THE presence of a 21/ 2- year- old tyro auteur in the DVD Letterbox household has certainly opened my eyes to the cavalcade of children’s entertainment available.
It also eventually numbs you to the relentless monotony that trusted brand names such as The Wiggles , Play School and Thomas the Tank Engine can have on a child’s upbringing, no matter how little they watch or how protective a parent may be.
Of course, the little auteur’s father is not shy about forcing his own childhood favourites on him, even if he has to plan and exercise some caution.
Some of those classic animated series are not quite as strong as we remembered or they are incredibly violent or send some questionable messages to impressionable young brains.
For instance, a recent foray into Tom and Jerry lasted 20 seconds before I decided repeated hits of a hammer to Tom’s head were not suitable behaviour to show a young boy who has already taken a shine to Dad’s tool kit.
So, the 50th birthday of Paddington Bear and the release of a new anniversary DVD is opportune.
Safe and quaint are the first two words that spring to mind when recalling the cuddly bear from ‘‘ darkest Peru’’.
Notwithstanding issues of border security that the orphaned stowaway raises, Paddington — so named because he arrived at London’s Paddington Station with a sign on him asking to be looked after — is a kindly character that still holds great appeal for children.
He’s practical, cute and invariably involves himself in short episodic adventures that teach the kids something useful.
Not the least of these is the manner in which he uses honorifics very politely, a behaviour that can’t be impressed on youngsters early enough ( my son’s already calling me Bodey, and I think he’s taking the mickey).
Stylistically, the 1970s series is a little different. The BBC production used the stop- motion bear in a three- dimensional space in front of two- dimensional backgrounds featuring two- dimensional animated characters.
Even today, the elementary production technique holds a visual intrigue and is something quite different from the rash of similar stop- motion British animations on
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our screens, including Bob the Builder , Little Red Tractor, Postman Pat and others. ( Should I be embarrassed that I can rattle off their names so easily?)
I can’t recall Paddington Bear being the most visible television character when I grew up not so long ago ( cough). We knew him more as a literary character through the books created by Michael Bond or as a fluffy bear that sat at the end of so many beds.
Those books were an incredible success, selling more than 30 million copies worldwide, as were the cute bears, although I don’t think I’m alone in believing that the bear who loves marmalade dropped off our cultural consciousness.
That may soon change, as late last year Warner Bros announced plans to bring Paddington Bear to the big screen, with a computer- generated Paddington living in a live- action world.
Let’s hope it better reflects the spirit of the character than the Garfield movies.
Until then, we have the new double DVD 50th anniversary edition available through Madman Entertainment.
It includes more than three hours of the original TV episodes, a couple of specials and some lovely old- school vignettes for the little auteur in your life.
bodeym@ theaustralian. com. au
( Paramount, MA15+, $ 29.95) The Oscar winner for best picture will be a winner on DVD, too, if only because we all want to try again to make sense of its conclusion.
Marmalade rules: Paddington Bear