna Lou & Friends, there is an Asian character Hannah who loves making Sushi for her friends for example. Also as a teacher, I see many children arriving from different countries, for example from Syria. Ayesha is from Syria, and she is learning ballet for the first time and she loves it. Charlie is gender neutral. Zac lives with his grandma. We live in this beautiful diverse community and Anna Lou & Friends is inclusive.”
Anna Lou and Friends animation series focuses on children’s mental well-being, diversity and friendship. We have already secured the ‘Anna Lou’s Christmas’ puppet theatre show UK tour in Christmas 2021, a total of 58 shows across the UK. Our animation is for 4-7 years old and 26 x 7 minutes episodes.
Executive Producers are Anna Scaife and Sonoko Obuchi and this is our first TV animation creation. We want to empower young school pupils and create happier, healthier and more productive lives so that they can boost performance, mental health and wellbeing in their communities.
Anna Lou & Friends episodes are about ordinary children living on an estate in Acornfields (imaginary Enfield). Aimed at children who are developing their sense of self-identity and would love to see a range of diverse and friendly characters around them. Anna Lou and her friends always play in a playground at the bottom of the estate.
A lot of the focus of each episode will be on the family as well as friends and school situations and how they affect things in their lives. Themes we will tackle in episodes will relate to: Focus and awareness, Relationship with yourself, Relationships with others, Communication, Resilience, Accomplishment, Endings. We would like the children watching it to feel that they are watching situations that they experience at home and at school with family and friends. All episodes are age-appropriate, gender-neutral and aim to have universal appeal. We may also aim to include characters who represent children who don't normally see themselves on TV. Eg: Charlie, who is gender fluid. We are really focusing on what the children are going to get out of each episode. They will be warm, supportive and relatable and the story shows some situation where they need to concur. Anna Lou’s lazy eye. (She wears a training patch at times and some of the children think its ok to pretend their pirates at her when she wears it) Episodes will show how the characters get through it in the end. Some ideas include: Anna Lou gets a new dog (taking care of the dog and loving him gave her confident and comfort), Charlie's first day at school, Fatima and Anna Lou's ballet class, Anna Lou goes to the dentist, Anna Lou’s Sports Day, Anna Lou’s ballet class, Anna Lou’s friend from school in hospital, the new girl/boy at school etc.
There’s scope to have endless episodes of approx 7 mins each as there are so many stories and often anxieties which this age group have to go through as a part of their daily life. Relatability is important to the audience, and that the family are just like any other family doing the same kind of things with their friends and tackling the same kind of problems. We are very conscious to not have characters from an overtly privileged background. The mission is simple: We want to help children boost confidence, mental health and wellbeing in their communities.
We feel the children will be comforted when watching Anna Lou and Friends because they’ll see storylines that represent real life situations. Our children who are the same age actually experience these issues daily. We will focus on making the characters fun and full of life but yet juxtaposing that with the common problems such as anxiety, and simple tasks as going to the dentist, communication, making friends, worry about going to a new school, worried about being doing a new sports activity, pressures children have with making friends at school, transition- eg: leaving school to moving house.
We have completed the character designs and found an experienced team as well as advisor psychologists who work in child development and mental health to help the writer Andrew Viner with the content.
Under the Anna Lou and Friends banner, we have a range of products to entertain little minds. These include affirmation prints to help children understand how special they are, prints and worksheets to develop their learning and a penpal subscription box where children will receive their very own letter from their new friend, Anna Lou. You can see more about Anna Lou and Friends on the website and sign up to our newsletter to hear all about their adventures.