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Alfred J. Kwak is the name and protagonist of a variety of Dutch media, most famously a cartoon, which was popular in several European countries, especially its native Netherlands, Germany, Finland and the United Kingdom. Created by multi-talent Herman van Veen, Alfred was originally a theatre piece in the 1970s, then a comic strip, and finally a cartoon in the late 1980s.
The cartoon has endured in the minds of many current twenty-somethings because of the dark and often depressing themes it handled, with great maturity and respect for the young viewers. It's also notable for avoiding Comic Book Time: we first meet Alfred just after hatching, and by the time the series ends, he's a grown man deeply involved in politics.
To an adult viewer, the show may come off as a string of Anvilicious Aesops, including a fascist dictator called 'Dolf' and a land of black ducks and white geese where the latter oppress the former. However, Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped.
The protagonist is a duck, Alfred Jodocus (Jonathan in English) Kwak, whose parents have tragically died in a road accident when Alfred was a tiny hatchling. Raised by foster father Henk, a mole, Alfred grows up into an adventurous, brave duck who travels the world. The setting is an obvious allegory of the Netherlands called Great Waterland, full of dikes, polders and canals and populated by anthropomorphic animals, especially birds.
A sequel series is now in the works, focusing on Alfred's son with his wife Winnie.
- An Aesop: It even has the animals.
- All Germans Are Nazis: Sort of; Dolf's parents are rather obviously German expies, and incredibly racist.
- It is likely more of a Take That towards Germany. Many Dutch are still not fond of what the Germans did to their country during World War II.
- Though their Hitler-esque son Dolf has no obvious German traits of his own, and professor Paljas, one of Alfred's best friends, has German traits without being a Nazi.
- Anachronism Stew: The time setting is considerably vague. In general it seems to take place somewhere during the 20th century, but among other things Professor Paljas has access to advanced supertech. The king seems to suggest a more medieval/baroque setting, but in the first season Alfred learns about the Middle Ages during history lessons, so that period is clearly over. In another episode a medieval Middle Eastern kingdom also seems to exist. Dolf takes power in a Hitler inspired manner, but wears a Napoleon outfit. An explorer called Dr. Livingston, named after the 19th century explorer David Livingstone, doesn't make things less complicated either.
- The Apartheid Era: Alfred's girlfriend Winnie, a black duck, is from a country taken over by white geese.
- Atlantis: Visited by Alfred, and it's inhabited by Dodos, long thought extinct after a massive flood.
- Barefoot Cartoon Animals: Henk Mole, Krabnagel (aka Scratchypaws) and Dolf.
- Clear My Name: Happens to Alfred at least twice.
- Comic Book Time: Completly averted. Time progresses somewhat normally, Alfred enters and finishes school, everybody visibly ages and so on.
- Conveniently an Orphan: The protagonist, obviously.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: The crocodile and hippo characters who erect the amusement park and run over Alfred's parents. Also, Dolf, somewhere around the end.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Dolf, as should be clear by the rest of the page.
- A Dog Named "Dog": In the Finnish dub, Dolf is known as Korppi, which is the Finnish word for raven (even though Dolf is a crow-blackbird hybrid, not a raven).
- Dub Species Change: In the Finnish dub, Dolf's name is Korppi (Finnish for raven) and the National Crows Party is Kansallinen Korppipuolue (Finnish for National Raven Party).
- Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: When Alfred, Henk, and Grabbie go into a diving bell to investigate the drilling site of an oil platform, they're attacked by a shark that easily dwarfs their craft.
- Evil Chancellor: Dolf, at one point, wins a "democratic" "election". Note that this is some time after he failed a fascist coup.
- Evil Laugh: Dolf does this when things are going his way exceptionally well.
- Fantastic Racism. The land of Atrique, where the native black ducks are oppressed by an elite class of white geese. Also Dolf's parents. ("At some level, you have to pity other birds for being so disgusting.")
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Great Waterland is a copy of the creator's native Netherlands, with windmills, polders, canals, dikes and the main character whose parents lived in a big clog. Wherever Winnie is from is a copy of South Africa.
- Frothy Mugs of Water: In the western dream sequence episode, Henk steps into a saloon only selling milk.
- Funny Animal:The entire cast of characters. In fact, the King of Great Waterland is a lion, who in one of the early episodes is shown hunting in the forest. With a rifle. In a land full of talking animals. What is he hunting exactly? Are there non-talking animals they eat for food?
- Apparently no because even the fish talk, and at one point ask Alfred for help because they are afraid that they'll be hunted to extinction by a new high-tech fishing boat.
- The character Krabnagel is a dangerous criminal and known to eat others (including little children).
- In the newly announced series, following Alfred's son, Winnie lays a dozen eggs, which are stolen one by one, and sold to birds who eat hatchlings.
- Freudian Excuse: Sort of; Dolf had a rather crappy childhood.
- It's made relatively clear though that a crappy childhood excuses nothing. After all, Alfred himself had a relatively crappy childhood too.
- Green Aesop: Numerous examples.
- Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Alfred only wears a red scarf most of the time. Some characters wear even less, some wear more.
- Hero Ball: If there's something - anything - bad going on, expect Alfred to be drawn into it.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The only reason Alfred is still alive is that Dolf really isn't good at aiming.
- Impossibly Low Neckline: The Chess Queen, one of the few human-looking characters in the series who can pull this off.
- Just the First Citizen: Dolf, who insists on being referred to as simply "The President" when he rules the National Crows Party.
- King of Beasts: The king is a lion, though initially he prefers his lemonade baths to actual monarching.
- Lions and Tigers and Humans, Oh My!: Played with. While a human does show up he's in fact the least human of any creature; he's a beastlike caveman shown for entertainment to the talking animals in circus shows, and presumably zoos.
- Meaningful Name: The king is named after Austro-Hungarian archduke Franz Ferdinand, who had a great fondness for hunting.
- Also, Dolf.
- Mood Whiplash: Many episodes have Downer Endings, followed immediately by the relentlessly upbeat end credits song: "Alfred's so merry, so very, very merry..."
- Mind Control Eyes: Pikkie/Grabbie gets them whenever he sees something shiny. Sometimes accompanied by a Disney Acid Sequence in which the shiny object calls out to him, begging him to steal it.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: See Dolf above.
- There's also Pikkie, translated as "Grabbie", a friend of Alfred's who's affable and easy-going, but due to being a magpie has an unfortunate penchant for taking/stealing shiny stuff, which usually results in a lot of trouble for everyone involved. A better translation for his name would be "Pecker", which actually conveys all three possible Dutch meanings: "to peck with a beak", "to steal something away" and "tiny penis".
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: A half-breed crow named Dolf founds the National Crows Party and takes over Great Waterland in a fascist coup. He also likes to constantly talk about how much superior crows are.
- Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Professor Paljas, adult Alfred's friend and ally.
- Pachelbel's Canon Progression: The title song.
- Parental Substitute: Henk (a mole) functions as this to Alfred (a duck) after Alfred’s parents and siblings were killed in a car accident. Discussed by Dolf, who thinks Alfred is weird or even inferior for having been raised by someone not his own species.
- Run for the Border: Alfred and his friends flee to neighbouring Broad Reedland when their home Great Waterland is turned into a fascist dictatorship by Dolf and his National Crows Party.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The Evil Spirit of Darkness, an ancient demon who caused so much torment and destruction that God locked him inside a magic bottle.
- Schizo-Tech: The setting freely combines technology, costumes and politics from any point between 1800 and the 1980s. And then there are Professor Paljas' inventions.
- Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: Dolf starts out as a simple schoolyard bully, but he quickly ascends through the ranks of villainy.
- She's a Man In Japan: Ollie the stork was renamed "Lolly" and turned into a female for the Israeli dub.
- Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism: Bird characters seem to have a less humanoid anatomy than mammal characters. Since birds are bipedal, this is seldom particularly striking - except when Alfred is swimming the way real ducks do!
- Take Over the World: Because of an innate fear of being perceived as weak by others, when he's still a child Dolf decides that one day he will simply rule over everyone and everything. Moreover, when he stages his coup he outright declares that he simply wants power for its own sake. A dream he has in the final episode reveals that despite many years having passed he still harbours this desire.
- Tricking the Shapeshifter: Played straight and subverted with the Evil Spirit of Darkness.
- The spirit was defeated hundreds of years ago by a traveller who tricked him into going back into his bottle, and then sealed him shut.
- When Alfred tries the same thing later on it almost works, but the spirit then remembers the details of how he was resealed again, and stops halfway through. Alfred only succeeds when he realizes that the Evil Spirit can be hurt by light, and forces him back in.
- Turtle Island: A tropical island turns out to be carried on the back on of a giant turtle. Exploited by the characters using the turtle to take the entire island out of the path of a dangerous tropical storm, saving all the inhabitants.
- Unexplained Accent: In the German dub, Alfred speaks with an heavy Dutch accent, despite supposedly speaking his native country's language most of the time. (Granted, Great Waterland IS the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Netherlands, but all other characters speak without any audible accent.) The real world reason is that Alfred's German voice is Ryan van den Akker, the same woman who also provides his voice in the original Dutch version.
- Vague Age: Whether Alfred is still a school kid or a young (?) adult who has a girlfriend and travels around the world: He always looks exactly the same.
- Villain Ball: Dolf has one of these implanted in his skull. You may have noticed he is really not a nice person.
- War for Fun and Profit: Dolf's last villanous occupation is a combination of arms dealer and warmonger.
- We Can Rule Together: Dolf twice offers this to Alfred, first when he's looking for money to fund a political party, second when he's found the money elsewhere and is already in the process of seizing power in the entire country. After the second time Alfred himself inverts it when he tries to convince the Card-Carrying Villain to stop his evil plans and immediately step down. Dolf just summarily imprisons him.
- Whole Costume Reference: Dolf's Napoleon attire.
- You Are What You Hate: Dolf is actually half-blackbird, though he darkens his beak to hide it.