A man strolling through a park sees a beautiful apple hanging from an apple tree and attempts to pick it, but notices the park ranger is keeping a sharp eye on him. He has to figure out how to take the apple without getting caught.

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A man strolling through a park sees a beautiful apple hanging from an apple tree and attempts to pick it, but notices the park ranger is keeping a sharp eye on him. He has to figure out how to take the apple without getting caught.

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Animation | Short

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1963 (UK)  »

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On the join
6 September 2016 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This short animated film won the 1963 BAFTA Award (equivalent of an Oscar) - and that date seems to me a big part of it. The year when everything suddenly turned on its head.

Before then, nothing so insubstantial would ever have reached the screen, let alone the podium. Audiences would simply have walked out, feeling cheated of their moneysworth at six minutes of an almost-empty frame, with nothing but a few rough pencil-strokes, like something pinned-up in a kindergarden.

But this was 1963, when you had to zig where the others would zag. So the opening frame, its title charmingly decked with apple-blossom, accompanied by a welcoming strain of fairground-music, leads straight into a silent minimalist desert with a crude sketch of one red apple hanging off the branch of a tree. On comes a shapeless little cartoon character, rather like a Moomin, with a token bow-tie to indicate male gender, gazing speculatively up at the apple, before disappearing to fetch a ladder. But the park-keeper arrives, picking up litter, and the little guy distracts him by chucking a scrap of paper on the ground before making his escape. It is not certain why we are suddenly being transported back into the pre-1963 world where a park-keeper's cap is seen to assert rank and authority, but the same thing happens when our friend turns up in a quaint old banger, hoping to reach the apple with a butterfly-net, but gets towed away in short order.

Next comes the weirdest scene of all, when he is apparently wanting to shoot-down the apple with a blunderbuss (hardly the act of a starving man), but gets distracted by a photographer who keeps telling him to stand further and further back till he disappears. Equally surreal is the next scene where he climbs up on a wooden box, and is immediately mistaken for a political orator and carried off, shoulder-high, by a mob of supporters.

Finally he returns, looking thoroughly exhausted, and just sits directly under the apple. Of course we know what's coming next - it's going to fall on his head at the very moment when he isn't trying to reach it, especially when a cat escapes from an angry dog by leaping on to the branch. But no, once again the scriptwriter has to zig, not zag, and the little fellow walks off in defeat - only to hear the satisfying thud of the apple just behind him.

Thrilled, he grabs the apple and races off home, where we next see it perched on the head of a scarecrow, as he shoots it in half with an arrow. He only wanted the apple for archery practice! So whatever moral lessons we thought we were meant to absorb about greed or consumerism, we can forget them, just as 'The End' comes up, also wreathed in apple-blossom, to a farewell chord from that fairground-zither, returning us to banality.

With an animated film, it's often hard to see who is the moving force behind it. Presumably George Dunning, as Producer and Director, though Richard Williams (Design and Storyboard) would have had a lot to do with creating the odd little universe in which this story takes place.


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