Literature: What-a-Mess

He's an Afghan Hound, but it's not apparent through all the mess

What-a-Mess is a series of children's books written by English comedy writer and BBC radio personality Frank Muir. It was twice adapted for animation: once as a BBC miniseries which pulled stories directly from the books and again as a Saturday Morning Cartoon by DiC Entertainment.

The titular What-A-Mess (real name Prince Amir of Kinjan) is a mischievous but good-hearted afghan puppy who's na´vetÚ and pride often get him into messy situations. Other characters include his beleaguered human family, the snooty Cat Next Door and a bird who nests in his hair.

The show, in particular, had a pretty catchy opening song.


Provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: WAM's best friend The Archbishop of Canterbury was renamed (and recolored) Norton in the DiC series.
  • All There in the Manual: According to some versions of the books, the little creatures running about in each scene are What-A-Mess's imaginary friends.
  • Animal Talk: All the animal characters can understand each other.
  • Animation Bump: As was tradition with this era, the animation in the intro for the DiC series is far more fluid and weighty than that seen in series.
    • WAM appeared in a few of ABC's well-remembered "After These Messages" bumpers during it's initial run, the animation for which was also much cleaner and more fluid.
  • Author Avatar: The elderly English Sheepdog, Frank, is voiced by creator Frank Muir himself.
    • Ink-Suit Actor: Frank's facial fur is meant to look like Muir's mustache.
  • Balloon Belly: In "Home Alone, Almost," WAM's family gets him an automatic food dispenser meant to keep him occupied for several hours. He consumes it all in seconds, resulting in one of these.
  • Big Eater: What-A-Mess
  • Canon Immigrant: Trash didn't appear in the original books.
  • Cats Are Mean: Felicia the cat is self-centered and occasionally malicious.
  • Crossdressing Voices: Averted with What-A-Mess, as he was voiced by then-child voice actor Ryan O'Donohue.
  • Denser and Wackier: The DiC series compared to the books.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Well, not "dumb" per se, but a lot of the chaos What-A-Mess causes his family is the result of him not knowing any better.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first episode is presented with a framing device of Frank telling the stories of What-A-Mess from his front porch, but isn't used in any other episodes.
  • The Faceless: An odd trope in this kind of series. The faces of human characters are always deliberately obscured by things like camera angles or objects and no human faces are ever seen. The one exception being Santa Claus in the Christmas Special.
    • What-A-Mess's mother was this in the books. She becomes a more active character in the series.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Funny Background Event: Both the book and the show would have odd little creatures running about in the background getting into shenanigans or reacting to what's going on at the moment.
  • G-Rated Drug: "Only Four More Left" presents excessive shopping as this when Felicia gets addicted to a home shopping network. What-A-Mess, in a rare instance of competence, even tries to block her from the phone by saying that it's for her own good.
  • Growling Gut: A frequent source of contempt for the title character, due to his huge appetite. Occasionally used as a gag, such as when the inside of his stomach is shown to have a little wolf howling and banging on a dinner table furiously.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: In a subversion version of this trope, the male What-a-Mess is bathed and groomed on rare occasions and actually looks like a pedigree Afghan Hound rather than his usual scruffy self.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Trash, who acts like a street-smart tough guy most of the time, but can be quite nice when push comes to shove.
  • Limited Animation: The BBC cartoons. The DiC series had this as well, but nowhere near as noticeable.
  • Literal-Minded: A lot of What-A-Mess's misadventures are the result of this. One cartoon had him opening all of the windows in his house because he heard it would be "raining cats and dogs" and he wanted to give them all a place to stay, resulting in the house being flooded.
  • Meaningful Name: Three guesses as to what people tend to say when What-A-Mess comes crashing in.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: What-A-Mess has a moment of this in "Only Four More Left" when he realizes that introducing Felicia to home shopping inadvertently created a monster.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The Cat Next Door became Felicia in the TV show.
    • The random bird in What-A-Mess's hair was not only named Baldwin, but was turned into a Running Gag ("Do you know you've got a bird living in your hair?" "That's not a bird. That's Baldwin!").
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Trash's voice is based on Jack Nicholson.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: What-a-Mess's real name is actually Prince Amir of Kinjan, but in practice he is rarely called this. Even his mother calls him What-a-Mess most of the time.
    • Trash's birth name? Francis.
  • The Pigpen: JUST GUESS!
  • Sarcasm-Blind: What-A-Mess, thought it's probably because he's a puppy. One episode has him referring to another dog as "Mr. President" because he introduced himself as Prince Amir of Kinjan, to which the other dog replied "Yeah, and I'm the president of the united states!"
  • Standard Snippet: The DiC series used a slightly out-of-key version of "Chopsticks" for scenes where characters are in hairy situations.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Inverted. Well-groomed Afghan Hounds naturally have long hair on their heads, and long hair that tends to make them look like they're wearing fancy clothes. Despite all that, What-a-Mess is a male dog. Played straight with the cat, Felicia. She has long eyelashes and a bow.
  • Truth in Television: Afghan Hounds have notoriously high-maintenance coats. Any owner of an Afghan Hound who grooms their dog anything less than constantly will end up with a dog looking something like What-a-Mess. Frank Muir owned several Afghan Hounds when he wrote the series, which was probably an influence.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The narrator often says the exact opposite of what is really going on.
  • Verbal Tic: Ramona has a habit of saying "basically" a lot. She's played by Candi Milo, who used the same voice and tic for Cow and Chicken's teacher.

Alternative Title(s):

What A Mess