Moe's back, and he's going major. Chris Schulz meets Simon McKinney, one of the puppeteers behind The Moe Show.

You might think The Moe Show is television that's strictly for the kids.

After all, New Zealand's answer to Sesame Street features a forest fairy, a green gecko and a clumsy fantail, and stars a lovable furry monster called Moe.

But Simon McKinney, the voice and puppeteer behind several characters on the show, says that's not the case.

McKinney, the show's creator Jeremy Dillon and fellow writer/puppeteer Sarah Thomson, get regular feedback from adult fans who watch episodes without a child in sight.

Advertisement

"One mum said: 'On a Friday, there's nothing more that my husband and I like to do once the kids are in bed than to crack open a bottle of wine and watch all the Moe Shows'," McKinney laughs.

"We love those emails but the parents don't quite know how to word it. They say, 'We all as a family love The Moe Show, it's just so watchable, we love the high level of comedy'."

That's thanks to the broad appeal and gentle humour of Moe and his funny forest friends, Fern the Forest Fairy, Gilbert the Gecko, and Frank the Fantail, who cram in plenty of laughs for the kids but make the occasional wry wink to anyone watching from an older demographic.

McKinney, who puppeteers Gilbert and Frank, says that's because they try to do "that Pixar thing ... we make the adults laugh too".

"We know that if there are kids present, chances are the adults are there too. We might as well entertain them as well."

And entertain it has. Since debuting in 2014, The Moe Show has gone from a cult concern to a bonafide phenomenon. The third season, which debuted today on TV3, comes as a life sized Moe entertains kids at theme park Rainbow's End, while episodes have been extended from 10 minutes to half an hour, a live tour is in pre-production, and toys are flying off the shelves for Christmas.

It's an easy show to love. Based in Moe's treehut, each episode follows a strict format. Moe hangs out with Fern and Gilbert for a bit, then he draws a letter from an alphabet box and ventures outside to learn a bit more about a word based on that letter. He'll hang out with Kiwi kids, get schooled by an adult who's in-the-know, then explain his adventures to a confused Frank. They end each episode by singing a super-catchy song about it together.

It's a simple formula but it's the love the show's creators have for their characters shines through. McKinney admits the puppeteers take their jobs very seriously: they're not allowed to use each other's puppets, and they treat them as if they are "alive".

While the cast and crew certainly joke around during filming, things never get x-rated.

"You have to try everything, and we will all roar with laughter, and then there'll be a kind of a general feeling of, 'Okay, we can't do that'. We're never vile. It's an interesting line: even in fun, if a puppet goes vile, like really foul, offensive ... if you see a lovable character talking that way, it takes a bit of your soul away," he says.

"But you can infer that kind of thing. It's the wording. Moe has said many controversial things, but because they come out so innocently and lovably, he gets away with it."

McKinney admits the puppeteers are so in tune with their characters that they'll often incorporate accidental trips or sneezes into the script, and leave them in the show.

And they've never tried to be too cool for - ahem - school.

"You want the kids to be able to relate to these characters. They have failings, they have foibles, they do things wrong, they make mistakes, and they show frailties," he says.

"This show, because of the care that's gone into it ... if I wasn't working on it, I'd be riveted to it."

* Watch episodes of The Moe Show here.
LOWDOWN
Who: Puppeteer Simon McKinney
What: The Moe Show
Where and when: Weekdays, TV3 from 7.35am