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British Movie Toons

Hi-cock-a-lorum! - It's the Water Babies...

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The Water-Babies    (1978)
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producers: Ariadne / Studio Minotaur

   animation: cel animation sequences

      run time: 92 mins


"A story of a little chimney sweep in the year 1850"

    Charles Kingsley's classic children's novel is adapted into a half-animated
    feature by Lionel Jeffries and Miroslaw Kijowicz.

    The story tells of Tom, a put-upon young chimney sweep in Victorian England
    who is in the manipulative grasp of a schemer called Grimes and his whiskered
    Masterman. The duo bring Tom to Harthover Hall with a view to burgling the
    place, but the young lad does his best to evade the duo and disrupt their rotten
    plans. He meets the strange housekeeper Mrs Doawyouwouldbedone, and
    poorly young Ellie. After a series of unfortunate events young Tom is chased
    from the property and is forced to dive into a roaring water pool in order to evade
    his pursuers, whereupon he enters a mysterious animated underwater realm.
    Here he has an extraordinary song-filled adventure with a host of even more
    extraordinary characters, before returning to the "real" world. Was it all a dream?
    We can't be sure, and neither can Tom. But in the end, Tom is freed from Grimes'
    grasp and finds a new home with Ellie and her family at Harthover Hall...

    The wraparound is a live-action affair, sandwiching and occasionally interacting
    with the animated middle. All the elements are there for a classic movie - a famous
    source material, a cast of equally-famous names, the perfect director - but it's a
    rough mixture. The animation, in particular, is very crude. Kijowicz's character
    designs lack charm, and the backgrounds are often dull and dirty. There's no vim,
    no verve, no wonder to the work. Heck, where's the imagination? All over the shop,
    methinks. Our animated Tom encounters a jamboree of creatures, amongst them
    sharks, polar bears, penguins, eels and seahorses - these shoehorned into the
    middle of more expected classical elements, like the water nymphs of the title.
    The water world portrayed here simply doesn't make any sense...

    Lionel Jeffries, of course, is an accomplished British film and stage actor and
    director. His directorial efforts also include that steam-powered children's classic
    "The Railway Children", and the live-action Wombles adaptation "Wombling Free".

    "Water-Babies" cost $2m to make. It was animated in Poland and the UK, via
    Film Polski and Cuthbert Cartoons. T'is a Curate's Egg. A strange mixture of
    ideas with much potential sadly untapped. But as is always the case with these
    things, there are many fans of the movie and any number of people are ready
    and willing to sing the film's - um - stand-out tune "Hi-cockalorum"...



      Tom In The Undersea World - a Water-Babies book   Collins Cubs published a quartet of
  bright mini picture books to tie-in
  with the film's release, these being:

  • Tom the Little Chimmney-Sweep
Tom Becomes a Water-Baby
Tom in the Undersea World
Tom and Ellie

     The Water-Babies on DVD

     UK DVD
The Water-Babies
                Region 2 / Prism / Sept 2003

     USA DVD The Water-Babies
                Region 1 / MGM / February 2003


directors:        Lionel Jeffries (live-action)
                          Miroslaw Kijowicz (animation)
      producer:      Peter Shaw
      screenplay:   Peter Shaw, Michael Robson
                          from the novel by Charles Kingsley
                          additional dialogue from Denis Norden
      starring:       Tommy Pender (Tom)
                          Samantha Gates (Ellie)
                          James Mason (Master Chimmney Sweep Grimes)
                          Billie Whitelaw (Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby)
                          Bernard Cribbins (Masterman)
                          Joan Greenwood (Lady Harriet)
                          David Tomlinson (Sir John)
                          Paul Luty (Sladd)
                          Jon Pertwee
                          Lance Percival
                          David Jason
                          Oliver Gregg


      On the web

       No links so far...

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© 1978 Ariadne Films ltd / F2006