Hugo (Danish: Skærmtrolden Hugo) is a children's interactive television show created by the Danish company Interactive Television Entertainment (ITE). Since its premiere on TV2 in 1990, this popular "live one-player multi-platform interactive game show" has aired in more than 40 countries. The show has been adapted into multiple video games as well into various merchandise and other media in an extended media franchise.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Production
- 3 Licensed programs by country
- 4 Other media and merchandise
The show's original season, which ran on Danish television for a year, featured only the titular character, Hugo. Hugo was a small, friendly troll who was 220 years old (which is still a young age for a troll), who would navigate a dangerous old mine in a quest for treasure. The in-game Hugo would also communicate with the player to comment on the game's progress.
For the next season, the show was vastly expanded, adding Hugo's 180-year-old wife Hugolina (Hugoline) and their kids: Rit (TrolleRit), Rat (TrolleRat), and Rut (TrolleRut), who were aged between 20 and 50. The show also added Hugo's arch-enemy, the evil witch named Scylla (originally Afskylia in Denmark, but also the holder of an array of alternative international names such as Sculla in English, Hexana in the German version, Maldicia in Spanish, Maldiva in the Portuguese version, Mordana in Croatia, Skylla in Finland, Sila in Turkey, and Simla in Vietnam), who would kidnap Hugo's family. In the original program, Scylla is extremely old and hideous but appears young and beautiful when the captive Hugolina and her children are kept near her in a cage. The objective of the show's game became guiding Hugo through various obstacles in a series of different scenarios to rescue his family, armed with three lives. After finishing the game by either winning or losing, score points determining the value of the prize would be calculated depending on the amount of gold collected along the way, with any lost lives negatively impacting the score. A potential bonus awaited those who successfully reached the end of the level, where Hugo would enter the witch's Skull Cave lair. Three ropes would hang in front of Hugo and the player must choose one to pull. Depending on which rope was pulled, they would manage to free Hugo's family and defeat Scylla, who would be tied up and ejected through a window, the family would be freed but the witch would escape, or Hugo would be tied up and sent flying. Depending on the result, the score will be doubled, left at its current state, or halved, respectively. Usually several people would attempt this task to win the prize during half an hour of airtime. In addition to Hugo's messages for the player, Scylla would also cruelly taunt both Hugo and the player directly during the game.
In later airings, the show was gradually expanded to include more characters, including good and evil talking and regular animals, and increasingly more diverse environments and gameplay. The new scenarios added through the years were also featured in the updated editions of the Hugo video game.
Hugo was originally portrayed by Michael Brockdorf, who developed the voice while serving in the Danish Army. Several others have since taken over the role of voicing the character, including Amin Jensen and Torben Simonsen. Hugolina was originally voiced by Louise Engell (whose brother, Thomas Engell, composed the music for the show). Engell's mother Winnie was the original voice of the antagonist Scylla.
For Hugo and its related television program projects, ITE developed the custom-built and designated ITE 3000 computer hardware system, which could convert telephone signals into control commands for the characters in the game, allowing the audience to interact with the action on TV during the live broadcast. The system was based on two Amiga 3000 computers combined with a new audio control system, MIDI sampler, DTMF system, and other hardware, all of which reportedly cost $100,000 to make.
The ITE 3000 was later replaced by the PC-based ITE 4000, which used a real-time motion capture Animation Mask System (AMS). This system was invented by Bjarne Sølvason (father of the ITE founder Ivan Sølvason) and could transfer an actor's body, head, eye movements, and facial expressions to Hugo's character on screen. The actor providing the voice of Hugo wore a helmet containing sensors that would capture his facial expressions and translate them to the character, however, all of the characters' body movements were pre-rendered.
In 1996, ITE created a 3D graphics system for Hugo using Silicon Graphics' Onyx Reality Engine. A new technology for the real-time 3D animation of Hugo was unveiled in 2005, but was aimed only for export, specifically to Asian countries.
Licensed programs by country
In Argentina, A Jugar Con Hugo, hosted by Gabriela "Gaby" Royfe, ran for seven seasons (343 episodes), winning a Martín Fierro Award for "Best Kids Show" in 2003. The program was produced by Promofilm, with Hugo was voiced by César Ledesma. A paper magazine was also published for the show. Gaby Royfe returned to host the program in 2016, this time using the Internet and a mobile app instead of the original television and landline telephone. This 30th anniversary event was attended in-person by 1600 people and watched by half a million on TV.
In Brazil, the Hugo show on CNT Gazeta (later Hugo Game) peaked at 500% above the expected rating level, with 1.8 million callers in a single day. The program was directed by Herbert Richards and hosted by Mateus Petinatti and Vanessa Vholker, who were later replaced by Andréa Pujol and Rodrigo Brassoloto. Hugo was presented as a duende and played by an animatronic puppet (later only appearing on the game screens) voiced by Orlando Viggiani.
In Chile, Hugo was a success and was quickly extended from a 15 minute segment to 30 minutes in the latter half of 1995, eventually receiving a daily one-hour time slot on Televisión Nacional de Chile as La Hora de Hugo ("Hugo Hour"). Winners of the daily editions would meet in a weekend finale, and a "Hugo van" traveled around the country to meet the program's viewers. The show was originally hosted by Ivette Vergara and later by Andrea Molina, with Sandro Larenas voicing Hugo.
In the People's Republic of China, Hugo was known as a "European troll" and the show could not be interactive because a 30-second delay was required to allow authorities to cut off the feed if anyone said anything negative about the ruling regime.
In Croatia, Hugo was presented by Boris Mirković, Ivana Plechinger and Kristijan Ugrina, with Hugo voiced by Ivo Rogulja. The show was highly popular, running for eight years, and the taunt used by the witch Scylla (Mordana in the Croatian version of the show) in the dungeon became iconic: Hajde, izaberi jedan broj, sigurno ćeš pogriješiti! ("Go on, choose a number, you will surely fail!").
In Finland, where Hugo was introduced by game journalist-turned-producer Pekka Kossila in 1992, two different 30-minute Hugo shows were aired at the same time by Yle TV2, one for adults and one for children, achieving an 18% market share by 1996. The programs were originally presented by Taru Valkeapää, who was chosen from among 45 candidates, and later by Marika Saukkonen, with Hugo voiced by Harri Hyttinen. Merchandise included a music CD called DJ Hugo, which included dance hits of 1993.
In France, the program was called Hugo Délire ("Hugo Madness") and Les Délires d'Hugo ("Hugo Delusions") and was presented by Karen Cheryl on France3. The show achieved cult status among French children of the 1990s.
In Germany, Austria, and Switzerland (the most significant program being in Germany), Die Hugo-Show, scored with techno music, would draw up to 200,000 phone calls every day at its peak, achieving a 40% viewer share in its target age of 3-13 with its audience of 700,000 in Germany. It used a virtual reality-like studio and the "Hugo-mobile" for live broadcasting all around the country, becoming a cult show for some. The German version of Hugo won a Golden Cable award in 1995 for "Best Children's Program". There were several musical guests on the show, including Masterboy. A 1996-1997 Kabel 1 spin-off program titled Hexana-Schloss ("Hexana's Castle") was hosted by a live-action version of Hexana (German name for Scylla) played by Julia Haacke and sponsored by PlayStation. German presenters included Minh-Khai Phan-Thi, Yvette Dankou, Tania Schleef and Judith Hildebrandt. Sonja Zietlow hosted the spin-off program Hugo & Hexana. The German show run for the total of 861 episodes. Hugo's voice actors were Michael Habeck, Oliver Grimm, Oliver Baier and Sven Blümel. The country also had a Hugo magazine and a wide variety of merchandise, including numerous music CD releases.
In Ireland, Hiúdaí won the Oireachtas TV awards' "TV Presenter of the Year" in 2001 and "Personality of the Year" in 2004.
In Israel, Hugo (הוגו) began as a 30-minute show on the Arutz HaYeladim (Children's Channel) and quickly became the channel's most popular show. The show inspired a three-hour spin-off, Hugo's World (עולמו של הוגו), in 1996, in which children used a large step-on number pad to enter character movements. From 1997 to 2001, Hugo starred in a children's electricity safety campaign by Israel Electric Corporation. The show offered a contest related to this campaign in 1997. The program's presenters included Tal Berman. In addition to various merchandise, the show was adapted into a comic book series and a musical stage show.
In Poland the main Hugo show and a spin-off aired on Saturday, while another spin-off aired Monday through Friday. All of these programs were shown on the Polsat network. They was originally modeled after the German version of the show. Among the spin-offs were Hugo Family, where entire families competed in the show, and Hugo Express, which aired on workdays. Hugo related shows were the most popular children's programs in Poland for several years. Hugo was originally hosted by Wojciech Asiński and Andrzej Krucz and later by Piotr Galus, while Aleksandra Woźniak hosted Hugo Family. The character of Hugo was originally voiced by Andrzej Niemirski and later by Mariusz Czajka. Similar to in Germany, there was a monthly children's magazine with a coloring-book spin-off magazine in addition to various kinds of locally produced merchandise.
In Portugal, the show's presenters included Alexandra Cruz, Fernando Martins, Pedro Mendonça, Pedro Pinto, Joana Seixas and Susana Bento Ramos, and the voice actors included Frederico Trancoso (Hugo), Grace Ferreira (Hugolina), and Mónica Garcez (Maldiva/Scylla). Hugo won a Troféu Nova Gente award in 1999. The show was later revived as the daily program Hora H ("H Hour").
Позвоните Кузе ("Call Kuzya") was the first interactive program in the history of Russian television, hosted by Inna Gomes and Andrei Fedorov. Hugo was renamed to Max (Mакс) and then to Kuzya (Кузя, possibly after Kuzya the Little Domovoi, the hero of a Soviet cartoon series). He was voiced by Aleksander Lenkov and Dmitry Polonsky, while Scylla was voiced by Aleksandra Ravenskih.
In Slovenia, Hugo was hosted by Gregor Krajc on TV Slovenija. It became the #1 entertainment show by 1996, reaching 38% viewer share among its target demographic.
Hugo never aired in South Africa because the local TV station demanded that ITE remove horns in all animations for all games, as their superstitious viewers believed that Hugo would appear as a demon from local beliefs. Hugo's horns also caused some problems in the Middle East.
In Spain, 25% of the population tuned in to watch Hugo hosted by Carmen Sevilla on Telecinco, a viewing figure that has remained unsurpassed since 1994. Pepe Carabias (José Carabias Lorenzo) voiced Hugo in Spain. The success of the main program prompted the launch of Hugolandia, a spinoff program presented by Beatriz Rico, Luis Alberto Vazquez, and Roma and Eva Morales and directed by Sebastian Junyent.
In Sweden, the TV4 version of the Hugo show became the best-rated children's show of all time in 1996. The show's merchandise included a board game.
In Turkey, Hugo became the highest ranking children's show and achieved a 12% share of the total market when the country was new to private channels. The program was enormously popular, especially in 1993, when it was watched by millions of children, thousands of whom would compete to play. The show was hosted by Tolga Gariboğlu. There was also a Hugo-themed theatrical show and locally made merchandise based on the show. In the Turkish version, Scylla (cadı Sila, was voiced by Eylem Şenkal) kidnapped Hugo's family to fulfill her desire to drink troll sweat and gain eternal life and beauty. There is also a popular urban legend about a boy who swore violently at Hugo and the show's host Tolga after losing, with many claiming they have witnessed it on live television even though it has been denied by Tolga.
In the UK, Hugo was played on What's Up Doc? and The Shiny Show, reaching up to 38% viewer share on the latter.
In Vietnam, the show was first aired in 2004 with the title Vui cùng Hugo ("Fun with Hugo") on Ho Chi Minh City Television (HTV). It was hosted by Ngoc Linh and Thanh Thao, with Hugo voiced by Quach Ho Ninh. Since December 2005, a Northern version of the show has been aired on Hanoi TV along with the HTV version. It was called Hugo và các bạn ("Hugo and friends") and was hosted by Hoàng Thùy Linh, Lê Đức Anh (Đức Anh Hugo), Nguyen Thanh Vân (Thanh Vân Hugo) and Thu Hằng. The show became one of the highest rated shows in Vietnam by 2008, receiving 20,000 phone calls per episode. The program became a household name and a favorite among both children and adults. Hugo và các bạn was axed in 2008 as a part of Hanoi TV's mass gameshow cancellation, with almost every such program made by the station being discontinued and replaced with HTV gameshows and a movie block.
Other media and merchandise
Main article: Hugo (franchise)
Various video games, including a series directly adapted from the 1990s show, and other media and merchandise have been produced in Denmark to be distributed around the world. Some later video games and other adaptations dropped the Hugolina-kidnapping motif, making Scylla youthful by default. Instead of seeking revenge against Hugo, she would be searching for an ultimate power to conquer the world or even trying to exterminate the trolls. Some games like the Agent Hugo series even dropped her as a character altogether. There have also been two attempts to adapt the show into an animated film, among other developments.