film, children’s


film, children’s
   The Cinematograph Films Act of 1957 guaranteed an annual grant to the Children’s Film Foundation (CFF). With reduced fees to actors and directors, the CFF agreed in cooperation with the unions to subsidize production of low-budget features, shorts, and serials aimed at the 7–13 age group. This system was unique to Britain, and provided a nonprofit- making organization funded by the Eady levy up to 1981. While based at Shepperton Studios, Ronald Spencer developed a production link with the CFF which became from 1982 the Children’s Film and Television Foundation (CFTF). Shepperton productions for the CFTF include The Young Detectives (1964) by Gilbert Dunn, and Project Z (1968) and TheCopter Kids (1975) by Spencer. The CFTF brought several successful television and film partnerships to children’s films, notably for the adaptation of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers (Working Title /BBC Enterprises) which got ten million viewers and a British Academy award. Bob Godfrey Films received an award for Henry’s Cat in 1994; Jim Henson Productions in London contributed to the Muppet Shows; and Siriol Productions, Cardiff, produced animation films for children, such as SuperTed. Examples of the filming of classic children’s fairy tales and stories are The Princess and the Goblin (1991), The Water Babies (1978) and Watership Down (1978).
   The latter only partially reflect their authors. Indeed, authors such as J.M.Barrie, Roald Dahl and Beatrix Potter may be Britain’s lasting international contribution to children’s films. There is an unwillingness to confront modern cultures defined by Star Wars (1977, 1997) or Home Alone (1990), preferring (except Parker’s Bugsy Malone (1976)) the family viewing models of The Railway Children (1972), The Amazing Mr Blundel (1972), Digby: the Biggest Dog in the World (1973), Tarka the Otter (1978), or Black Beauty (1994). Some of this may be due to Lord Rank’s early moralizing, or the club promises made at Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Saturday matinees. An alternative is the Children’s Film Unit, a registered Educational Charity set up in 1981 to encourage children in all aspects of film making. It has produced imaginative films with children on both sides of the camera, such as Captain Stirrick (1982), Dark Enemy (1984) and Mister Skeeter (1985). Its tenth feature, Hard Road (1989), is about two thirteen-yearolds who wind up the Children’s Help Line, fake suicides, and drive a scarlet 1959 Ferrari into Sussex.
   Further reading
    Pym, J. (ed.) (1997) TimeOut Film Guide, London: Penguin Books.
   ARTHUR McCULLOUGH

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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