The Trap Door

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This article is about the TV series. For the video game, see The Trap Door (video game). For other uses, see Trapdoor (disambiguation).
The Trap Door
Trap Door The Trap Door DVD.jpg
DVD cover with characters Boni, Berk and Drutt (left to right)
Genre Horror
Comedy
Created by Terry Brain
Charlie Mills
Voices of Willie Rushton
Nick Shipley
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 40 (List of episodes)
Production
Running time 5 min.
Production company(s) CMTB Animation
Queensgate Productions
Distributor Entertainment Rights (2001–2009)
DreamWorks Classics (2009 on)
Broadcast
Original channel ITV Network (CITV)
Channel 4
Trouble (2005)
POP (2009)
Original airing 1984
1986 (first run)

The Trap Door is a claymation-style animated television series, originally shown in the United Kingdom in 1984. The plot revolves around both the daily lives and the misadventures of a group of monsters living in a castle. Although the emphasis was on humour and the show was marketed as a children's programme but also for family entertainment, the show drew much from the genres of horror and dark fantasy. The show has since become a cult favourite and remains one of the most widely recognised kids' shows of the 1980s.[1][2] Digital children's channel Pop started rerunning the show in 2010.

Show production[edit]

The show was created by British animators Terry Brain and Charlie Mills, and produced through their own companies, CMTB Animation and Queensgate Productions Ltd. Brain and Mills were also responsible for another animated show, Stoppit and Tidyup, a few years later in the late 1980s. Together they were referred to as "Brainbox Mills".[3] Later, Terry Brain went on to be an animator with Aardman Animations and has since worked on the six Wallace and Gromit animated films, as well as the animated film Chicken Run and animated television shows such as Gogs and Creature Comforts.

A total of 25 episodes of The Trap Door were made in 1984, with each episode running for around four minutes. Two years later in 1986, when the show had proved successful, a second series was produced and aired with a further 15 episodes of similar running time. There were a total of 40 episodes of the show produced and, despite the show's success, no more episodes were made. Character voices were provided by Willie Rushton, an English cartoonist, satirist, comedian, actor and performer who co-founded Private Eye, the satirical magazine. He died a decade after the show was halted. Rushton had made the show his own and, even after his death, he still has no replacement voice-actor for a possible new series. Nick Shipley was the voice of Drutt.

The recognisable theme song of the show was written by Scottish songwriter Bob Heatlie, who also wrote the Shakin' Stevens hit Merry Christmas Everyone, and also one of the popular hits of the 1980s, Japanese Boy, sung by Aneka. The vocals were performed by Zygott. A 7" record of the extended theme song was released, with a B-side featuring an instrumental song called Ghost Chase, performed by The Ghost Chasers.

Intro[edit]

The introduction scene of The Trap Door was a parody of many of Vincent Price's horror film introductions:

The following lines of the theme song, would thereupon commence:

Outro[edit]

Plot[edit]

The world of The Trap Door is solely inhabited by monsters, and almost all action takes place in the monsters' castle, and especially the pantry or cellar where lives Berk, the central character. Beneath the castle are a series of dark and mysterious caverns inhabited by all manner of "horrible things", accessible by the eponymous trap door.

The master of the castle, "The Thing Upstairs", resides in the attic of the castle and remains an unseen character throughout the entire show, shouting orders to Berk when hungry or annoyed. Berk has two companions, Boni and Drutt. In most episodes, Berk accidentally leaves the trap door open, admitting a more troublesome monster than himself; but some monsters open it from below. Though mostly hostile or mischievous, the monsters emergent from the trap door include the amiable and periodic Rogg, and occasionally others as harmless as he.

Episodes[edit]

Regular characters[edit]

Berk[edit]

An oviform blue creature who speaks with a West Country accent, Berk is the protagonist of the show, and steward or caretaker of the monsters' castle. As such, Berk often goes about his duties with simple-minded glee, and enjoys cooking with ingredients such as mud, eyeballs, snakes, and worms. Berk is often warned not to open the trap door by his friends, or forbidden by his master, but often does so nonetheless. His usual exclamations include "Oh, Globbits!" and "Sniff that!".

Boni[edit]

Boni is a disembodied skull of unnamed origin, and Berk's closest friend. Speaking with a stuffy upper-class accent, he is something of an intellectual, but has a tendency to complain or bore others. Boni dislikes to be moved from his favourite spot- an alcove in the wall near the Trap Door- and is often shown failing to warn Berk about the various monsters that come from it. Although serious most of the time, he is given to childish excitements on par with those of Berk.

Drutt[edit]

Berk's pet, resembling an oversized spider, who often causes trouble when chasing after worms and other invaders, as by passing the trap door in search thereof. Although often characterized as male, Drutt produces a litter of baby spiders in the show's second season. The voice of Drutt is that of Nick Shipley, then proprietor of KPTV, who provided the editing services for the early series of Trap Door.

The Thing Upstairs[edit]

The impatient, cantankerous, demanding master of the castle, who rarely leaves his penthouse room, and consequently is never seen. In most episodes, he orders Berk to fix things in the castle, prepare meals for him, or sometimes bathe or clean him. His appearance is never revealed, but hints are dropped: in the 14th episode of the programme's first series, "The Little Thing", a lightning flash illuminates a mass of spongy tentacles; whereas in the 13th episode "The Pain", Berk asks which head contains a toothache, implying multiple heads, and the extracted tooth itself is a fang nearly two-thirds the size of Berk. In a later episode ("Not Very Nice"), Berk loses one of his master's eyes down the trap door, whereafter his master claims to have 'seen' the incident's events through the detached eye; the latter almost as big as Berk. In the episode "The Stupid Thing", it is mentioned that the 'Thing' has three humps on his back; and later, that he possesses wings, which are never shown but can be heard beating.

Other characters[edit]

Trap door monsters[edit]

Many different monsters emerge from the trap door, ranging from annoying to dangerous, and of various different shapes, sizes, colours, and powers. Some repeat appearances include:

Rogg[edit]

Rogg is a large pink-skinned creature, who initially appears in the fourth episode of the first series ("Lurkings"). Although unintelligent, he is very strong and well-disposed to the main trio. Berk initially dislikes him after Rogg unwittingly gets him into trouble, but later becomes his friend. He initially appears to have been killed by the Big Angry Red Thing in the final episode, but is later shown alive.

The Splund[edit]

A large round monster capable of teleportation. It was one of the few Trap Door creatures capable of speaking, doing so in a deep, demonic-sounding tone. It terrorised Boni and Drutt in its initial appearance by teleporting around and threatening to eat them, but was deflated by Berk like a balloon with an oversized sewing needle. Its voice was edited with a Harmonizer.

Bubo[edit]

A mischievous small yellow creature initially invisible until covered in yellow "scunge", who occasionally returns in further episodes, still covered in yellow scunge and therefore visible.

Big Angry Red Thing[edit]

This large red-skinned monster makes its first appearance in the first episode when it comes up from the Trap Door and escapes into the castle, but is ultimately foiled by Berk. In the last episode it makes a reappearance, with Rogg apparently sacrificing himself to save Berk, Boni, and Drutt from it. Its worst fear is viewing its own reflection in a mirror, which causes it to run away.

Broadcast history[edit]

In the UK The Trap Door was originally aired during the mid-1980s on ITV, in the afternoon children's programming line-up. The show was aired again in the 1990s when it was broadcast by Channel 4 during early weekday mornings. It was repeated in 2005 on Trouble and 2009 on POP in the UK. In Australia, both series of The Trap Door were broadcast on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1991. Repeats aired on the ABC until 2001. It has also been shown in most countries across the world;[citation needed] the show was aired by American Broadcasting Company in the United States and Canada.

Merchandise[edit]

Games[edit]

The television series spawned a video game in the mid-80s called The Trap Door and a sequel called Through The Trap Door. These games were available for the ZX Spectrum, the Amstrad CPC and the Commodore 64.

A board game was also released entitled Berk's Trapdoor Game which involved going around the board while trying to knock one's opponents over by launching one of four dice, each hidden beneath its own trapdoor, in the game board's central catapulting mechanism.

VHS and DVD Releases[edit]

All 40 episodes were released over 4 VHS videotapes in the UK by Channel 5 Video in the 1980s

  • THE TRAP DOOR: Creepy Crawly Adventures (CFV 05752)

Episodes contained- Breakfast Time, Slither Wriggle and Writhe, Food for Thort, Lurkings, Gourmet's Delight, Creepy Crawly, The Big Thing, Ghoulies, The Dose, The Thingy, Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite, Fester Rancid.

  • THE TRAP DOOR: Watch out for that Nasty Stuff (CFV 05762)

Episodes contained- The Pain, The Little Thing, Don't Open that Trap Door, Junk Food, Yechh!, Flying Wotsit Fingy, Strange Goings On, Mignight Snack, Nasty Stuff, Sniff That, Vile Pile, Slightly Weird, Bye Bye Berk.

  • THE TRAP DOOR: Scunge (CFV 04672)

Episodes contained- Scunge, Oh Globbits, Moany Boni, The Horrible Thing, Not Very Nice, Bugs, Yum Yum, Birthday Surprise.

  • THE TRAP DOOR: The Stupid Thing (CFV 04692)

Episodes contained- The Stupid Thing, Boo!, The Lump, The Splund, Nasty Beasty, What a Weirdo, The Big Red Thing.

In the 1990s 36 episodes were re-released over 3 videos by Castle Vision. the missing four episodes from each of these videos were Bye Bye Berk. What a Weirdo, Nasty Beasty and The Big Red Thing'

  • THE TRAP DOOR: Creepy Crawly Adventures (CVS 4076)

Episodes contained- Breakfast Time, Slither Wriggle and Writhe, Food for Thort, Lurkings, Gourmet's Delight, Creepy Crawly, The Big Thing, Ghoulies, The Dose, The Thingy, Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite, Fester Rancid.

  • THE TRAP DOOR: The Stupid Thing (CVS 4077)

Episodes contained- The Stupid Thing, Scunge, Oh Globbits, Moany Boni, The Horrible Thing, Not Very Nice, Bugs, Yum Yum, Birthday Surprise, Boo!, The Lump, The Splund.

  • THE TRAP DOOR: 12 Scary Episodes (CVS 4100)

Episodes contained- The Pain, The Little Thing, Don't Open that Trap Door, Junk Food, Yechh!, Flying Wotsit Fingy, Strange Goings On, Mignight Snack, Nasty Stuff, Sniff That, Vile Pile, Slightly Weird,

A rare double video-cassette released in Canada at one point contained every single episode.

All 40 episodes of The Trap Door were released on DVD by Universal Pictures in 2005.

References in pop culture[edit]

  • The heavy metal band Hospital of Death recorded a song titled "Down the Hatch" all about the series.
  • The Drum and Bass group Chase & Status released the song 'Trapdoor' with the intro of the program in the song.

Reference list[edit]

  1. ^ Trap Door @ 80s Cartoons
  2. ^ The Trap Door | Retro Junk
  3. ^ Terry Brain - IMDb

External links[edit]