‘Yonderland’ preview: The cast chat about Season 2 of Sky1’s puppet comedy

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The uproariously brilliant puppet-infused fantasy family adventure series Yonderland returns to Sky1 next week.

Following on from last year’s first season, the seemingly average Debbie continues to negotiate the mysterious and very silly world of Yonderland through a portal in her pantry, with the help of her friend Elf, in between ferrying the kids to football practice.

CultBox were on hand for an exclusive screening of the second season’s opening two episodes in London recently, alongside a gaggle of very excited children and their equally excited parents. The show’s cast (minus Ben Willbond, who sent apologies because it was his wedding anniversary, how sweet!) were there to talk about the series, and give us a few hints at what’s to come.

“It was kind of a coming together of a number of things,” said Larry Rickard of the series’ inception, “having done Horrible Histories, we really wanted to do something again that was multi-character, and sort of raiding the dressing-up box, and being able to just do a number of different characters as a troupe in one show.

“We’re all interested in fantasy, and quite quickly identified that as something we wanted to do, and Matt and Ben had done some preliminary work on a film idea about an elf who comes in through a fridge I think it was, and took someone through to another world. So it sort of came out of that combination of things. And then we all sat down and watched part of Krull.”

Krull starts with this ominous voice, saying ‘This was given to me to know,’” added Matt Baynton, “and so we thought it would be funny to have a voiceover at the beginning that always undermined itself in a different way, in that Simpsons way of having a joke before the show’s even started.”

Yonderland incorporates the use of a cast of puppet characters on a much greater scale than Horrible Histories (and its talking rat host), an experience which Martha Howe-Douglas described as “a bit of a baptism of fire, in the first series – but I think we all learned a lot from the first series that we took to the second series in terms of how long it takes to get stuff organised when there’s puppets involved.

“What you see on the screen, there’s a whole thing going on underneath that you’re just not privy too, lots of legs and arms and bodies in the way. So we all thought that this series, we decided that we wouldn’t have the puppets move as much in terms of walking, that’s the hardest thing to get them to do. So it would be ‘Debbie joins Elf,’ as opposed to ‘Debbie and Elf walk through the forest.’”

Regarding the show’s move from 6:30 pm to the later time slot of 8:00 and whether this would mean a greater freedom for throwing in some more grown-up humour we saw peppered through Season 1 (and there were most certainly a few brilliant adult-oriented references in the first episodes of Season 2 that I don’t dare spoil here!), Simon Farnaby said:

“It’s a family show and kids should be able to enjoy it, but adults can enjoy it as well, and there’s no reason why, let’s say, an adult who doesn’t have kids couldn’t enjoy it as well. And so we just sort of wanted to go, it’s for absolutely everyone. But I don’t think we really changed that much in the writing. We sort of just write what we think is funny; it just so happens we have a very childish sense of humour.”

Which ostensibly includes an impressive amount of nudity on Farnaby’s part.

“Yeah, I tend to get naked quite a lot,” he admitted with rather a deadpan smile, “they always write it for me – though in that episode I wrote it for myself, just because I knew everyone wanted to see it. I mean, the people get what the people want, and that’s what they clamour for.”


So how did approaching the second season differ from the first?

“When you do a first series of anything, it’s an experiment and a leap into the dark,” said Baynton. “You don’t know how it’s going to work and how much people are going to like it. When it works and people like it, and you get some good reviews and some good feedback, you can go into that second series with more confidence, and so I think in that first part of the process where we’re in the room coming up with ideas it was just zippier, you know, more came and it becomes richer, I think, because you already know the world. You’re not creating it, you’re just adding to it, and every pass of the script adds more details.”

But writing fantasy for television often entails tailoring one’s story to what’s within the logistical limits of filmmaking: “Early drafts, we tend not to limit ourselves and just go, what’s the most we can do, but as a rule, we write them like little films,” said Rickard.

“But they are quite visually dense, we tried to pack as many of those gags in. And then it tends to be further along down the process we’ll then look at it with a magnifying glass and go, what’s achievable and what’s not. The great thing is the team we’ve got – the director, Lucy Spink is our art director on this series – they’re really green-light people. You give them impossible things and go ‘I’m really sorry,’ and they say, ‘no, it’s fine, we’ll find a way.’”

The new season also boasts a couple of illustrious and brilliant guest stars, whom Jim Howick describes as “just amazing.”

As for who else the team would love to cast, he said, “Bowie would be good. Labyrinth was a big influence, I think, right from the beginning – it was kind of our collective influence, so Bowie would be amazing.”

So if you’re reading this, Mister Bowie, do feel free to dust off your Goblin King tights and give the Yonderland team a call…

Season 2 begins at 8pm on Monday 13 July on Sky1.

> Buy Season 1 on DVD on Amazon.

Are you looking forward to Season 2? Let us know below…

> Read more by Sami Kelsh on her website.