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Living: Martians who've landed a starring role...

Byline: LUCY MILES

Be afraid, be very afraid - a new invasion is under way and resistance is futile. Children across the country are being taken prisoner by alien forces whose name is already being whispered in playgrounds - The Butt-Ugly Martians.

So today LUCY MILES offers parents a definitive guide to the latest toy phenomenon before it beats the likes of Bob the Builder and Pokemon into the ground.

WHATEVER happened to the days when TV spinoffs were no more than a pyjama case and a sheet of stickers?

I am still, somewhat worryingly, the proud owner of a now rather dogeared Paddington Bear.

But nowadays kids are not content until they can eat, drink and sleep merchandise which bears the gurning face of the latest big thing.

And the Butt-Ugly Martians are just that.

Almost before they hit TV screens last month, comics, toys, CD-roms, games, trading cards, watches videos and clothes featuring B. Bop-A-Luna, 2T-Fru-T and Do-Wah Diddy were in the shops.

The butt-ugly heroes of the show's title are sent to Earth in 2053 by Emperor Bog on a mission to take control of the planet.

Teenagers

They arrive in America as an advance party for an invasion force but meet teenagers Mikey, Angela, Cedric and a robot pooch called Dog, and decide it is much better to eat burgers and play computer games than start a war.

But Emperor Bog tries to wipe out his wayward soldiers and they also have to contend with the over-zealous alien hunter Stoat Muldoon.

Targeted at four to eight-year-olds the show has pulled huge audiences since it went on air and its two dedicated websites have already received more than one million hits.

But it is not just in the shops and playgrounds that the Butt-Ugly Martians are making a killing.

Just Group, the company which created the show, has reported a 64 per cent hike in its interim profits.

The group, which is listed on the Alternative Investment Market, also holds the rights to such hits as Pinky & Perky and the Jellikins.

It racked up pre-tax profits of pounds 1.23 million for the six-months to October 31, compared with pounds 750,708 in the corresponding period last year.

Turnover has increased to pounds 6.5 million, up from pounds 6.2 million.

The business - based in Bakewell, Derbyshire, and which specialises in children's entertainment rights - claims the series will make the superheroes as famous as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The Martians are the brain-child of Welsh animator, Mike Young, who is also creator of 1980s cartoon hero Superted.

And Mike is convinced the show is going to be a huge hit.

'I am sure it will not be a flash in the pan. Cartoons like Pokemon are only ever passing trends because essentially they are poor quality.

'We have spent a lot of time and effort making sure that Butt-Ugly is more than a brief success.

'We are very happy with the way things are going. Movie companies are already offering to buy the film rights. We could be as big as Ninja Turtles.'

A spokeswoman for Just group said: 'We are sure this is going to be a huge success.

'Everything has been thoroughly researched and the quality of the cartoon and the merchandise is of a very high standard.

'The fact everything has been released more or less at once as an integrated package will appeal to children.

'The merchandise will be following shortly through this month and in to April.'

The Butt-Ugly Martians have also got the thumbs up from two young fans.

Christian Thomas, eight, from Sheldon, Birmingham says the Butt-Ugly Martians are right up his street.

A former Pokemon fan, Christian and his brother Matthew, 12, have been following the antics of the extra terrestials and they're already hooked.

Christian says: 'I really like it because it's so funny. The aliens are really ugly and the things they do make me laugh.

'Pokemon has got boring now because they're not bringing any new ones out. People still play the games but no-one really bothers with the cards any more.

'But with Butt Ugly Martians they have a different adventure every time. It's one of my favourite shows now.

'I don't know if it will be as popular as Pokemon and I don't really know if my friends are watching it too but I'll carry on watching every Sunday.'

Butt-Ugly Martians is screened every Sunday morning at 9.25 on CiTV.

So who are the Butt-Uglies?

B.Bop-A-Luna is the fearless leader of the Butt-Ugly Martians. But while he is bright, strong-willed and determined, he sometimes jumps the gun without thinking things through.

2T-Fru-T is the Martians' chief technical officer and all-round handy man. He also loves to have fun and sometimes forgets he has more serious responsibilities. But his commonsense and sharp tongue come in handy when the Butt-Uglies find themselves in trouble.

Do-Wah-Diddy is a loveable, cute and cuddly kind of an alien. He is very playful but is also capable, efficient and loyal and his greatest asset is his ability to mimic any voice, human or alien, a talent which has got him and his friends out of many close calls.

Mikey, Angela and Cedric are three adventurous schoolfriends, who are not afraid to help out the Butt-Uglies.

Dog is not just another cyber-pooch. Instead 2T has his loaded up with all kinds of devices including fire breath, rockets on his paws and propeller ears that make him run super fast.

Emperer Bog is mean, rotten and unkind, and that's on a good day.

He will do anything to take over the earth and the three Butt-Ugly Martians are the only ones who can stop him.

Dr Damage is an evil genius who likes nothing more than making devices and weapons of destruction for Emporer Bog. He often mutters insulting remarks about Bog under his breath but would never say it to his face.

Then there is the dastardly Stoat Muldoon whose aim in life is to stamp out any alien lifeform found on Earth.

Glossary of Martian terminology

MARTIAN

TALK

Alien Cantina - intergalactic club where aliens from hundreds of solar systems hang out.

Bloatworms - a slimey, gooey Martian snack that tastes like chicken.

BKM - the ultimate high-tech Butt-Ugly Martian fighting gear.

Energy Light Bolo - A powerful weapon which emits a three-pronged light ray.

Grek - Martian rubbish.

Rinko - An insincere but oddly likeable alien.

Turkey Jerk - A silly fool

CAPTION(S):

THEY'RE GREAT... fan eight-year-old Christian Thomas TV WARS... The martians are battling against Tellytubbies and Pokemon IN OUT OF THIS WORLD... DO-Wah-Diddy, B. Bop-A-Luna and 2-T-Fruit-T
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 11, 2001
Words:1106
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