Return to Trumpton

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by vrDrew, May 3, 2016.

  1. vrDrew macrumors 65816

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    #1
    British rock band Radiohead released a videoclip from (what is believed to be) a forthcoming album of new music. Burn The Witch



    The video immediately brought back almost fifty year old memories. Of a town called Trumpton, which was a BBC children's stop-motion animated TV show from the 1960s.


    Its a little challenging to review a 50-year old kids TV show. But Trumpton is quite striking in a number of ways, not the least of which is seeing how much Britain has changed in the past half century. A time when people bought their groceries and millinery in high street shops. A time of (apparent) lack of racial diversity. A time when firemen wore brass helmets and blue coats. Its the Britain of Eleanor Rigby and Sergeant Pepper.

    A feature of the Trumpton series was the pre-eminence of the Trumpton Fire Brigade ("Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb") in the stories. The fire brigade is called out on every episode to deal with emergencies, none of which were actual fires. (One reason cited was the difficulty of animating smoke and fire. A difficulty apparently solved by Radiohead in their re-imagining..)

    Trumpton was also fascinating from an audio standpoint. Not only because of the accents, or at least the lack of them. All the characters (including the female ones) are voiced by the narrator, Brian Cant, in an identical received pronunciation English. Apart from Miss Lovelace the hat seller - who he blesses with a slightly strained falsetto. You do have to wonder that, after going to the trouble and expense of painstakingly animating the wonderful sequences, they didn't recruit a slightly wider cast of voice actors. Maybe that would have confused the young audience, who at that time was used to having bedtime stories read to them by a single individual.

    I have a flood of fond memories of Trumpton (and the neighboring towns of Camberwick Green and Chigley). I'm not sure there is anything particularly controversial from a political, religious, or social perspective about Trumpton. Other than perhaps the irony of the towns name and a particular US political personage. Trumpton didn't really exist in 1960s Britain.
     
  2. shinji macrumors 65816

    shinji

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  3. Renzatic Suspended

    Renzatic

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    An excellent release from Radiohead, as usual. Though I have to say, I do miss the days when Thom Yorke actually sang songs instead of crooning them.
     
  4. AlliFlowers Contributor

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    I don't recall that one, may have been after I got to the States. But when I'm alone, I've been known to youtube Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot men and relive my childhood. ;)
     
  5. vrDrew thread starter macrumors 65816

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    British kids TV went through a very bizarre phase. One you may (or may not) remember is The Magic Roundabout, with Dougal the Dog; Brian the Snail; Florence; et al.

    This episode in particular, about Dougal as a film director is quite amazing:


    This is a TV show for children, yet the script references Ken Russell and Sergei Eisenstein. The vocabulary uses words and phrases that are far beyond what most little kids would normally use. Like the (much later) Teletubbies, they seem to inhabit a world created out of some sort of acid trip.

    Please forgive my trips down memory lane. :rolleyes:

    Getting back to Radiohead's Burn The Witch: Its a great song, and I'm eagerly anticipating the rest of the album. Radiohead ain't for everyone, but its eminently listenable for rock fans of a certain age and sensibility.
     
  6. Scepticalscribe, May 4, 2016
    Last edited: May 4, 2016

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    That was excellent, creative, clever and disturbing all at once; thanks for sharing @vrDrew. Great song, and stunning video.

    Actually, while there is an element of The Magic Roundabout (which I do remember) in it, and indeed, Trumpton, and Camberwick Green (the latter also brilliantly referenced in the superb 'Life On Mars'), it also reminds me somewhat of 'The Wicker Man' (another thoroughly brilliant and deeply disturbing movie.)
     
  7. sim667 macrumors 65816

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    What about Captain Pugwash

    The characters in it were called "Master Bates", "Roger the Cabin boy" and "Seaman Staines"

    You'd never get away with that now.

     
  8. vrDrew thread starter macrumors 65816

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  9. sim667 macrumors 65816

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  10. chown33 macrumors 604

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    In the US there was Rocky and Bullwinkle.

    It was filled with dialogue, puns, and literary references that went over the heads of most kids. Episodes or even whole adventures were often just shaggy dog stories leading up to a final pun. The ones that spring to mind are "the ruby yacht of Omar Khayyam" and "the Kerwood Derby". And I was in high school before I knew of the opera "Boris Godunov", the namesake of Boris Badanov.

    I did like "Bullwinkle's Corner" where he recited poetry, because I recognized early on they were lampooning an actual poem, so it was fun to try and dig out the original and read it, to see what wit had been whetted on Wordsworth or whomever.
     
  11. Scepticalscribe, May 4, 2016
    Last edited: May 4, 2016

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #11
    Just watched it again; that is really excellent.

    There are some very clever - and quite sinister - grace notes - to history in this brilliant video (the red 'cross' painted on houses where people had been afflicted by the plague, for example), the gallows, the ducking chair in the village pond, swigging scrumpy, the veneer of deference to outside authority, a 'little England' that never existed except in the imagination and was - beneath the surface of an almost twee rustic charm - quite an unsettling place, in reality, even in the imagined past.

    However, while I agree with @vrDrew that the England - and it was a mythical England, not a mythical Britain - was straight out of Sergeant Pepper or the lost world mourned in The Scouring of the Shire and portrayed in Trumpton (and Camberwick Green) - and more recently lamented by Louis de Bernieres (in Nowhere)- was a world of village ponds, high street stores, a lack of racial diversity, and habits of deference, it also came with its darkness - a point extremely well made by the video.

    As @vrDrew has pointed out, you could get away with some degree of historical (and political, social or cultural) subversion if what you appeared to be doing was making cute cartoons for children.
     
  12. vrDrew thread starter macrumors 65816

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    #12

    The culture of the bucolic English countryside still retains a hint of paganism despite the "civilizing" influences of Roman and Norman invasions and a millennium or so of Christianity. This is hinted at in everything from Thomas Hardy (Return of the Native; Tess of the D'Urbervilles) to the Simon Pegg movie Hot Fuzz. And lest we forget, unlike our Latin-named months, the days of our week come from ancient norse deities: Happy Woden's (Odin's) Day!. I was glad to see the scrumpy maker wearing his traditional West Country smock.

    Of course, Radiohead is artfully turning these traditions, and the innocent children's TV of their (my) youth towards the current political and social environment: the rise of nativist politicians across Europe; anti-immigration sentiment; and the ominous ubiquity of the surveillance state: "We know where you live."
     
  13. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    Yes, those hint of paganism are clear in the video; indeed, that pagan sequence - maypoles, a woman tied to the post, those surrounding her, dancing, bearing swords and wearing masks and antlers - is very well done. There are a lot of visual grace notes - the pub named the 'Speared Boar' - the oddly unsettling blood dripping from the slaughtered beast, the flowers entwined around the gallows…..and yes, the plague cross painted by a man who had just innocuously painted a nice British post box the very same shade of red……..

    Loved the scrumpy maker in his West Country smock.

    Very sharp and unsettling and politically very thought provoking; above all, artistically stunning. Certainly, it brings back memories, both of cartoons and of the Wicker Man.
     

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