Friday, 23 February 2018

Tail-Knot


Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Monday, 19 February 2018

Space Dragon


My personal take on the Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon which featured in Ted Hughes' 'The Iron Man' (the book itself was later adapted into 'The Iron Giant', for those who don't know).

Friday, 16 February 2018

The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends (1992)

James Corden. James ruddy Corden. You can't escape from the man nowadays. Ever since Gavin and Stacey took off, he's been in pretty much everything - he's appeared on (among other things) Comic Relief, A League Of Their Own, the Brit Awards, One Man Two Guvnors, Into The Woods, The Wrong Mans, and is currently the face of The Late Late Show in the states.

In short, he's literally everywhere: in theatre, in Hollywood and on television, including the adverts. From insulting the town of Sidcup, to making "surprise" cameos, to making cheap sheep jokes in a bid to sell car insurance, and even lending his voice in animated movies here and there. In fact, his latest addition has been the titular character of the recent Peter Rabbit CGI / live-action movie from Sony Pictures.

And I don't about you, but I for one have had enough of him. So has everyone else apparently. It's not just the over-exposure that's been maddening. For me, Corden just doesn't have the same appeal as, say, Bradley Walsh or Peter Kay when it comes to comedy and acting in general. Or rather he did, but something somehow got lost along the way. Very much like how Sony Pictures went about trying to adapt Peter Rabbit for a modern audience on the big screen.
...no, I'm sorry. I'm not going to continue moaning about what was wrong with the film, or why Corden just isn't funny to me. Instead, I'm going to talk about the real Peter Rabbit. The gentler, kinder version from a bygone era. And the animated series that came about in the mid-90's.


Here Endeth The Rant.


Many may have seen or heard the name Beatrix Potter but not know of the person herself. Born way back in 1866, Kensington, she was one of many women who, at the time, had limited opportunities for higher education. However, against the odds, and despite spending her childhood alone, she developed her knowledge and love of the landscape around her (vis, the English countryside), which led her to become a natural scientist and conservationist. She even went so far as to buy up several farms in the Lake District (now the Lake District National Park) in order to help preserve the scenery around her.

But as well as that, she is more famously known as an illustrator and writer, her most famous books tell the adventures of Peter Rabbit and his friends. How the very first book came about is a remarkable yet familiar scenario: originally written for her former Governess' five-year-old son, Miss Potter decided to revise her story and see it turned into a proper book. But frustrated by numerous rejections from publishers, she sought out to self-publish the book herself. 250 copies were sent out privately to friends and relations, which included 'Sherlock Holmes' writer Arthur Conan Doyle.
Thus, it wasn't until a decade later that Frederick Warne & Co. finally decided to officially print 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit' for all to enjoy. From then on, 22 further books were written featuring other characters, all who would interact with one another - including Peter Rabbit and his family as they gradually matured and had families of their own. These included Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Tom Kitten, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Mrs. Tittlemouse. Towards the end of her writing career, Miss Potter experimented with writing villainous characters like Mr. Tod and Tommy Brock. No doubt some, if not all, the characters were inspired by the many animals she kept on the farm/s and grew up with.

The books remain in print to this day, and are still cherished the world over. These stories are considered old-fashioned yet timeless. Almost Aesop-like in the tales they tell and the morals they deliver somewhere within. The watercolour illustrations are just as beautiful. From the rolling landscapes and numerous types of flowers, to the pain-staking detail put in both the animal characters and the clothes they wore. These were, and still are, considered some of the best British literature for children, and with good reason.

Overtime, the stories themselves have been adapted in various forms - not surprisingly, some of which have come from America. This included an offer from Walt Disney himself to turn Peter Rabbit into an animated feature-length (and one which Miss Potter wisely refused). One of the more memorable attempts has been The Tales of Beatrix Potter, a live-action ballet performance from 1971. Another success has been the biographical film Miss Potter (2006), which starred Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor.

But the most faithful and beautiful adaptation of all has to be The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends from 1992 - this time with the BBC involved, along with Japanese companies Pony Canyon Inc and Fuji Television Network Inc. It was my first exposure to Miss Potter's stories, and you couldn't get a better start than that!

Animation director Dianne Jackson (The Snowman, Father Christmas, Yellow Submarine) was deeply involved in the production and planning of this anthology series, although sadly she passed away due to cancer mid-way. Nevertheless, despite the fact that only 9 episodes were made, they remain as wonderful as the books themselves. Most of which contain two stories in the same episode that were adapted to tie-in to one another.

The animation and backgrounds are flawless, made at a time when traditional 2D animation was at its height and quality was key; the music by Colin Towns is simply memorable, right down to the quintessential song 'Perfect Day' which plays during the end credits; and the voice cast involved...!

Naturally, fans overseas may remember the redubbed American cast for certain characters, but I grew up watching the true British version. And I still adore them today, right down to the child stars of the time - Josie Lawrence, Sir Derek Jacobi, Felicity Kendal, Shelia Hancock, Rik Mayall, Prunella Scales, June Whitfield, Alan Bennett, Su Pollard...and bear in mind that these actors and actresses were chosen because they fit the characters they played, not for their popularity alone.

To top it off, all the animated stories were bookended by live-action segments, which featured Niamh Cusack playing the role of Beatrix Potter as she told the stories from the comfort of her farmhouse with her animals and watercolours at hand. All utterly charming!

All of this is why the series was nominated for best animated programme at the Emmy Awards in 1993. And it shows what happens when you put the money and effort into something you love. So to all involved in the making of this series, congratulations! It's still being remembered today alongside the original classics you helped bring to life =)

In conclusion, I implore to all the parents in the UK and hopefully the world...if you want to introduce today's generation to Peter Rabbit, you have two options:

  • Go find the books. They're in nearly every book shop you can think of; they're available for Kindle books from all online stores; or chances are that early editions are being kept in safe storage by a friend or family relation.
  • Track down The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends. The DVD was released in 2016 to commemorate Beatrix Potter's 150th birthday. And for those who can't, there's a handy playlist to watch below, however long it'll remain online.

Personally, if I wanted to see a feature-length Peter Rabbit movie, I'd have been content with a direct-to-DVD special based on the CGI animated series from 2012, which has also done pretty good for itself. While it may not be quite perfect to some, it's still a better example of how to adapt characters for the modern age without losing too much of its original charm.

There are some characters, however, that don't need to be "modernised" to suit today's generation, nor do they require to be adapted for the cinema either. Because the results will nearly always be the same so far as Hollywood is concerned - the characters, their backstories and their settings will be heavily changed to the point where they are only recognised by names alone. As the TVC series has proven, stories such as Miss Potter's work far better on the small screen rather than the big one: short but sweet, with the characters remaining faithful to themselves and the original source. And they don't need some bloke from Uxbridge to be shoehorned in either.

Thank you.


LINKS OF INTEREST




Thursday, 15 February 2018

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Monday, 12 February 2018