Deneb does Dot and Keeto [Tales of the VHS, Part 6]

dot5“I’m in mosquito heaven – and you’re an angel. A fat, green angel…”

The Scoop: 1986 G, directed by Yoram Gross and starring Robyn Moore, Keith Scott, Ashley Ayre, Lucy Charles and Leaf Nowland.

Tagline: None I can find.

Summary Capsule: Little Australian girl becomes much, much littler and frolics with insects.

denebbannerDeneb’s Rating: 4 green carrots out of five.

Deneb’s Review: Yes, it’s time once again for another Tales From the VHS review! Please hold your applause – it’s wasted on me; I can’t hear it.

This time around we’re revisiting the Dot movies, the franchise that started all this off. I went into detail about the series in my Dot and Santa Claus review, so I’ll just give a quick summing up this time: Dot is a little girl who lives in the Australian Outback and loves nature. Thanks to a special root she ate, she can talk to animals, and gets into all sorts of adventures with them, changing in the process from a live action girl into an animated one.

Got that? OK then, here we go. Dot and Keeto, everybody!

As the movie begins, Dot is killing time in her back yard like any kid without much to occupy her mind at the moment would do. (Incidentally, I was wrong when I said in Santa Claus that she was played by different people every time – her voice actor has indeed changed; she’s voiced by Robyn Moore this time around, but Ashley Ayre returns as the live-action her.) As in the last time we saw her, she’s accompanied by her brother, but it’s not Ben this time around, it’s Simon (Leaf Nowland) – and please don’t ask me if this is a different brother or just a renamed version of the first one, because I don’t know. (It’s because of this loose attention to continuity that I’m not bothering to review the series in order – I watched ‘em any old way, and it never did me any harm.)

Whatever the deal is with Simon, he’s clearly one of those annoyingly hyperactive types that cause babysitters to clench their teeth. He’s not doing Dot much good either, as she’s irritated by his antics – but clearly this is nothing new, so she’s living with it. When he starts to stomp on an ant’s nest for no good reason, however, that is the last straw, and she gives him the old heave ho. As he goes inside in a huff (and with ants in his pants), she gets an idea.

Remember that root that lets her talk to animals? Well, it ought to do the same for insects, right? All she’s got to do is find it again, and she’ll be able to apologize to the ants for her idiot brother. (In Santa Claus, of course, eating it once was enough for a lifetime – but again, loose continuity.)

Luckily, she thinks she can remember which one it is – sort of, anyway. It’s narrowed down to two, a red root and a green root. Ooh! Ooh! I know this one! It’s green! Red is never good in this kind of…

…She’s already taken a bite from the red one, hasn’t she? Dammit. Why do fictional characters never listen to me?

To be fair, though, it does sort of work – she receives the desired ability to talk to insects. It’s just that along with this, she gets their size as well – she (and her clothes; don’t think too hard about it) rapidly shrinks down to approximately the stature of a speck.

Luckily, there’s an antidote – she figures that if the red one made her dwindle away, the green one should reverse the process and get her back to normal. She just has to find it.

Now, you wouldn’t think this would be too difficult, right? After all, she had both in her hands just a moment ago, and she’s still standing in the same place, so all she has to do is… No, I guess she’s lost track of them somehow. Dot, you are not exactly Sherlock Holmes reborn.

Like I said, though, she can talk to insects now, so she manages to make a few allies fairly quickly. Specifically, she’s befriended by Keeto (Keith Scott), a ditzy, narcissistic goofball of a mosquito who takes it upon himself to be her guide and bodyguard. (Oh, and don’t worry about him sucking her blood – only female mosquitoes do that.) Along with Butterwalk (also Scott), a friendly, if somewhat dim, caterpillar, they set out to find the root and get Dot back to normal.

It won’t be easy, though. Her two new pals may be squarely on her side, but practically everyone else in the insect kingdom either has hostile intentions towards her, or is just a weirdo of some variety that she can’t get two straight sentences out of (and all voiced by either Scott or Moore). There’s a wasp that wants to use her for baby-food, a voracious (but polite about it) praying mantis, a bunch of cockroaches who see her (like they see everything else) as a potential snack – and as for those ants, she can forget about trying to apologize to them. They’re too busy trying to kidnap her and use her for slave labor.

Will Dot ever manage to find the root and get back to normal? Or is she doomed to a (possibly very short) life among the itsy-bitsies? Watch and see!

The first thing that should be mentioned about Dot and Keeto is that yes, this is still a Dot movie, and that series has its little trademark issues that are maintained here. There are still repeated animations up the wazoo, there are associated technical issues – one sequence has Keeto yammering away while his lips aren’t moving – and there are the same old bits of background music that are in every single Dot movie to the point where any fan can greet them like old friends, which at this point they practically are for me, I know them so well. ‘Hello, fight/danger/excitement/stuff happening theme! Long time no see!’

So, yeah. Call them flaws, call them idiosyncracies; they’re all still there. If those things get on your nerves, be warned; this may not be the series, and Dot and Keeto may not be the movie, for you.

Looking at D&K on its own merits, however, it’s not a half-bad little flick. It’s much more action-packed than Santa Claus, and with a lot more humor and character interaction. There are still a scattered few moments of quiet introspection, but they’re much lighter in spirit than those that characterized the earlier film. Overall, this one is just generally more fun – there’s always something going on, loads of incidental characters (who all come supplied with new silly voices), and a fair amount of what could genuinely be called adventure.

After all, Dot really does get into a fair amount of danger here. Something like two-thirds of the critters she encounters want to eat her, and then there’s the associated peril of just being so darn small. Everything is dangerous when you’re tiny enough to have a mosquito as a bodyguard – it’s just part of the terrain. It’s all fairly low-key in the way it’s presented, but if approached with a less kid-friendly attitude in mind this could be pretty tense stuff. Even as is, there are a few nicely exciting moments.

As with all the Dot movies, this one is a musical of sorts – or, at any rate, it has songs. None of them are exactly masterpieces (although ‘See How Elegant is the Cockroach’ is kind of fun), but none are bad, and the best are genuinely catchy and will stick in your head. For that matter, the sequences featuring them will do the same, and probably be the first things you think about afterwards when recalling the movie – and really, that can’t be a bad thing, can it, unless the songs themselves are bad, which, as I said, these aren’t. (The bit where the ants are lamenting their lot in life is particularly memorable.)

Character-wise, apart from Dot (who is her usual self) and Simon (who’s just a brat), the only ones really worth examining here are Keeto and Butterwalk. Keeto is the sort of character who could very easily become annoying, but manages to dodge the bullet and become endearing instead. He’s just this lovably kooky kinda guy, and the fact that he helps Dot out of tight spaces time after time for no reason other than basic friendship speaks well towards his basic nature. (His weary ‘Again? Oh, not again’ never fails to amuse me.) As for Butterwalk, he’s the slow-and-steady, ever-faithful type – he’s not terribly deep as a character, but he’s likable, and that’s his main role. He’s the sort of guy who might not exactly be a sparkling wit, but he’s loyal and dependable and you’re always glad to see him.

Overall, Dot and Keeto is not one of those films packed with layers and subtleties and deep character interaction and so forth, but it doesn’t need to be – it’s a perfectly good example of what it is, which is, like the others in the series, a type of kid’s movie that one doesn’t really see anymore. It’s obviously intended to be educational about bugs and the like, but it does this by working little factoids into the narrative in such a manner that you don’t really notice them, and in the meantime focuses on being entertaining. And I have to say, it really works – I certainly gained a heck of a lot of my early knowledge about insects from this film, even if some of it may be specific to the bizarre little subgenre of ecology that is Australia. (The caterpillar with a fake eye on her tail, for instance.)

Even if it eschewed that element entirely, though, the movie would still be fun to watch. It’s not the greatest thing ever; it’s a bit formulaic in some ways, but it’s well-made, there’s nothing objectionable about it, it’s certainly not boring, and you get to enjoy a bit of silliness for a while. It’s a decent little flick that kids will have fun with, and adults may as well – even if you really dislike kids’ movies, you won’t hate it. I certainly still like it, anyway.

Oh, and to any mosquitoes that may be reading – don’t think this gets you off the hook. You fly too near me – smack!

I had hoped to show a picture of Keeto here, given that he's in the title and all, but there's still a frustrating paucity of screenshots for these movies on the 'Net. Instead, have the Ant Queen dancing. Dance, Ant Queen, dance!

I had hoped to show a picture of Keeto here, given that he’s in the title and all, but there’s still a frustrating paucity of screenshots for these movies on the ‘Net. Instead, have the Ant Queen dancing. Dance, Ant Queen, dance!

Intermission!

  • Cookies – never go amongst insects without ‘em.
  • I kind of have to wonder whether the screenwriter of The Matrix ever saw this movie. I mean, red root green root, red pill blue pill, choose one and things stay the same, choose the other and things change – am I the only one seeing this?
  • It’s never made clear just how small Dot actually is when shrunken down. On the one hand, she’s small enough that ants and mosquitoes are taller than her; on the other, a frog is only twice her size, flies are still fly-size compared to her, she’s large enough to be of interest to both cats and birds as a snack, and she’s roughly one-third the size of a praying mantis, which is one of the bigger bugs out there. It’s a bit confusing.
  • I only just now noticed this, but Sgt. Formica’s name is a pun – it’s both a reference to the material and to the word ‘formic’, as in formic acid, which ants produce.
  • It’s worth noting that, unlike many other animated insects, these ones do have six legs. You wouldn’t think this would be such a difficult thing to get right.
  • Why would anyone take only one bite out of a cookie, put it back in the jar, and then repeat the process? Why not just eat one full cookie? What exactly is wrong with this kid that he hasn’t mastered the art of eating cookies?
  • Note to self – ants are jerks. They are not worth apologizing to.

Groovy Quotes:

Keeto: Hi, Cutiepops! Haven’t I seen you someplace before? My name’s Keeto, the mosquito, and I’m a sweetie!

Atlantis Pedantis: I am the very Reverend Atlantis Pedantis, the Prayin’ Mantis.
Dot: Oh. I’m… I-I’m Dot.
Atlantis Pedantis: ‘Dot’? What a peculiar name!

Butterwalk: I’d watch out if I were you. You look delicious.

Keeto: Watch out, fans! The time has come for decisive action!

Cockroaches: (singing) See how elegant is the Cock-a-rock-a-Roach/
A-strutting like an envoy through the door (through
the door)/
With all the grace and style (and style)/
And such a charming smile (charming smile)/
A shame he eats his breakfast off the floor (off the
floor).

Percival Prang: Flight three-seven-zero! Flight three-seven-zero! Squadron leader Percival Prang coming in for a landing! Flaps down – please extinguish cigarettes and drink your tea.

Keeto: Keeto, the daring mosquito, saves Dot from a horde of savages!
(He tries, but…)
Keeto, the daring mosquito… has a heart attack.

Sgt. Formica: Silence! Her most exalted royal magnificent Majesty will now speak to her despicable and unsavory subjects!

Keeto: (repeated line) I bent my nose…

Dot: (singing) Do you have to be a giant/To hear a bird’s song/
Do you need to be so tall to see a star/
The smallest one of us could do/
Anything we wanted to/
Who cares about how big we are?

Butterwalk: Not so loud.
Keeto: What do you mean, ‘not loud’? How can she hear me if I don’t shout?
Butterwalk: Well, shout softly.

Ant Queen: You… you… insect!

Keeto: Oh, I can’t look – I’m too delicate…

Butterwalk: Good morning – or good afternoon, or good evening.
Dot: I think morning – but I don’t think it’s good, I think it’s bad.
Butterwalk: Oh. Bad morning.

Ant guard: She was here, and then she wasn’t!

Keeto: Bye-bye, turkey pie! Catch you later in July!
Dot: Wait!
Keeto: Can’t stop, lamb chop! Grandma’s in the butcher shop!
Dot: I want to ask you…
Keeto: Back soon, pinkacoon! See you on your honeymoon!

Dot: No! I don’t have to, and I won’t! And it’s gloomy in here, and I don’t like you. You’re a bully, and you’re an… an… ant!

Keeto: I’m in mosquito heaven – and you’re an angel. A fat, green angel…

Ants: (singing) Busy busy busy, in a tizzy/
Here comes Sammy, there goes Lizzie/
Knees all bendy/Head all dizzy/
Busy busy busy busy busy!

Scurry scurry scurry, in a hurry/
Hi there Benny if you hurry/
Lots of trouble/Lots of worry/
Scurry scurry scurry scurry scurry!

Keeto: Don’t cry, firefly! Be back to getcha by and by!

Atlantis Pedantis: How many legs does a carrot have, my child?

Dot: (singing) All the redwoods standing silent in the forest/
All the whales who glide like kings beneath the sea/
Giraffes that tower over you/And elephants, and tigers, too/
Began their lives as small as me.

Grasshopper: All those weirdos moving into the neighborhood…

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Dot and Santa Claus
  • Dot and the Bunny
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9 Comments

    • Everyone who’s ever encountered the little buggers for longer than five minutes agrees with that assessment – or should. There’s ants that bite, ants that sting, ants (all of them) that crawl up your legs for no good reason, ants that invade your kitchen like they’re doing to mine right now – what’s good about ants?

    • Nothing like that, no, although live action IS involved pretty heavily. The ‘house style’ for the Dot films is to have animated characters superimposed on primarily live-action backgrounds. In other words, that’s an actual ant’s nest that the animated Ant Queen is prancing around in; hence the ‘trippy’ aspect.

      • Well, it’s generally my own preference to watch a series in order, no matter how long it is – I find you get more out of it that way. I didn’t exactly get that luxury when it came to the Dot films, however, since the ones I’ve seen were randomly recorded off TV – they weren’t exactly labeled in production order.
        Yes, I saw; thanks – I haven’t read the ‘Dot and the Kangaroo’ one (because I haven’t seen the movie yet), but I read the ‘Santa Claus’ review, and it seemed pretty accurate to me.

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