story of a little chimney sweep in the year 1850"
Charles Kingsley's classic children's novel
is adapted into a half-animated
feature by Lionel Jeffries and Miroslaw Kijowicz.
The story tells of Tom, a put-upon young chimney
sweep in Victorian England
who is in the manipulative grasp of a schemer
called Grimes and his whiskered
Masterman. The duo bring Tom to Harthover
Hall with a view to burgling the
place, but the young lad does his best to
evade the duo and disrupt their rotten
plans. He meets the strange housekeeper Mrs
poorly young Ellie. After a series of unfortunate
events young Tom is chased
from the property and is forced to dive into
a roaring water pool in order to evade
his pursuers, whereupon he enters a mysterious
animated underwater realm.
Here he has an extraordinary song-filled adventure
with a host of even more
extraordinary characters, before returning to the
"real" world. Was it all a dream?
We can't be sure, and neither can Tom. But
in the end, Tom is freed from Grimes'
grasp and finds a new home with Ellie and her family
at Harthover Hall...
The wraparound is a live-action affair, sandwiching
and occasionally interacting
with the animated middle. All the elements
are there for a classic movie - a famous
source material, a cast of equally-famous
names, the perfect director - but it's a
rough mixture. The animation, in particular, is
very crude. Kijowicz's character
designs lack charm, and the backgrounds are often
dull and dirty. There's no vim,
no verve, no wonder to the work. Heck, where's
the imagination? All over the shop,
methinks. Our animated Tom encounters a jamboree
of creatures, amongst them
sharks, polar bears, penguins, eels and seahorses
- these shoehorned into the
middle of more expected classical elements, like
the water nymphs of the title.
The water world portrayed here simply doesn't
make any sense...
Lionel Jeffries, of course, is an accomplished
British film and stage actor and
director. His directorial efforts also include
that steam-powered children's classic
"The Railway Children", and the live-action
Wombles adaptation "Wombling Free".
"Water-Babies" cost $2m to make.
It was animated in Poland and the UK, via
Film Polski and Cuthbert Cartoons. T'is a
Curate's Egg. A strange mixture of
ideas with much potential sadly untapped. But as
is always the case with these
things, there are many fans of the movie and any
number of people are ready
and willing to sing the film's - um - stand-out