Friday, July 18, 2008

One Percent Redux


I want to call everyone's attention to a comment made by Andrew Osmond on the entry One Percent. He provides more details about the state of children's animation in the U.K. and it was Andrew who pointed to the above video, showcasing the culture issues that result from the lack of local production. If you're curious to see what the Wombles are actually like, go here (once again courtesy of Andrew.)

Canada has many co-production treaties, which allow companies from different countries to collaborate with a Canadian company on a show and still have it count as Canadian content. It works economically as it makes it easier to get a show financed and provide local employment. Culturally, however, the show has to satisfy multiple masters and the result is almost always a watered down compromise. The show can't be too specific to one partner's culture or it ends up being incomprehensible to the other partner's.

The result of all this is either imported children's TV (cheaper to buy than to produce original content) or co-productions (half a loaf being better than none). In neither case are children seeing the world they know reflected back to them.

2 comments:

andrew osmond said...

Glad you found it interesting! For anyone wondering why the British voice on _both_ Wombles videos sounds familiar, it's Bernard Cribbins, who's been a fixture in British films and TV for decades, most recently in this year's just concluded season of 'Doctor Who.' (He voiced all the Womble characters in the original cartoon, and served as narrator.)

As mentioned in the title song, the Wombles are _supposed_ to live in Wimbledon Common, a large park in London.

Steve said...

I work for an NBC affiliate TV station in Ohio. Want to know how to brighten the day of a network executive? Walk into his office and suggest the network dedicate more time to original children's programming. The laughter this will generate will last throughout the day.

And then you're fired.

What manager at any level of broadcasting in any country wants to step through the regulatory and public relations minefield that is children's television? Who wants to write a script only to see the child psycologists and the parent groups rip it apart? What station manager wants to deal with the finer points of what constitutes a "violent act," in a cartoon? And who wants to do all this for what will certainly be a money-losing proposition?

McDonald's, Coke, and the breakfast cereal makers, once the patron saints of Saturday morning in America, don't want to be accused of selling junk food to kids. So they shy away, leaving Saturday Morning a graveyard for stale PSA's about tooth decay.

The result: NBC and other networks buy time-tested "previously enjoyed" safe shows that meet the narrow demands of the field. (NBC hasn't abandoned kids completely, although considering the showss they air, it's easy to make that mistake.) And even then they can't win. NBC caught flack for trimming the overt Christian messages from their airings of the decade-old "Veggietales" show.

It takes a special breed to produce quality children's television. We need to encourage them to fight the good fight, in all countries.

And may England never lose her accent. It's one of the charms of watching "Doctor Who."