Shoebox Zoo Logo
|Narrated by||Bill Paterson|
|Country of origin||Scotland|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||26|
|Running time||25 mins|
|Original channel||BBC One|
|Original run||21 September 2004 – 27 November 2005|
Shoebox Zoo is a children's fantasy TV series made in a collaboration between BBC Scotland and various Canadian television companies. It is mostly live-action, but with CGI used for the animal figurines. It was first broadcast in 2004 by CBBC. The series was broadcast in the United States by the Showtime network.
1100 years prior to the show's present day events, the great wizard Michael Scot created the Book of Forbidden Knowledge, a lexicon filled with dark magic and untold secrets. From the book, and the four elements, he created Juan Roberto Montoya de Toledo, a shapeshifter who desired the book's powers for himself and to cover the world in darkness. Michael's son, Wolfgang, out of hatred towards his father and to protect the world, stole the book with help from his fellow scholars Edwin, Ailsa and Bruno. They cast it into the sea, but as punishment, Michael transformed them into toy animals, cursed in these forms and put to sleep in a shoebox. Michael's manservant, McTaggart, also stole the book to keep it from Toledo but it was ultimately lost, McTaggart being made cruelly immortal until the book was discovered.
In the present day, an 11-year old girl named Marnie McBride is whisked away from her home in Denver, Colorado by her father Ross and taken to live in Scotland where she finds the Shoebox Zoo, prompting her to become the Chosen One and find the book, therefore allowing the scholars to become human and for McTaggart to rest in peace. Toledo stalks Marnie throughout the series as her magical powers grow, Marnie having to deal with her normal life and her duty as the Chosen One. Wolfgang spends some time allied with Toledo, but he rejoins Marnie and the rest of the animals when his past is revealed. Marnie finds the book in a local library but Toledo confronts her which results in Wolfgang's murder, the wolf burnt away in a fireplace. Marnie discovers the book is a fake and the real one was cast into the sea by her deceased mother, ending up in America.
In the second series, Marnie and the Shoebox Zoo travel to Colorado to stay with Marnie's grandparents whilst looking for the real book, with Michael and McTaggart following her. Toledo rises from the grave, having been killed at the end of the first series, and regains a physical form by murdering Michael and controlling the body of Aurora Dexter, who Toledo believes will become the Dawn Queen, a being of great evil and darkness. Marnie is aided by her friend Kyle, his grandfather Nathaniel who is a medicine man and another toy, a wooden horse named Hunter. Marnie eventually becomes corrupted by the darkness of the book, which she finds in her grandfather's woodshed, but it is stolen by Toledo and Aurora, McTaggart dying in the process. Aurora gives Toledo his body back but decides to take over the world herself. Marnie turns good again and decides to destroy the book, much to the dismay of the Shoebox Zoo. Wolfgang is resurrected by Marnie in order to destroy the book. In a television broadcast hosted by Aurora, she attempts to corrupt viewers but is ultimately defeated by Marnie who fires a magic archery arrow at the book, destroying it, killing Toledo and the Dawn Queen's darkness in the process, but leaving Aurora alive.
At the conclusion of the series, Marnie sadly leaves the Shoebox Zoo in a junkshop so somebody else can look after the animals. It has been speculated that the narrator is the person seen opening the shoebox in the final scene of the series, as described by the narrator himself.
- Marnie McBride (Vivien Endicott-Douglas)
- An American 11-year old from Denver, Colorado. Her mother died when she was only 10 and her father whisks her away from her home to the United Kingdom, settling in her father's native Edinburgh, Scotland. On her 11th birthday, Marnie meets the Shoebox Zoo, a quartet of humans imprisoned in the form of animal toys. Marnie spends the first series searching for the Book of Forbidden Knowledge, but the one she finds turns out to be a fake; the original hidden somewhere in America. Marnie eventually finds the book, but has to destroy it when Toledo and the Dawn Queen get it. She leaves the Shoebox Zoo in the shop her mother first found them in. Her abilities include telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation, and the ability to shoot lightning, and even resurrection.
- Ross McBride (Jason Connery)
- Marnie's Scottish father. He takes her to Edinburgh a month after her mother dies of cancer. Ross has no idea his daughter is the Chosen One and believes the Shoebox Zoo to be nothing more than toys. He works in the university library, where a copy of the Book was hidden.
- Michael Scot (Peter Mullan)
- The great wizard who created the Book of Forbidden Knowledge and Toledo. After Wolfgang and the others stole the book, he transformed them into animals and put them to sleep as punishment. McTaggart then took the book so it would not corrupt his master and cast it into the sea. Michael had him tortured for eleven years and made him immortal until the Book was uncovered. Michael sadly witnessed the death of his son, but helped Marnie defeat Toledo. Scot lived for 1100 years, but died (in the second series) after being drained of magic by a reborn Toledo. His ghost later came back to give Marnie some advice.
- McTaggart (David McKay)
- Michael's loyal servant. He took the book to prevent his master from turning evil. Michael had him immortalised so he could torture him in his dungeon for eleven hundred years. He then had to eternally be a servant until the book was found. Despite this curse, McTaggart remained loyal to Michael Scot throughout the 1100 years of immortality and was at his side when he died. McTaggart was transformed into a weasel and placed in a cage by Toledo, until freed by Edwin and Ailsa. Despite not being trained in magic he managed to "learn the odd spell" in his years in Scot's service. McTaggart died triumphantly in battle against the Dawn Queen and fell to his demise, disappearing into a river - despite the fact he was immortal because the book still hadn't been found!? His death was mourned by his friends, and also even by Toledo (in the form of Aurora Dexter).
- Juan Roberto Montoya de Toledo (Tony Donaldson)
- An evil shapeshifter created by Michael eleven months after the Book was created. Portrayed as a young bald-headed man with a liking for the colours white and silver, Toledo wished to obtain the Book and its powers, eventually hiring Wolfgang to assist him. After Wolfgang reconciled with his father and betrayed Toledo, the shapeshifter tossed the wolf into a fireplace where he died. Toledo was killed when given the fake Book at the end of Season 1. He came back as a spirit by the chance meeting of four elevens, and killed Michael, draining him of all of his magic. He then possessed the body of Aurora Dexer to become the Dawn Queen. He changed McTaggart into a weasel, when McTaggart escaped the metormorphisis he murdered him by blasting him off the falls of fate and into the rapids below. He then gained the Book, but he and Aurora became separate entities, Toledo regaining his body. Toledo gains the Book for a brief moment before Marnie shoots it with the arrow of truth, destroying the Book, which takes Toledo with it.
- Aurora Dexter/The Dawn Queen (Natascha Girgis)
- A gypsy woman from Nebraska. She hosts the séance television show, Above and Beyond. Of course, Aurora is a phoney. She despertaley wants to be on channel four eleven. She has a stroppy daughter named Becky, who is Marnie's rival. Toledo transformed Aurora into Taurora. They find the Book and Aurora becomes the evil Dawn Queen, who wants to rule the world in Toledo's place.
- Kyle Stone (Yudii Mercredi)
- Marnie's best friend. He meets the Shoebox Zoo after they spring to life before his eyes, and he faints in shock. Kyle's grandfather is Nathaniel. Kyle is gifted with the Horse Blood, that gives him the powers of the Medicine Man, including bringing Hunter to life.
- Bobby Campbell (Gramps) (Paul Coeur)
- Marnie's cheerful granddad from America. He enjoys camping and spending time with his wife and grandchild. He is a little clumsy and dislikes being scolded by his wife.
- Dorothy Campbell (Grandma) (Valerie Ann Pearson)
- Marnie's protective and sometimes over-worrying grandmother. Grandma took the Shoebox Zoo back to the junk shop where Marnie's mother found them, after she became obsessed with them, and she worries Marnie will do the same.
- Nathaniel (Gordon Tootoosis)
- The Medicine Man, Kyle's grandfather and councillor with the spirits. Nathaniel spends most of his time by his spiritual campfire, listening and watching the spirits. He can teleport to different places.
The Shoebox Zoo itself
The animals the students became are the ones which stereotype their personalities. They are:
- Edwin (voiced by Rik Mayall)
- Edwin de Wynter is an arrogant and pompus metal eagle who sees himself as the leader of the Shoebox Zoo. He gives himself a title self-styled "Spokesperson of the Shoebox Zoo". He and his friends stole the Book of Forbidden Knowledge and he was transformed into his present form by Michael Scot. Marnie was given a necklace (previously owned by her mother) which had one of Edwin's tail feathers as an amulet. Edwin has one false wing, a detachable helmet and he is afraid of flying. Edwin gradually becomes more confident in the quest and himself. In Season 2, Edwin is even more determined to find the book and become human once again. In order to retrieve the important Arrow of Truth from an eagle's nest, Kyle teaches Edwin to fly by giving the noble eagle a feather to keep him in balance in the air. Edwin loses the feather, but learns to fly on his own. He defends the hidden arrow when a dark Marnie confronts him. Edwin seems to be most affected when Marnie says goodbye to the Shoebox Zoo.
- Ailsa (voiced by Siobhan Redmond)
- A cynical glass adder. Ailsa is the oldest of the Shoebox Zoo and the wisest. She has glowing green eyes, a long golden snake body and a history of not trusting anyone. Ailsa then tossed aside her present personality and began to trust Marnie. Ailsa is clever and funny at the same time and enjoys sleeping. Ailsa is more trustful in others during her time in Denver and somewhat gains a crush on Hunter. Her rune was the first to be found. She is represented by an old snake rattle.
- Bruno (voiced by Alan Cumming)
- A simple-minded and friendly stone bear. He is the youngest member of the Shoebox Zoo and also a little dumb. He has had to act aggressively at times and has bitten Toledo to save Marnie. Bruno easily got used to Marnie, while it took the others more time and is very loyal to his mistress. Bruno has a pure heart and tries to help his friends as best as he can. Bruno was imprisoned by Marnie in a rock when she was evil after he criticized her actions. He was rescued from drowning by Nathaniel and was released from his prison by Marnie. Bruno's rune is the second to be found. He is represented by an old parfleche bag.
- Wolfgang (voiced by Simon Callow)
- A wooden blue wolf, Wolfgang is at first portrayed as fierce, deceptive and generally mysterious. He has a fear of fire, believes everything tastes of sawdust due to him being made of wood and has a liking for butter. He is very sly and distrusting towards Marnie during early experiences together, going as far as joining forces with Toledo to spite her. But he eventually reveals he is the son of Michael Scot, stealing the Book out of jealously and anger. Marnie takes Wolfgang to Michael where father and son repair their relationship. However, during the battle at Marnie's house for the Book, Wolfgang is seized by Toledo and tossed into a fireplace where he disintegrates. Wolfgang lived on as a spirit, trapped in flames, and visited Marnie in her dreams, warning her not to go into her grandfather's evil woodshed. A corrupted Marnie summons Wolfgang and forces him to take her to the Book's location. After returning to the good side, Marnie decides to resurrect Wolfgang to help her destroy the Book. Wolfgang is shown as being rather shocked to be alive and hits himself on the head just to make sure. He is represented by an old warrior's necklace.
- Los Contrarios (voiced by the same actors as the originals)
- Dark, blind, identical clones of the original members of the Shoebox Zoo, created by Toledo. They spend most of the first season in the form of eggs hidden in a suitcase, but hatch when the Book of Forbidden Knowledge's darkness is released. In terms of personality, Los Contrarios are twisted versions of the Shoebox Zoo members; Edwin, Ailsa and Bruno's clones are incredibly violent, whilst Wolfgang's is completely feral and cannot speak. The group and Toledo invade Marnie's house, and hunt down their good counterparts, except Wolfgang's clone. Edwin, Ailsa and Bruno face off against their clones, who perish soon after (Edwin's falls down a chimney, Ailsa's is struck by lightning, Bruno's is knocked off a rooftop). Wolfgang's clone dies when the real Wolfgang is murdered by Toledo.
- Hunter (voiced by Simon Callow)
- A wooden wild horse that is used as a Native American dancing stick. First seen in Season 2, he is brought to life by the power of Nathaniel the Medicine Man. Hunter is capable to transform into a real horse, as he is a spirit. Hunter is a bit clumsy, as seen in his debut when he spills a glass of red wine on a table in Michael Scot's chamber. Hunter is the Spirit of the Horse Dance, as he describes in his opening line, along with many other things. He says his opening whenever he meets someone new, his most famous quote being "And the guy that just... (e.g. spilt red wine all over your table!)". In the end, Hunter gives up on his opening lines when he first meets Wolfgang and bands the Shoebox Zoo together to help destroy the book, even though they realise they'll be imprisoned in their present forms for good. He is last seen watching Marnie celebrating her 12th birthday before galloping back to Nathaniel. Voiced by Simon Callow.
The programme was first broadcast on 21 September 2004 on BBC One, and the last episode was shown on 27 November 2005.
- 1. 'The Magic is Awakened' (21 September 2004)
- 2. 'Friend or Foe?' (28 September 2004)
- 3. 'Echoes of the Past' (5 October 2004)
- 4. 'A Guide for the Perplexed' (12 October 2004)
- 5. 'The Inner Sanctum' (19 October 2004)
- 6. 'A Strange Birthday Party' (26 October 2004)
- 7. 'A Little Knowledge' (2 November 2004)
- 8. 'Mother's Footsteps' (9 November 2004)
- 9. 'Where the River Flows' (16 November 2004)
- 10. 'The Sign of the Unicorn' (23 November 2004)
- 11. 'Where Four Elevens Meet' (30 November 2004)
- 12. 'Los Contrarios' (7 December 2004)
- 13. 'The Day of Reckoning' (14 December 2004)
- 1. 'Across the Great Ocean' (16 October 2005)
- 2. 'The Balance of Power' (23 October 2005)
- 3. 'Snakes Alive' (23 October 2005)
- 4. 'The Pow Wow' (30 October 2005)
- 5. 'Hunter to the Rescue' (30 October 2005)
- 6. 'Coming of Age' (6 November 2005)
- 7. 'Wild Horses' (6 November 2005)
- 8. 'Bumps in the Night' (13 November 2005)
- 9. 'The Eagle Has Landed' (13 November 2005)
- 10. 'The Arrow of Truth' (20 November 2005)
- 11. 'The Cry of the Wolf' (20 November 2005)
- 12. 'The Falls of Faith' (27 November 2005)
- 13. 'Beyond the Beyond' (27 November 2005)
The series makes good use of its Lothian setting, with significant locations including the University of Edinburgh library, Tantallon Castle (Scot's home), Boroughmuir High School and St Giles Cathedral, while Toledo makes his base in the clock tower of the Balmoral Hotel. Many interior sets were built at the Castle Brae Business Centre (Formally the Castlebrae High School) in Edinburgh.