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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Apologies to Norman

Who outside of Australia knows Norman Lindsay?
Norman was a sometimes controversial Australian artist.
He painted, created etchings, sculpted and was also a cartoonist.
He wrote and illustrated a single children's book called The Magic Pudding.
It's the very Australian equivalent of something like Winnie-The-Pooh.
Several years ago a collection of dunderheaded simpletons got together to make an animated feature out of this classic book and produced exactly the kind of pap that you can easily imagine dunderheaded simpletons producing.
The book is full of well established, well designed characters ripe for animating.
There's a simple, fun story that's broken up into four chapters (or slices as they're called in the book).
All the elements are sitting there.
All it needed was a strong hand to guide it through.
But it didn't get that.
The film stinks.
They took the amazing, AMAZING drawings and make kaka from it.
Anyway. I'm sure I've bitched about this film before on here.
I have scanned a small handful of the illustrations below.
I present them to the world and offer an apology to Norman Lindsay.
Show your friends and tell everyone to buy the book from somewhere.

The fellow on the left is the main character - Bunyip Bluegum.
The guy in the top hat is his conservative uncle, Uncle Wattleberry.
They're both koalas.
A bunyip is a mythical Aboriginal creature and both bluegum and wattleberry are trees.

Bunyip and Wattleberry share this little house.
Bunyip is prompted to leave the house because he's tired of finding his uncles whiskers in the soup.

Bunyip leaves home and meets Bill Barnacle and Sam Sawnoff (the penguin).
The have a magic pudding.
Using a magic trick the pudding can be whatever pudding you like - steak and kidney, rum raisin. Anything.
You cut a slice an it grows back.
The pudding is called Albert and he's a very, very bad mannered rude feller.
Bill and Sam are constantly on patrol because puddin' thieves are always trying to steal Albert.
Bunyip rallies his new friends and they form the Puddin' Eaters Appreciation Society (or something like it).

Each chapter revolves around the puddin' theives trying to steal the puddin' and the puddin' owners retrieving it.
Here, the thieves start a fire and get the heroes to come help them while someone makes off with Albert.

This is Albert standing up in his bowl.
A terrific design.
There's been some horseplay and Sam has accidentally shoved Bill's face into the pudding.

One thing the book is full of is FIGHTING!
Here, the heroes pummel the thieves.

Here, Bill and Sam tell the story of how they found the puddin'.
In short, they were shipwrecked (they were both sailors) on an iceberg with the ships cook.
As they got thinner, he got fatter.
They discovered Curry and Rice (the name of the cook) was surviving on the Albert and wasn't sharing a crumb of it.
They throw him off the iceberg to his death (yeah!).

The fellow that Bill is shouting at is an echidna, although they call him a hedgehog here.

A big blustery rooster that is surprisingly like Foghorn Leghorn in his dialogue.

A smarty pants kookaburra.

In the third chapter they come across a market gardener - a dog called Benjamen Brandisnap.
He joins the society of puddin' owners and helps them through the last chapter and a half.

Below is my favorite drawing in the whole book.
I love it.
In the end, after all the fights (including a punch up at the end of a court scene) they all go live in a tree together.
Note that Albert is sulking in his puddin' paddock.


Sean said...

These are beautiful. such solid draftsmanship. Thanks for posting.

Tim Rauch said...

extraordinary drawings! thanks for sharing, tis new to me!

UM said...

Fantastic, really fantastic...

limbolo said...

The Magic Pudding was published in the UK about - mygod - forty years ago. That's when I first saw it... And sat back in wonder.
One of these is new to me - the pen & ink of the characters in the tree.
Lovely, lovely. G'day El.

samselthedamsel said...

inspiring! I'm sharpening my pencil now;)

Carol Wyatt said...

Thanks for posting! Beautiful art...Deserves beautiful animation.

John T. Quinn 3rd said...

beautiful work. wonder if i can find the book on Alibris or Abebooks?

Elliot Cowan said...

Hey folks - I'm glad you're liking these amazing drawings.
Go look up Lindsay's saucy nudes.

Neil - I'll scan you a larger version of that drawing.

John - you'll find the book in various editions on Amazon, so I'm sure you'll find it elsewhere.

limbolo said...


Respect to the suave Edwardian inking...But I don't really like it as much as the soulfully relaxed pencilwork. I wonder whether Lindsay felt that it was not 'finished' until he'd inked everything. Or maybe it was something to do with printing disciplines of the time?
Lindsay was really unbeatable. He had the power to suggest worlds that lay beyond his fabulous drawings.

Elliot Cowan said...

Interesting point about the worlds that lay beyond the drawings.

Magic Pudding has barely any artwork that depicts more than characters and a few trees.

The inked drawing of the treehouse is the very last image in the whole book.
Maybe it was a celebratory drawing.

The edition I have here is a fancy one with a chapter of notes at the end.
It says the book came about after a conversation with the editor of Art and Australia who felt that children preferred books about fairies.
Norman disagreed, insisting that children were far more interested in food.
It also details his frustration in getting a "nice" version of the book printed, as he didn't want a cheap run that kiddies could tear up and make a mess of.

limbolo said...

All true...
At least a third of Enid Blyton is picnic lists and menus.

Meg Shaw said...

i need to own this book

Elliot Cowan said...

Hey Meg.
You'll find it on Amazon.

Chuck said...

Wonderful drawings! —thanks for this, Elliot. I'll look it up right now!

rohan said...

norman lindsay, not simply australia's best victoria-and-albert era draftsman, was a profound political satirist and lover of women, too, as his more adult-themed watercolours and purple prose attest; i should characterize lindsay both as my favourite children's author, and as the antipodean d.h. lawrence. forgive my lack of capitalization, you readers.

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