“Hello everybody, my name is Pekka.”
“My name is Mauri.”
“And we are here to tell you about a wonderful country called Finland…”
“My name is Mauri!”
Sound like a bad country promo from the 70s? How about if I told you that Pekka and Mauri were in fact a couple of hairy apes, who also might not stand out as the sharpest tools in the shed?
The Finnish Expo team and Finpro hit the jackpot when they asked Helsinki-based animation studio Anima Vitae to make a cartoon series about Finland for the Shanghai Expo. In 2008, the studio, which has long experience in making animations, garnered due fame and fortune with Finland’s first full-length 3D animated film, the award-winning Niko and the Way to the Stars. So, considering that the studio had already managed to strike gold with the help of a cast of animated reindeer, squirrels, owls and pandas, the furry monkeys conceived for the Expo could simply not go wrong. In fact, the series, called the Daily Ape Show, succeeded so well, that Finpro was asked to display it on small screens mounted inside 9,000 of Shanghai’s taxis.
Anima Vitae had already worked on creating the Daily Ape Show for a while, when they got the opportunity pre-launch the series through short “Shanghai Expo 2010” specials. The company had also made an animated film for the Finnish pavilion, which served as the kickoff for their cooperation with the Finnish Expo team. In the Daily Ape Show’s Expo Specials, the stars of the show, serious Pekka and goofy Mauri, tell viewers facts about Finland in their own special monkey-like way, topped off with a healthy dose of self-irony. The cartoon, with its engaging and humorous approach, presents a clear departure from the kind of country promotion Finland has done in the past – after all, the Finns are generally known to be quite solemn people: Nobody should laugh at the Finns – least of all, the Finns themselves!
According to Petteri Pasanen, the producer of The Daily Ape Show, the animation series was designed to present a tongue-in-cheek view of our world in a format that could easily be localized and sold to different countries. Pasanen says that many of the observations made by Pekka and Mauri are quite illustrative of the way we people tend to act and think. That makes sense alright, but what about having a couple of apes representing Finland? Something’s just not right with that picture.
“The ape is a very popular Finnish figure, isn’t it? We have lots of apes in Finland, don’t we?” Pasanen laughs.
The whole thing gets even more cryptic, when asked if Pekka and Mauri represent typical Finns.
“Yes, they are very typical Finns, because everyone here in Finland is an ape.”
The script and voices for Pekka and Mauri are provided by well-known Finnish stand-up comedians Stan Saanila and André Wickström. Wickström’s interpretation of a blond Swedish monkey dressed in a pink shirt and speaking in an impeccable Swedish accent has in particular become a clear favorite among the audiences. It seems that Finland simply could not pass up this golden opportunity to tease its “friendly neighbor Sweden.” But, as usual, all fun-poking is of course done in the most loving way, because according to Pasanen, the Finns really do love Sweden.
Pasanen says that there have not been any surveys to find out how the Chinese have received the cartoon. What is quite certain, though, is that the Finnish-Swedish rivalry that the show tries to depict gets at least partly lost in the Chinese translation.
The Daily Ape Show’s Shanghai Expo Specials have already ended, at least for now, but Mauri and Pekka will surely continue on their amazing adventures around the world – where everybody – not just the Finns, is an ape.