All that is about to change.
A new animated film of ‘The Magic Pudding’ targeting the international market opens next week, featuring not just Lindsay’s characters, but some star-studded voices, including Geoffrey Rush, Jack Thompson and John Cleese.
Rebecca Baillie reports.
GEOFFREY RUSH: I think the story is great because it’s our sound and it’s our colours and it’s our noise.
JACK THOMPSON: It’s like ‘Man from Snowy River’, it’s one of the frontier cultural icons of this country.
REBECCA BAILLIE: It’s a magical tale that’s been charming children since 1918.
HELEN GLAD: "Onions, bunions, corns and crabs. Whiskers, wheels and hansom cabs.
Beef and — ".
REBECCA BAILLIE: Helen Glad knows better than most the adventures of Albert ‘The Magic Pudding’.
Bill Barnacle, Bunyip Bluegum and Sam Sawnoff.
Her grandfather was the author and illustrator of ‘The Magic Pudding’, Norman Lindsay.
HELEN GLAD: He never stopped moving, he was full of life and vigour.
He was interested in so many things, particularly if they were his interests, not necessarily your own.
But he never sat still.
I don’t remember him —
except for a cup of tea perhaps in the morning.
REBECCA BAILLIE: Lindsay created the pudding as a bet, arguing children were more interested in food than fairies.
He said writing the book also took his mind off the First World War.
NORMAN LIDSAY: And to get rid of the damned thought of it — we talked nothing else, we lived nothing else.
War, war, war.
I thought — this idea crossed my mind about this idea of a kids’ book.
So I took a scribbling pad and started to jot down stuff.
Then things started to come along of its own accord.
REBECCA BAILLIE: Helen Glad remembers well visiting her grandparents property in the Blue Mountains and she, like many Australians, has happy memories of ‘The Magic Pudding’.
HELEN GLAD: I loved the pudding right from the start, I think most kids did, because he got away with the most incredible rudeness and kids love being rude and they don’t want to be good, and the pudding pokes his tongue out and he’s gruff and he kicks people and he runs away.
REBECCA BAILLIE: Robbert Smit is the film’s animation director.
He’s responsible for recreating Lindsay’s original drawings, which are now conserved in the State Library of NSW.
ROBBERT SMIT, ANIMATION DIRECTOR: I’m constantly amazed how absolutely fantastic they are.
You know, they are faultless to a tee.
There is really not one drawing that we could isolate and say, "That anatomy doesn’t won’t there or the character hasn’t got the right expression".
But he was incredibly intuitive to the levels of society that he was drawing, the characters that he was getting attitude in.
REBECCA BAILLIE: Lindsay drew his characters in a three-dimensional way, making it easier for Robbert Smit and his animators to bring them to life.
But some changes to the original story, and a few new characters, were needed to make the film work.
ROBBERT SMIT: With all due respect, ‘The Magic Pudding’ didn’t have a story arc as such that would lend itself to a feature film.
You need a beginning, you need a middle, you need an end.
You need a resolution.
You need to have a bigger villain than the book was offering.
REBECCA BAILLIE: John Cleese stars as the voice of Albert the Pudding and he’s joined by some of Australia’s best-known actors, including Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Toni Collette and Geoffrey Rush.
GEOFFREY RUSH: It’s a weird experience because I did all the voice stuff from a studio in LA and the director, Karl Zwicky, was in a studio in Sydney.
And through the magic of ISDN, I literally phoned in my performance.
JACK THOMPSON: It was very hard work yelling in the lower register and laughing and screaming out.
It was hard work, but it was good fun.
REBECCA BAILLIE: And for the children at the film’s recent premiere, the proof of the pudding’s success is definitely in the eating.
BOY: I really enjoyed it, yes.
It was really good.
REBECCA BAILLIE: Have you read the book?
BOY: No, I haven’t, but I’d like to now that I’ve seen the movie.
GIRL: It was really funny and I liked it because he was really cheeky and rude.