From bickering over the most trivial of matters to enjoying each others company, the sibling experience makes for some great stories. So it would come as no surprise that it is the basis for a lot of children television. Max and Ruby, Drake and Josh, The Suite Life and Gravity Falls are but a few, of many kids shows that have sibling relationships at their forefront. And from all the stuff I have seen over the years, none has captured MY experience growing up with siblings as well as Charlie and Lola.

The British slice of life cartoon follows the titular sibling duo, Charlie and Lola, as they get into all sorts of adventures at home, school, the park, the local library and so on. Produced by Tiger Aspect Productions and adapted from the children’s picture books by Lauren Child, the series ran for a total of 78 episodes and 2 specials over 3 seasons. And was originally broadcast from 2005 to 2008 on the BBC owned channel CBeebies.

Being the big brother to Lola, Charlie is often tasked with taking care of her. Charlie is kind, helpful, patient, imaginative and as a whole, all the qualities you’d want in an older sibling. As the show’s narrator, it could be said that it is from his view that we see everything. Lola is Charlie’s little sister, who as described by him is “small and very funny”. She is playful, energetic, impatient but all-around sweet. Like her brother, Lola has a big imagination, and the outcome of this shared trait is a plethora of entertaining fantasy sequences across the series. Charlie and Lola’s main draw is the relationship between the title pair. Throughout a normal episode, we see one or the both of them, slowly learn something from the other leaving them slightly changed at the end. This can vary from Charlie realising that there can be fun found in doing chores, to Lola opening her tastes to more books at the local library. While I wouldn’t call it the funniest cartoon out there, and its preschool nature does limit the sort of jokes it can tell. The writing is still full of enough laughs and a truckload of charm that always makes watching the show a great time!

Diving into the extended cast of characters, we’d probably have to start with Marv. As Charlie’s best friend, he is one of the more prominent characters across the series. There is not really a lot to say about him, since he shares a lot of the same interests and characteristics as Charlie. Marv’s little brother Morten on the other hand is a lot more interesting to me. Albeit mostly for his debut episode. Introduced in season two’s “You Can Be My Friend”. Morten started as quiet and shy but eventually became more outgoing with the help of Lola. I have always loved these sorts of characters, admittedly because I am a lot like them. And the episode in my opinion is one of the series best. While Morten is ONE of Lola’s friends, Lotta will have to be Lola’s BEST friend. Essentially she is the “Marv” to Lola’s “Charlie”, and as such, also has a huge presence in the series. Lotta typically follows Lola’s lead, regardless of how reckless it may be.

Other notable characters include Charlie and Lola’s parents, Mr and Mrs Sonner, who we don’t get to see on screen nor hear speak. The bulk of what we know of them is primarily from passing mentions by Charlie, Lola and their friends. In fact, this is the case for all the adults in the series. To be quite frank, I have never been too keen on this trope in animation since I feel it prevents an opportunity to develop what could be great additions to a cast. And you can bet that my overly curious child brain was desperate for even a glimpse of their faces. I’m guessing it was done to bring a sort of Peanuts feeling to everything, which in that case it succeeds. Oh, and we can’t forget Soren Lorenson! Lola’s imaginary friend who takes on the physique of a little boy. As a product of Lola’s thoughts, he is her permanent play buddy and virtually agrees with everything she has to say. There are, however, instances where the two don’t see eye to eye. These moments can easily be read as Lola figuring out her faults on her own. Overall the supporting cast isn’t the deepest or most interesting group of characters out there, but they serve their purposes efficiently.

 A combination of Child’s scribbly character designs and photo montage styled environments gave the original Charlie and Lola books a unique visual identity. And all these aspects are brought masterfully into the show’s animation. The overall presentation has the rawness of an art piece you might find on the wall of an elementary school classroom, building on to the general innocent vibe the series has going on. This art direction is utilised especially well in the fantasy sequences I mentioned earlier. My favourite animated moment in the show will have to be the pop-up book scene in the episode “But, That’s My Book”. It’s just so satisfying to watch for me and I can’t put into words why. Charlie and Lola’s soundtrack is also nothing to be scoffed at. A unique theme was composed for every episode, which helps to give each one its own musical identity. Some of the most memorable tracks that can be heard throughout the series include the “pink milk” jingle, the lyrically repetitive but catchy “Batcat” theme and of course, the iconic Charlie and Lola intro music.

If I had to pick an all-time favourite episode, it will likely be season 1’s “I Want to Be Much More Bigger Like You”. In it, Lola hopes to ride the Loop-the-Looper; a terrifying rollercoaster ride at the fair. Unfortunately for her, she is far too small to do so. Upset at this fact, she wishes she were the older of the two. It is then that, Charlie proceeds to tell Lola about all the benefits of being the little sibling. Like not having to clean up after your own messes, piggyback rides and bedtime stories. When they arrive at the fair later that day, the Loop-The-Looper does prove to be too much for the small Lola. In the end, she decides to stick with the Chugga-Bugs. The much slower paced ladybug themed rides and has a good time doing so. For me, as the middle child of five. The talks of ” not knowing how good you have it until your time is past” in the episode were all too familiar to me. And as the years went by, I got older, more little sisters arrived and every re-watch of this episode hit harder than the last. Also, the scene where Lola imagines a version of the show in which she is the older sister of Charlie is such a good bit that never fails to get a laugh out of me.

At the time I first watched Charlie and Lola, the majority of sibling relationships on kids TV felt very unreal to me(at least from what I had seen to that point). It seemed like most cartoons were more concerned with getting laughs than writing realistic and healthy relationships. Charlie and Lola however, felt very real to me. Sure they didn’t always get along and squabbled occasionally. But when push came to shove, they showed that they truly cared for each other. That relatability factor is the reason why the show has stuck with me after all these years. A huge thanks to all the people that poured their hearts and souls into this one of a kind production. I will forever be grateful for all the wonderful memories I have gotten from watching it.

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