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The Ferals – An Explosion of Talent (1994)


The Ferals is an irreverent situation comedy starring a mangy group of animals living in the backyard shed of an inner-city home. In this first episode, a wannabe musical promoter (Miguel Ayesa) moves in and attempts to evict the Ferals from his backyard. Later, the Ferals perform ‘Do the Rat’ at a local talent quest and the ongoing rivalry between Rattus (voiced and operated by puppeteer David Collins) and Modigliana (puppeteer Mal Heap) resurfaces with an explosive result.

Curator’s notes

The Ferals is not your usual fluffy puppet show. This episode opens with a very feral brawl as Rattus attacks Modigliana with a baseball bat and Modi retaliates with a giant mallet. Created by Wendy Gray and Claire Henderson, the series was fully ABC funded and produced in-house. Mixing puppetry with live action, The Ferals pushes the boundaries of children’s television with extreme characters and edgy humour in stories of rivalry, backstabbing, get-rich schemes and survival.

Director David Evans told australianscreen that, having come straight from directing long-form series G.P. (see G.P. – Toss a Coin, 1989), he approached The Ferals as drama. At the same time he was encouraged by Wendy Gray to push the boundaries stylistically. This involved ‘wonky camera shots, whip pans and crash zooms’, which all served to make the show more ‘cartoony’. This approach also helped achieve tricky transitions with puppets and getting characters from one place to another.

Evans credits Warner Brothers cartoon characters like Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny as major influences (they 'got hurt but they recovered instantly’). The anarchic British sitcom The Young Ones (1982–84) was also an influence, both in terms of the basic premise of ‘four disparate characters thrown together in one location’ and in the expression of ‘puerile, kid toilet-block humour’. Evans believes that being fully funded by the ABC helped The Ferals push boundaries. It 'did not have a commercial imperative — it was not politically correct. There is not a broadcaster who would be willing to do it [today], to take the risk.’

Twenty-four episodes of The Ferals were produced over two series in 1994 and 1995. The Ferals themselves lived on in Feral TV (1997, 55 x five-minute episodes), which revolved around a TV station run by Kerry, a toad with an explosive temper – rumoured to be modelled on an Australian media magnate with the same name. Mixy also hosted her own show and website; Rattus and Modigliana were featured in the ABC Education maths program Numbers Count (1998) and Modigliana co-hosted Creature Features (2002–08) on ABC3.

The Ferals was broadcast on the ABC, starting on 11 April 1994. An Explosion of Talent is episode one of the first series.