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Shoebox Zoo Logo
|Narrated by||Bill Paterson|
|Country of origin||Scotland|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||26|
|Running time||25 mins|
|Original network||BBC One|
|Original release||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 Rosemary died when she was only ten and her father whisks her away from her home to the United Kingdom, settling in her father's native Edinburgh, Scotland. On her eleventh birthday, Marnie is given the Shoebox Zoo by Michael Scot. Discovering she was predestined to find the Book of Forbidden Knowledge by a prophecy, Marnie is not thrilled by her role, struggling to adapt to school life and grieving for her mother. She possesses several magical abilities including teleportation and elemental powers. She owns a necklace owned by her mother, using one of Edwin's tail feathers, that can detect evil. After the Book that Marnie finds in the Edinburgh University Library is revealed to be a fake, Marnie travels to Denver where she is influenced by the black magic of the real Book and strives to resurrect her mother using its power until deterred by her father. She ultimately destroys the Book using the Arrow of Truth, and leaves the Shoebox Zoo in the same antiques shop her mother bought them from.
- 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 and alchemist who created the Book of Forbidden Knowledge and Toledo. His pride and ambition led to the Book's creation, its magic corrupting him. When his son Wolfgang and other students stole the Book, he transformed them into toys, then turned his servant McTaggart into an immortal as punishment for aiding them, until the Book was recovered. He makes peace with Wolfgang before the latter's own death. A grouchy, prideful, short-tempered sorcerer, he is a shrewd, argumentative mentor for Marnie, but speaks fondly of her late mother, having known her as a child. He uses an enchanted helmet to watch others from a far distance. Michael's power weakens as Marnie's power grows, leading to his death at the hands of Toledo in the second season, but he reappears as a ghost, instructing Marnie to destroy the Book.
- William McTaggart (David McKay)
- Michael's loyal servant. He took the Book to prevent his master from turning evil. Michael imprisoned him for eleven years then cursed him to be immortal til the Book was found. For centuries he searched for the Book with no success. In the present day, he acts as a butler for Toledo, doubling as a mole for Michael. McTaggart returns to Michael's side at the end of the first season, but is transformed into a weasel by Toledo following Michael's death. Edwin and Ailsa transform him back to normal, and he makes a stand against Toledo to protect Marnie, but his limited magical abilities lead him to falling down a waterfall to his death, free of Michael's curse.
- Toledo (Tony Donaldson)
- An evil shapeshifting homunculus created by Michael eleven months after the Book was created. Portrayed as a young bald-headed Spaniard 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 him into a fireplace to his death. Toledo was killed when given the fake Book at the end of the first season, but he rises as a ghost in Denver, murdering Michael, and possessing Aurora to instigate the second prophecy to create the evil Dawn Queen. When the prophecy is complete, Aurora gives Toledo his body back but subjugates him into becoming her minion. He betrays her to obtain the Book, but when it is destroyed by Marnie, Toledo is destroyed along with it.
- Edwin de Wyntor (Rik Mayall)
- Self-proclaimed leader and spokesperson of the Shoebox Zoo, Edwin is a pompous, prideful metal toy eagle dressed as a knight. A glory hound who seeks to be the first person to touch the Book of Forbidden Knowledge when it is found, Edwin often clashes with the other Shoebox Zoo members, being quite boastful and self-centered. One of his tail feathers was fashioned into a necklace by Marnie's mother, and handed down to her daughter years on. The feather is magical, reacting to evil or a magical presence. In the second season, one of Edwin's wings is fixed by Marnie's grandfather, allowing him to fly.
- Bruno (Alan Cumming)
- A loyal, friendly, toy bear made of stone, Bruno is the most good-natured, trusting, and moral of the Shoebox Zoo. He immediately trusts Marnie, having faith in her and supports her as the Chosen One. He stands up to the corrupted Marnie when she terrifies Becky by resurrecting a dead bird, and is fused with a rock and abandoned by Marnie. She eventually frees him and they make amends.
- Ailsa (Siobhan Redmond)
- A cynical, distrusting, and blunt golden toy adder, Ailsa is the sole woman in the Shoebox Zoo. She talks with an archetypal snake hiss, being the harsh-tongued mediator in the group and is very honest with others. Ailsa inspires Marnie to try and communicate with her mother's ghost in the second season, but only pushes her to outright resurrect her mother. When Marnie decides to destroy the Book, Ailsa objects to the decision, trying to convince the rest of her friends not to sacrifice their only chances to become human again, though Hunter dissuades them.
- Wolfgang Scot (Simon Callow)
- A blue and golden painted wooden wolf, Wolfgang is a mysterious, deceitful character but has a noble side. He is the son of Michael, but when denied his rightful heritage in favour of Michael's own ambition, Wolfgang resented his father and stole the Book along with his friends. Michael transformed them into toys. Wolfgang hates being made of wood, believing everything tastes like sawdust. He becomes Toledo's mole to spite his father when Marnie is selected as his chosen one, but he makes amends with his estranged father when the truth is revealed to Marnie. Wolfgang is killed by Toledo when he chucks him into a lit fireplace. He reappears as a ghost, leading Marnie to the Book's hiding place. He is resurrected by Marnie in the finale to help destroy the Book.
- Hunter (Simon Callow)
- A Native American spirit who can inhabit a horse-shaped dancing stick, Hunter is a wild, courageous character slightly taller than the other toys. Hunter is able to transform into an actual horse, and can communicate with nature spirits. In a running gag, Hunter introduces himself to other characters with an overlong spiel, usually ending with "and the guy that just..." altering the ending with whatever the situation is at the time.
- Aurora Dexter / The Dawn Queen (Natascha Girgis)
- A fortune teller and television host from Valentine, Nebraska. An ambitious woman, Aurora hosts the psychic show Above and Beyond but is seen as a phony and wishes to move to a better television network to expand her career. She is the mother of Marnie and Kyle's childhood friend Becky (Kelsey Collins). Aurora shares the same birthday as Marnie, actually the chosen one for the second prophecy. Toledo possesses her to make the prophecy come to pass, transforming her into the Dawn Queen, an evil being who seeks to cover the world in eternal darkness. When the Book is destroyed, Aurora is freed from the Dawn Queen's evil presence.
- Kyle Stone (Yudii Mercredi)
- Marnie's best friend from Denver. 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.
- Nathaniel Stone (Gordon Tootoosis)
- A wise old medicine man, Nathaniel is Kyle's grandfather and a descendant of Chief Stonebear, leader of the Lakota people. Nathaniel consults the spirits of his ancestors from a campfire, offering guidance to Marnie and Kyle when needed. His ancestor received the Book of Forbidden Knowledge from Marnie's ancestor Angus McBride in exchange for marrying his daughter. Discovering the Book's dark magic, Stonebear hid it within the wilderness, though its hiding spot was built over with a shed by Marnie's grandpa. Nathaniel is aware of the Book's location and attempts to destroy it, but fails.
- The Storyteller (Bill Paterson)
- The series' narrator. Though never seen, the character has expansive knowledge of the supernatural and magical elements of the series. In the series finale, the Storyteller is revealed to have been waiting to meet the Shoebox Zoo, magically bringing them to life as their new master, though he is not physically seen.
- Rosemary McBride
- Marnie's late mother. Though she is a posthumous character at the beginning of the story, she plays a significant role. As a child, she bought the Shoebox Zoo on her eleventh birthday. However, she did not possess any magical power like Michael had hoped and could not bring the Shoebox Zoo to life. She remained a friend to Michael and the toys for a short time, but became obsessive with them, prompting her mother to return the toys to the antiques store she bought them from. In the first season, Rosemary's ghost appears, revealing she or a past incarnation created the fake Book of Forbidden Knowledge and chucked the original into the sea.
- Laura (Krystina Coates)
- Marnie's best friend in Edinburgh. She is intrigued by Marnie's strange behaviour but becomes mad when Marnie fobs her off despite promising to tell her about her secret. She discovers the truth at the end of the first season.
- John Roberts (Maxi Moffat)
- One of Toledo's alter egos, John Roberts is a boy of Marnie's age who acts like a posh, mischievous student who plays pranks on others. Roberts is destroyed by Michael using a spell on his "birthday".
- Bobby Campbell (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 (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.
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.