Tree Fu Tom

Sophie Aldred and David Tennant voice new CBeebies series

Tim Whitnall plays Zigzoo/Squirmtum/ Stink and Rickety McGlum

It’s amazing to be part of a show that deals, firstly with entertainment and education and information, but also has other components including helping Dyspraxic children.Tim Whitnall
Category: CBeebies
Tim Whitnall takes on four roles in Tree Fu Tom: Zigzoo - a highly eccentric and verbally dexterous tree frog inventor; /Squirmtum - fancies himself as the ultimate hero but is afraid of his own shadow; Stink, who’s a mischievous, misbehaving ‘Musha’ – a toadstool person – who loves nothing more than trying to mess things up for the treelings; and Rickety McGlum – a gentle reclusive spider, who isn’t as scary as he makes out.

Could you tell us who you play on Tree Fu Tom?

I play four characters on Tree Fu Tom. I play Rickety McGlum who’s a very well intentioned, wise, old spider. I play the hapless woodlouse, Squirmtum. I play Zigzoo, who is a little frog. And I play the mischievous Musha, Stink, who is always getting himself into trouble!

Could you just give us a brief overview of the show?

Tree Fu Tom is a wonderland, where a small boy can discover all things about that world and about himself. At the bottom of Tom’s garden is a tree in which there is this incredible city. As soon as Tom enters Treetopolis, he enters a whole new world where he is able to express himself through movement and the movement is paramount to the series.

What do you think it is about the show that children are going to enjoy?

I think visually, it’s unique. It’s beautiful to look at and it’s engaging. The stories are very good too, they are about using what you have naturally, solving a problem within your heart or within your head. I think that is the strength of it.

Could you tell us about Tree Fu magic and getting the audience involved?

I think that Tree Fu Tom involves the audience in a very unusual way because Tom actually speaks to our audience. But it also means that children at home can actually participate. Tom does these amazing moves and asks the audience at home to do the moves with him. We all went to a screening and found ourselves at the back row doing all the moves!

Could you just explain about Big World Magic?

The Big World is the world outside of the tree, outside of Treetopolis. So basically to our audience, we are all part of the Big World. So it’s up to them to help Tom. He stands in front of the audience at a critical moment of the story when he needs help and he invites the audience to participate in the movement. That is probably the most fun part of the show!

How does it feel to be part of a show that has something beyond just being a cartoon adventure?

It’s amazing to be part of a show that deals, firstly with entertainment and education and information, but also has other components including helping Dyspraxic children. The movements are specifically aimed towards that audience but they don’t exclude any other part of the audience.

Who is your favourite character to play?

If I had to choose a favourite I would say that Zigzoo the frog is my favourite. I like the fact that Zigzoo is a little tree frog; his colouring is beautiful and I love the way he moves. I also like him because he never switches his mind off which reminds me of myself.

How do you find the different voices for the different characters?

It’s quite unusual to be playing four characters on one animation because even the best voice artists usually like to lock it down to just one or two. You want to sound different on each one so it was placing them on different ranges that was the challenge.

How easy is it to switch between voices on a record?

Switching from Zigzoo to Squirmtum in one scene is fine. Switching from Zigzoo to Squirmtum to Stink and then back to Rickety is a challenge, especially if their lines are so close together. The oxygen masks tend to drop down!

Is there a funny incident that you can share with us?

I do remember falling over once when we were in the booth and taking the music stand down with me! I think I was doing Zigzoo and Squirmtum at the same time and I do tend to enjoy being very physical!

How does Tree Fu Tom compare with other shows and animations out there?

I think the look of the show is really important I don’t really think there’s anything that looks like it. I think the world itself is just so inviting and enticing and even I think that I’d love to go there.