Literature: The Littles

From left to right: Dinky Little, Henry Bigg (top), Grandpa Little (bottom), Tom Little, Lucy Little.

The Littles were the title characters of a series of children's novels by American author John Peterson, the first of which was published in 1967. Peterson's books were adapted into The Littles animated series by D.i.C Audio-Visuelnote  and TMS Entertainment (until season 3, which was animated instead by Studio Gallop). In 1985, an animated feature film called Here Come the Littles was released, and the television show ran on ABC Saturday mornings from September 10, 1983, to November 2, 1985. It ran for three seasons, comprising 29 episodes.

Similar to Mary Norton's earlier novel The Borrowers, The Littles features a family of tiny but intelligent humanoid creatures with mouse-like features (the Littles) who live in a house owned by the Bigg family. The mouse-like features include a long, furry tail, long teeth and mouse-like ears. Their height is 46 inches.

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This series provides examples of:
  • All Just a Dream: Dinky's Doomsday Pizza.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Until the 3rd season, each episode featured a how-to segment called "Little Ideas for Big People", which showed how to make small arts and crafts projects. It was later replaced by "A Little Known Fact" which featured various historical facts, sometimes related to the places they were visiting in the episode. The latter segment had a teaser before the commercial break that would ask a question about the "little known fact", the answer to which would be revealed at the end of the episode (before the credits).
    • Played straight in the episode A Little Drunk, where it does not have a teaser before the commercial break, and at the end before the credits roll is a segment where the Littles make a contract that kids could make for their parents to sign promising not to drink and drive, and for kids to not ride with drunk drivers (though it still featured the "A Little Known Fact" title card and music).
  • Animated Adaptation
  • Animation Bump: In some episodes and Here Come the Littles.
  • Animesque: Like many early DiC shows, the overseas animation was done in Japan by TMS and Studio Gallop for the 3rd season leading to scenes that have quite a bit of anime influence. Comical Dinky scenes and scenes of the characters falling with anime-lines behind them are examples. The fact Dinky bares slight resemblance to Lupin the 3rd may also no be coincidence seeing as many of the staff worked on both.
  • Author Avatar: Peterson (Dr. Hunter's assistant) may or may not be based on John Peterson, the original creator and author of the books.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Seen in Twins and The Little Babysitters.
  • Bears Are Bad News: The bear in For the Birds.
  • Cardboard Prison: Dr. Hunter always seems to avoid jailtime for constant offenses not limited to destroying excavation sites, tampering with city property, and borderline trespassing on many occasions.
  • Cats Are Mean: The Littles have avoided many cat attacks, even in the opening sequence to the show's second season!
    • Subverted in Here Come the Littles when the cat befriends Tom after getting a splinter out of its paw.
  • Composite Character: The TV series' character "Grandpa Little" looks and acts identically to the books' character, "Uncle Pete" (both are fat but extremely adventurous and energetic for their age, playing major roles in every story). However, the books DID have a "Grandpa Little", but he was skinny, weary, and did not play much of a role in the stories.
  • Conveyor Belt-O-Doom: Seen in "Prescription for Disaster," when Dinky Little, under the influence of drugs, winds up in an automated bakery's cookie machine (he turned it on, thinking the start button was a police call alarm.) After several near-misses, Grandpa manages to stop the machine right before Dinky can be burned in the oven.
  • The Cutie: Lucy Little
  • The Ditz: Dinky Little, much to Grandpa's annoyance
  • Drugs Are Bad: Played straight in a surprisingly realistic manner in Prescription for Disaster.
  • Edited for Syndication: Reruns of The Littles on the DiC Kids Network syndication package often had the credits cutting off Dinky dotting the I in the DiC logo by slowing down the video footage but not the audio, thus making the sound affects not match the animation. There were also episodes that had long scenes cut, and they all cut the "Little Ideas for Big People"/"A Little Known Fact" segments. Also of note were a handful of episodes that were not reran for one reason or another in various markets including "Prescription for Disaster", which also never aired on Toon Disney.
    • Also a scene from "The Little Scouts" was cut in the Toon Disney airing. The scene features Dinky looking at a flare up close and accidentally causing it to go off carrying him into the air and he falls back down on the pilot's parachute. The scene is intact on the DVD release.
  • The '80s: Some 1980s cultures appear in this show (as it was produced during this time), such as the rock band in A Little Rock and Roll.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending
  • Evil Uncle: Uncle Augustus in The Movie.
  • Evolving Credits / Music: Each of the three seasons had a different opening sequence and theme song. In fact, while the melody remained the same, there were lyric changes with every version, to the point where the season 3 version had nothing in common lyrically with season 1 other than the Title Drops occurring in the same spots. Averted with the closing credits, which retained the original theme music and the same animation throughout the run.
  • Exit Villain Stage Left: Dr. Hunter in every episode he's in. Usually thinking he caught the Littles when it turns out to be something more mundane like a dog, a turtle, or a bunch of geese. Sometimes foiled by the Police, Henry's Parents, etc.
  • Expository Theme Tune: The theme music to the show's second season (1984), though it doesn't fit with the continuity of the movie tie-in.
  • Faceless Masses: Crowd scenes at times are very sloppily done, featuring blobs that look like variations of the main characters or even less impressive. Very noticeable in "Dinky's Doomsday Pizza".
  • Forging The Will: Uncle Augustus in The Movie to cheat his nephew Henry out of Henry's parents' house.
  • Gulliver Tie-Down: Used to restrain a runaway girl who'd fallen asleep in a barn in The Little Fairy Tale. She's able to break loose, but it delays her departure while the Littles prepare a ruse to convince her to return home.
  • Halloween Episode: The Littles' Halloween.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Shown completely in "Dinky's Doomsday Pizza" when Dinky dreams The Littles are discovered and captured by Dr. Hunter leading to experiments and being caged at the zoo like animals
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: Throughout the episode The Rats are Coming!
  • Limited Animation: While the 1st season opening usually as a fully colored and detailed background thoughout it, an opening that has an unfinished yellow background with limited details can be seen in the Toon Disney airings of "A Big Cure for A Little Illness" and this same opening is shown in the ABC Weekend Preview Special from '83 hosted by Dick Clark.
  • Logo Joke: All episodes ended with a customized "D.i.C." logo where Dinky dots the "i" with a buttonnote . The movies used the 1984 "Vortex" logo, and syndicated reruns from 2004-2007 replaced them with the Incredible World of DiC logo (however, the original "button i" logo is preserved on the DVDs).
  • Missing Mom/Disappeared Dad: They are lost on a trip to Africa during Here Come the Littles.
  • Mouse World
  • The Movie: Here Come the Littles, although the 2011 box set has the multi-part episode Liberty and the Littles featured as a second movie.
  • Never Say "Die": Played straight most of the time, but averted at least once each in Here Come the Littles and Liberty and the Littles, and on occasion in some other episodes (Dinky saying "I think my nose just died and went to heaven!" in Prescription for Disaster.)
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Kurt Corwin in "A Little Drunk," but only when he is under the influence of alcohol. Even the movie crew doesn't like to work with him when he is drunk.
  • Off Model: Some episodes were obviously rushed causing scenes of off-model characters, noticeable in some of the "Big Ideas for Little People" segements and in "Dinky's Doomsday Pizza".
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The episode The Wrong Stuff features some "space" background music from Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats.
    • Additionally, the Catillac Cats episode A Camping We Will Go used the Copacetics' rock music from A Little Rock and Roll for the "Nasty Cats" band's music. The suspense music usually played during Dr. Hunter scenes also can be heard in the Mr. T animated series that aired the same years as The Littles.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: Rats are the size of horses to The Littles, as seen in The Rats are Coming! and The Littles Halloween.
  • Running on the Spot: Dinky in most episodes.
  • Secret Keeper: Henry Bigg, but only in the TV series and tie-in films. The princess in "Deadly Jewels" also well swears to keep the secret of The Littles and the Mendoza's daughter in "The Little Amazon Queen".
  • Stock Footage: A shot of Dinky's plane flying away uses this in Liberty and the Littles.
  • The Masquerade: The Littles hide their existence from the entire human population, even though they have entire mini-towns, highways, and communities in every Human building, drainpipe, and other urban structure.
  • The Men in Black: The Littles "Civil Defense Network" monitors and keeps secret their world from humans that may find out including Dr. Hunter. They have outposts all over Grand Valley including inside Stoplights, newspaper holders, and even football goalposts. Alarms, periscopes, and talky-tubes keep their tiny world safe somehow.
  • They Just Didn't Care: Sound effects not matching animation, voice actor's lines over other voice actor's lines, most likely all because of rushed production. Very noticeable in the first episode of the series.
  • Very Special Episode: There were a few of them, most notably Prescription For Disaster (dealing about drug abuse), A Little Drunk (alcoholism) and The Little Girl Who Could (handicapped people). Every Little Vote Counts could also be considered one as it was to promote election season. (ABC ran a promo with the Littles urging kids to tell their parents to register and vote).
  • Vocal Evolution: Dinky sometimes talks just like Mr. Bigg, mainly because Robert David Hall voices both of them.
  • Weird Science: Dr. Hunter's strange inventions....a fake lawn that detects and captures Littles, Ferret Cameras, and a Sub-Normal Heartbeat detector....is that even a thing??
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield??: Grand Valley's location is never revealed. It seems to be a suburb of the Big City seen and mentioned in a few episodes.
  • You Called Me X, It Must Be Serious: Grandpa usually calls Dinky "airhead" or "birdbrain". In "Looking for Grandma Little", he calls Dinky by his name, which naturally surprises Dinky.