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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Horrible Histories: the making of series two

Producer Caroline Norris knew she had a hit on her hands with Horrible Histories when children started clamouring to visit the set and the actors started getting mobbed by kids on the street!

She says: "We were so proud of what we achieved with the first series but we didn't realise quite what a huge impact the show had had until we started filming series two and so many children wanted to come down and watch!

"It's brilliant to feel that we've made a show that so many people connect with. I keep getting texts from people saying they've heard children singing the songs on train platforms, or from the actors saying they've been recognised in the streets. It's all genuinely exciting and inspiring."

With series one setting such a high standard, the team knew they had to pull out all the stops to keep the content fresh and inspiring for the second outing.

Caroline explains: "Generally, we took our favourite bits from the first series and tried to do more with them as well as aiming to introduce lots of new ideas that we hope will become favourites. We learned so much about what worked well from the first series and had enormous fun building from that.

"With Stupid Deaths, we try to make it more of a Simon Cowell-style talent show which has proved to be great fun and we also had much bigger ambitions with the songs, which were such a hit in the first series. Spartan School Musical is a very ambitious song and dance number and my other favourite features Charles II rapping in the Charles II Song!"

Adds Terry Deary: "The creative team have studied the feedback carefully and they have dropped some ideas that didn't work so well and expanded those that did.

" This is such a fresh take on the Horrible Histories concept and it has been done brilliantly by a massively talented team of sketch writers and young actors.

"The programmes are funnier than the books but the books are able to tackle the more serious issues that young people need to confront so books and television complement one other in an inspired way."

As before, a big challenge for the team is making a show that's funny while staying historically accurate:

"Obviously Terry is closely involved with the show, and we have an assistant producer called Greg Jenner who is responsible for making sure we don't make jokes at the expense of historical truth," explains Caroline.

"Greg seems to know everything there is to know about history, and keeps us on the straight and narrow as far as the latest theory goes. We're not allowed to do things that are funny unless they can also be defended from a factual point of view, which can be annoying when you've come up with a great joke."

So what are the moments that Caroline and her team will remember from Horrible Histories II?

"We had a llama on set for the Incan sketches, and it just wouldn't behave," reminisces Caroline. "Whenever anyone mentioned sacrificing a llama, it walked off set and no-one could stop it.

"It also had a tendency to lie down at the crucial moment, or it would stand in the background and make a weird noise. I guess that's the noise llamas make but it sounded like someone crying under a table!

"Another brilliant moment was being allowed to film our Charles II song at Hampton Court. They usually only allow documentaries there, but we had Charles II and his be-wigged cronies dancing on tables and singing an Eminem-style rap. The PR people at Hampton Court said they'd never seen anything like it before!"

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