Animal fans, meet kittens and geckos, guinea pig YouTubers and the first fishteen, writes Sarah Ell.

An in-house dog, live-streaming guinea pigs, visiting alpacas and dealing with pooh ... sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it's proved to be a winning formula for Kiwi kids' show Fanimals.

Fanimals, made by Christchurch production house Whitebait, is a mix of entertainment and information, which has already attracted lots of young fans.

Producer Reuben Davidson, who most recently led The Adam and Eve Show, said the team was looking for a new idea that would excite and engage a young audience.

"The thing we constantly see is that all kids connect with animals. When we set out to create the show, we commissioned some research on kids' thoughts on animals. They came back and said they couldn't find any kids that didn't like animals," Davidson says.


"There's such an amazing variety of animals - there's one for every kid, I guess. No matter what appeals to a kid, they can find a friend in the animal world that they can connect with."

Davidson says Fanimals isn't a strictly educational "chalk and talk" show, but along with the entertainment there is lots for kids to learn. Segments on endangered species, animal care and, yes, poo ("Who's poo is whose?") provide facts as well as fun.

"We're telling all these really sweet stories that come with really great messages. But we have to do that in a way that's engaging and entertaining," he says.

Along with humans Jess Quilter and vet Stacey Tremain, one of the show's "anchors" is Molson, the show labrador, who lives with his family in Sumner when not starring on TV.

Other regulars are kittens Micro and Chip, lop-earned bunnies Clover and Fern, geckos Taika and Tama, the "first fishteen" in their tank, and Gregory, George and Gavin, the guinea pig YouTubers (go on, check on Guinea Peek on the Fanimals website).

And then there are the special guests, including a group of alpacas, who carefully selected one corner of the studio to do their business in, and took turns to use it.

In keeping with today's ultra-connected world, fans of the show can also join the Fanimals online club, and share stories and images of their pets in a safe environment.

"It gives them the opportunity to share moments in their lives and their pets' lives so they can feel involved in the show," Davidson says.

Guests wait for their turn in the limelight.
Guests wait for their turn in the limelight.

And they don't have to have an actual animal to take part: the website includes a cool Fanimaker, where kids can design their own, ultimate virtual pet. "They can make dogs, cats, lizards, birds, fish ... no two are ever the same."

Having the show available through Heihei also taps into the new ways that kids, as well as adults, consume content.

"Ultimately, the role that Fanimals sees itself having is to be a best friend in the afternoon for kids. With Heihei, that best friend in the afternoon can be your best friend in your pocket," Davidson says.

All Fanimals episodes will be available on the platform, as well as playlists such as compilations of the Aotearoa Superheroes segment, which features kids working with native species and nature conservation projects around the country.

Davidson says being able to monitor what is being watched most often will provide valuable feedback on what their audience wants to see.

And as for working with children and animals, the great no-nos of showbusiness, Davidson says it has actually made the studio a nicer place to work.

"Working on Fanimals is probably the nicest working environment I've ever had on a show. Between takes, you'll have a cameraman cuddling a kitten or someone taking Molson the dog for a walk, and people patting the bunnies - I've never seen such an unstressed crew.

"Everyone enjoys having the animals in our working days, as well as the obvious fun of toileting in a studio environment.

"We've had no major incidents but we've got a pretty fast-moving team of people."



, TVNZ2 on weekday afternoons and Heihei