I was commissioned to write this a few years ago for the Central European House of Photography in Bratislava (and thank you to all the photo...
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
Mr Gum on Nickelodeon
Wes Anderson loved Fantastic Mr Fox so much he made a film of the book and changed it a little in the process - why not, it's a film.
Andy Stanton, author of the Mr Gum books (not the Finding Nemo/Toy Story guy - 'Although I have the same name as the 'Finding Nemo' guy you can easily tell us apart by the fact that he has loads of money and I am still eating out of dustbins') and the funniest children's writer, alive or dead, spoke at the Bath Children's Literature Festival and the big news was - Mr Gum is going to be on Nickelodeon. And why not, it's a cartoon.
No, no, no, that won't do. Why meddle with things that shouldn't be meddled with. Mr Gum is English - he's just too mean and nasty and dirty, from somewhere-in-the-southeast-of-England (possibly Kent) to be American. Judging from the picture above ( and I am just guessing here) he is going to be Americanised (stick with David Tazzyman style illustrations/animation - they're brilliant).
Why Americanise him. He is English, surrounded by English people with English habits in an English town with an English class system. It's the same with Fantastic Mr Fox from the previous post, a film which I enjoyed despite everything. But it could have been better. Why Americanise Mr Fox, why add lame internal conflicts to the mix, why add North American creatures and then have the conceit to keep Bogis and Bunce and Bean (who is magnificently played in the film by Michael Gambon) English? It doesn't work - one can't just dip in and out of culture and hope for the result to be a coherent whole. It doesn't work that way.
I love the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (Little House on the Prairie and all the rest - I'm reading The Long Winter as a bedtime story now) but they are American and the characters are intricately connected to the history, climate, landscape and legend of the country. If I was making a film of them, would I move Laura and Mary and Ma and Pa from Minnesota and South Dakota to Liverpool or London? Would I have Pa playing Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner and Knees Up Mother Brown on his fiddle, would I have Baby Carrie being sent up chimneys for a few extra pence during those long, cold, smoggy London winters? Course I wouldn't because Laura is no more a scouser or a cockney than Mr Gum is American. So shame on Nickelodeon if that's what they are doing. And if they are not, still shame on you because David Tazzyman makes a much better Mr Gum than whichever committee decided to put him in a bow tie with Abraham Lincoln facial hair.