Monday, 13 September 2010

Charley Says

Here we have probably the UK's most iconic series of animated public information films. The most reliable sources that I've come across indicate that the films were officially identified as the Charley series, but they have entered pop culture under the title of Charley Says.

There were a total of six films in the series, all made in 1973 and animated by Richard Taylor, director of numerous other public information films and the Crystal Tipps and Alistair series. The shorts saw a cat named Charley (no relation to an earlier propaganda character of the same name created by Halas & Batchelor) who would dispense safety advice in the form of bizarre meowing noises, which his young owner would then translate for the audience. Charley's unintelligible yowling was provided by, of all people, Kenny Everett.

Taylor discussed the films in BBC4's documentary Animation Nation:
I was using cutout animation and the same littery bits of cut-out paper could be transferred from one film to the next so it was a very economic job from that point of view. [Everett] volunteered to do the entire soundtrack, in fact - music, effects, everything. The only thing was that the voice he provided for the boy was terribly transatlantic and not at all nice, and so I used all the work he'd done except the boy's voice, and I recorded a neighbour's child to do it.
The BBC website has an article on the series, complete with comments from readers ("I found it extremely menacing and disturbing", says one). All of the films are available on the National Archives website:

Falling in the Water
In the Kitchen
Charley's Tea Party
Mummy Should Know

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