After failing to sell any of his paintings at a funfair, an artist begins to tell his granddaughter about the origins of his paintings. We are then transported on board a British convict ...
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After failing to sell any of his paintings at a funfair, an artist begins to tell his granddaughter about the origins of his paintings. We are then transported on board a British convict ship headed for New South Wales where we meet six convicts; Toby Nelson (a young boy), Polly Nelson (Toby's older sister), "Dipper" Davey (an old pick-pocket), Big George (a Blacksmith), Jack Doolan (a highwayman), and "Silly Billy" (a village idiot). The five men are selected to do hard labor for the military - under the supervision of Sergeant "Bully" Langden and Corporal "Weasel" Wesley - while Polly (secretly in love with Big George) is sent to work as a servant girl at the governor's home. Toby in the meantime saves a baby koala after Bully and Weasel kill it's mother while hunting, and keeps it as a pet, naming it Yo-Yo. But when Bully's continuing abuse of the convicts ends in old Dipper's death, Jack Doolan, fearing a similar fate, escapes and Big George is thrown in jail for helping him to ... Written by
Nearly all of Yoram Gross' live action/animation features are invariably panned for being "crudely" animated, but it appears that no-one has bothered looking past that.
Yes, the animated characters in this film ARE quite crude by today's standards, but each is drawn to a more than watchable standard, and there is enough dimension in each principle character to make them all individually very memorable. This is helped by the excellent voice cast, who are ideally suited to their characters and do a fine job of giving them life (especially as it is a totally Australian cast playing characters of which 90% are British)...
And while Rolf Harris has not much experience in films, he does a fine job here as Grandpa (the storyteller), popping up at just the right moments to teach the young viewers about what they are seeing, sometimes even invisibly helping the characters. He will certainly bring a lump to the throats of those with nostalgic memories of learning life lessons from their grandparents when they were young.
And don't be put off by the fact that he performs his 'own' songs in the film - he is in no way self-indulgent, singing through the melodic (and sometimes exciting) tunes mainly in a gentle way you often hear grandparent's humming to themselves, with each song being appropriately suited to it's accompanying scene (though he and the producers probably couldn't resist sticking "Jake the Peg" in there somewhere!).
Yoram Gross' direction is very well paced, making us shed a tear one minute and laugh the next - this is ideal for younger viewers as the fun scenes follow the sad ones quick enough to take their minds off them before they get too upset. Yoram certainly knows how to tell a story to children.
Overall, Yoram Gross clearly has his heart in the right place here as he sets out not only to entertain children but to educate them as well (just as he did in his "Dot" films). And for the children of his native country, this film gives them the most important message of all and should be cherished by it's nation.
Money clearly wasn't the object here, and for that, he cannot be slated.
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