The West

The cast of Hoopla Doopla! Picture: Supplied

Parents watching the new preschool show Hoopla Doopla! when it starts on ABC2 on Monday may idly wonder why three of the six characters are Chinese.

It is not just because they have the acrobatic skills needed for the action- packed show; this is a joint Australian-Chinese production and a landmark achievement for the ABC and The Content Agency, whose owner Melinda Wearne created and produced the show.

The 52-part Hoopla Doopla! series had its genesis with Wearne who made a pilot of the show for ABC Children's Television, which then suggested it to China Central Television as a project they could jointly take to the next level.

That involved a six-month shoot in a studio outside the city of Zhuozhou, two hours from Beijing.

Each episode of Hoopla Doopla! lasts for 12 minutes and involves six characters - cafe owner and juggler Mimi (Kate Wright), shop owner/magician Ziggy (Zhang Haoran), street sweeper/clown Jango (Daniel Gorski), delivery person/acrobat Zap (Simon Wright), gardener/ contortionist Squidgie (Liu Wanting) and mechanic/strongman Bop (Xie Ning).

"Preschoolers are so physical, they are full of the joy of jumping off sofas and somersaulting on beds. They are almost impossible to keep still. Trying to work out how to bring that love of movement into a storyline was the initial concept for Hoopla Doopla!," Wearne said.

"Because there is no dialogue, each character's personality has to come through what they do physically."

Wearne said it was very difficult to cast the show because those chosen had to have a high level of physical skill and be able to act. Then there were the challenges of working in China in a city that even the Chinese considered to be remote and where little English was spoken.

"Once we knew where we would be filming, and for what length of time, that became part of the casting practice," Wearne said. "We really needed to make sure that anyone that we cast was up for the adventure and would be able to handle that kind of living.

"It is not easy, you are a long way from home, we finished work late, the conditions were not great and they would not have people they could chat to. We had to find people who would say 'Oh, this is a great opportunity' instead of 'Oh, this is horrible'."

Hoopla Doopla! starts in China in a week or so and Wearne says several hundred million people will see it each day.

"In China they did an audience screening at the beginning of production," Wearne said. "They took it to four or five schools and they loved it. They were laughing out loud.

"My six-year-old is on the high end of the show's age bracket but she has watched every episode at least five times."

The West Australian

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