Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Fire Safety Shorts

Many historians will know well enough that Animation was created first and foremost to entertain - but there are times when animation can also educate when used correctly. During dire straits, cartoons played their part in keeping spirits up "During the War", encouraging the public to fight back against the enemy and donate war efforts. Warner Bros gave American that old classic 'Any Bonds Today?' and their series of Private Snafu shorts taught soldiers what not to do out in the line of fire.

Today, the United Kingdom has become one of the largest areas for pre-school animation, which continues to entertain today's youth while including vital facts and figures relation to each show's concept. Such examples are The Lingo Show, which teaches children different languages around the world.
But as with America, British Animation educated adults as well as children. Back in the 70's, the British Government's Central Office of Information released a vast number of Public Information Films which covered a variety of subjects - safety in the home, on the street, in the country, at sea, during work. These have since become part of the "Charley Says..." collection, after the cut-out cat that featured in several of these shorts.

One of the main topics covered in such P.I Films has been the vital issue of fire. As Smokey the Bear taught American children how to prevent forest fires, Britain's Fire Safety shorts taught the dangers of fire in the home or school or workplace, how to prevent them, how to raise the alarm and how to escape them quickly and carefully. These were often played in schools whenever Firemen would visit and give demonstrations on how to make sensible use of the fire alarms and exits provided.

Rarely have the following seen repeated airings on British television, except perhaps during Bonfire Night. And even then it's rarer to see them in their original uncut versions - 'till now.

Frances the Firefly is one I remember with great fondness. The original paperback book I once owned may have had the original artwork redrawn and redesigned many times over, but the following animation (narrated by the late, great Richard Briers) shall remain timeless.
When televised in later years, this short was condensed greatly to a single measly minute - not only glossing over the seriousness of Frances' folly, its build-up and the aftermath, but also ignoring a lot of talent and skill that was put into the making of this piece. From background artists to animators, they all played their part however brief;



The second Fire Safety video, Moonlighters, is a little odd given its setting - since there is no atmosphere in space, the fire would be entirely impossible. But then it is a cartoon, so I suppose some bending of reality is required so long as the message is clearly understood...!



But if anyone deserves the honour of teaching children about Fire Safety, then Fireman Sam is your man. Amongst all the episodes made, this particular entry from the classic series was more of a "special", a useful educational episode that isn't painfully moralistic;



It's rather a shame that little appears to be known on who helped create the Frances and Moonlighters videos since the various companies / actors involved have likely been shut down or are long since deceased. But it's gratifying to know that what they've left behind would, with luck, never be forgotten.

Short but sweet films are one thing - but if you want a little action whilst teaching Fire Safety, you can't say more than this familiar TUGS episode, featuring the voice of "Protect and Survive" himself, Patrick Allen...

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3 comments:

  1. Oh yeah, it's Guy Fawkes Day today isn't it? I've should've known. For us Americans of course, we have July 4th as our day of fire safety concerns.

    "When televised in later years, this short was condensed greatly to a single measly minute - not only glossing over the seriousness of Frances' folly, its build-up and the aftermath, but also ignoring a lot of talent and skill that was put into the making of this piece. From background artists to animators, they all played their part however brief;"

    Do sorta wonder which studio did that film by the way, quite good I felt from what I've seen of it, like something they would stick on another show over here.

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  2. This takes me back, I remember reading the Frances the Firefly book back in school, and I'm sure I caught the actual animation at some point - definitely very memorable and well-made. And of course, the "Charley Says" shorts got made even more famous by a certain Prodigy tune way back.

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