New McDonald's Farm is an Australian children's television program broadcast on the Nine Network and Playhouse Disney, with episodes being produced from 2004 until at least 2008. This show and Australian hit Hi-5 used to swap the timeslot in order to film new seasons.
The show revolves around a farm in the country owned by Milly and Max and occupied by six farm animals: Henry the Horse, Daisy the cow, Dash the Duck, Percy the Pig, Shirley the Sheep, and Charlotte the Hen. The show is aimed at pre-schoolers, and is of a light-hearted nature. It includes short sequences related to the show's plot, and sequences of singing and dancing with Max, Milly and some other children (who are older than pre-school age). Max is a forgetful, funny and energetic farm worker, who often gets his foot stuck in a bucket. Milly, on the other hand, is an intelligent, helpful and caring farmhand, who often helps Max out of his sticky situations. Each episode is half an hour long.
The name of the show suggests that it was inspired by the classic children's song Old McDonald Had a Farm. Which is quite suitable, as it is not exactly what you would call an olden day farm, but the exact opposite, except for the good old windmill.
Animatronic designer and puppeteer Ian James Colmer, who also plays the voice of Charlotte the Hen, now runs a film production company Destiny Pictures (www.destinypictures.net).
Charlotte the Hen got her name from a competition winner named Charlotte with initial S.
All songs for the show are provided by a team of writers from Sony/ ATV Music Publishing. Recording & production of all music is done by Music Director, Jay Collie, who is also known for his performance, songwriting and production work in the popular country/ rock/ pop band, Jonah's Road.
The farm is tying into the title's name "New McDonald's Farm". The logo (on the entrance to the farm) is a yellow sun with the title name on it (in yellow, blue and orange. A running gag is that whenever the sign falls down, Max is desperate to fix it. The "Song of the Day" segment is after the intro of the show:
Max: "Hurry up, Milly, or they'll be here!"
Milly: "Here I am, Max."
Max: "Are we all set?"
Milly: "Mm-hm. Hair brushed, face washed."
Max: "Are we ready to go?"
Milly: "As ready as we'll ever be."
Max: "Oh, this is so exciting - I just can't wait."
Max and Milly are played by 2 Brisbane actors, Tim and Nikki, who wear large foam and fabric costumes with animatronic heads. The controls are very simple and involve servo motors to actuate the eye blink, eye turn and mouth open and close. This is a very basic system, which relies on the character performers off screen to watch and listen to the pre-recorded audio track, and try to sync the mouth movement.
The animals are cable controlled and have limited movement, sometimes requiring the performers to pick them up and physically move them around to create the illusion of life.
Inside their suits, Tim and Nicky must wear cold vests, which are made of a gel. These are frozen, and then slowly thaw out as the actors wear them. The suits are extremely hot to wear.
After the first season, James Colmer was commissioned to re-design and re-build all the head animatronics, making them lighter, stronger, and easier to maintain. A full kilogram of weight was shaved off, by the use of lightweight aluminium.
For the third season they were re-designed and re-built again, this time by Dan Carlisle. These heads proved to be the most reliable and actor friendly. They required next to no maintenance and were much lighter compared to the heads of the first and second series. The new mechanisms also provided a much greater range of movement.
One of the makers have worked on dozens of other children's shows including Simon Hopkinson who wrote Petals, the animated feature film The Magic Pudding, Raggs, Chuck Finn, Dive Olly Dive! and Bananas in Pyjamas, Ron Saunders the creator of Spellbinder and Johnson and Friends and Ian Munro who also did Hi-5, Bananas in Pyjamas, Johnson and Friends, Magic Mountain, Cushion Kids and Toybox.
As of 16 July 2012, New MacDonald's Farm is now broadcasting on Disney Junior.