Children's TV trailer turns Scott into a star
Sunday 06 December 1998
Technology enables Scott Chisholm to wander through clips of classic children's programmes of the past in the manner of the Woody Allen film character Zelig in the corporation's three-minute celebration of 50 years of licence- funded children's television.
Scott is the school-uniformed "anchor man". Smiling winningly, he leads viewers through a filmed collage of memorable programmes. Most of the sequences look authentic but are clever reconstructions. Muffin the Mule, Bill and Ben, Bagpuss, Mr Benn and Crystal Tips share the screen with Scott - who effortlessly upstages them all.
Public response to the three- minute puff - and to Scott - since the launch last month has been so positive that the BBC is to put together a special programme for New Year's Day, in which he will make a central appearance. Yet to be officially announced, it will be called Are You Sitting Comfortably? and will consist of re-run episodes of the country's favourite children's shows from Mary, Mungo and Midge to Postman Pat. The programmes to be shown will be selected by viewers through a national poll. Voting begins on Tuesday.
"We have had an extraordinary response to the trail," said Jane Frost, head of corporate and brand marketing and the woman who was also behind the acclaimed "Perfect Day" musical puff last year. "I have the logbook of viewers' calls in front of me and for today alone I can see two or three people listed who have rung in just to say thank you. We told our creative team to be as radical as they wanted. After all, one can always pull back from an idea that is too extreme."
Mrs Frost admits that much of the appeal of the review is due to Scott. "We wanted the little boy that everyone would like to have themselves - and we have hit paydirt. You should have seen Scott's face when he first went on to the Andy Pandy set. The whole production crew could not take their eyes off him and we knew that if he had that effect on us there was a good chance it would work on screen."
An avid Teletubbies fan, Scott lives in north London and hopes one day to become an actor or a professional footballer. "I support England and Spurs," he said, "and my favourite actor is Harry Enfield. He is funny but maybe I like him just because I live in Enfield."
Scott's mother, Julia, is determined that her son will not be negatively affected by his television exposure. "He is just Scott," she said. "I don't want to turn out a precocious brat. I don't want to be thought of as a pushy mother either. Scott did get into this almost accidentally really. I am a dance teacher and my friend is an agent who had always said that she would put Scott forward for work if anything suitable came up."
Scott himself remains unfazed by his sudden fame. "At school someone said to me 'You must have met Noddy', and I said 'No I haven't'," he explained. "You see, a lot of it was filmed on 'Green Screen' and so I wasn't really there." (To adults who don't understand the technical term, Scott means being filmed on front of a screen and then superimposed on the action). Several of the original children's programmes, however, were painstakingly recreated so that Scott could actually interact, for example, with Andy Pandy or with the Daleks from Dr Who.
"I liked the Daleks best, but I wasn't really frightened at all. Perhaps they were frightening when they used to be on television. I liked Parsley the Lion a lot too."
Newly-filmed sequences faked up fresh camera angles on both John Craven's Newsround and on the notorious "baby elephant incident" from an episode of Blue Peter. Actors took the roles of presenters Valerie Singleton, John Noakes and Peter Purves for a long-shot in which the part of Lulu, the baby elephant which defecated on stage, is played by a mechanical elephant on castors.
Sarah Caddy, the producer of the promotional trail, was able to make the film with top names from the advertising industry, including the director Chris Palmer.
She said: "We were completely spoilt for choice as to which programmes to include. We wanted to show the diversity, but in the end the main difficulty was finding ways of combining the animated sequences with the filmed sequences. We managed it by putting the animated sequences all together.
"We also had to ensure that we had the scale right, so that Scott, who is about 3ft 9in tall, was in the right place in each segment."
The BBC is now making another short film about how the trail itself was made.
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