Good Reading : July 2007
JULY 2007 ı goodreading 15 cover story would come in after we’d all bandied around storyline ideas, then Angus, Mellie and Jan, Donna Andrews and myself would work together on the scripts.We didn’t have to change a thing along the way. Both organisations [the AFC and the ABC] were happy with the way we were going. ‘Our push was the storytelling. I think all of us had worked before on frenetic children’s television programs, and part of what we were looking at was a change from that frenetic pace of much pre-school television. Children need to relax and wind down. And that’s the beauty of storytelling. Reading to children imparts to them a love of words. ‘I have three key ingredients that I think every pre-schooler should have on a daily basis, other than the cuddles and play you would give them anyway: singing and music in some form; reading, getting them to digest and understand stories; and the third is a good belly-laugh.’ One of the enchanting elements of the series is the sets and costumes.They’re exquisite – and I was amazed to learn that the puppets are only 40 cm tall, so everything has to be made in mini- ature. All of the programmes are made here in Sydney,’ Justine told me. ‘And every piece of costume, every little prop, is hand made here in Australia.We have the largest and most skilled art department – they were sculptors, actually. And the fellow who makes the costumes is a beautiful dressmaker, making these tiny aprons and frocks, 10 cm and 20 cm long – and they’re all divine, absolutely divine.We’ve got them all in storage, and hopefully if we get the go-ahead for a second series we can get them all out. In each episode, there are at least four or five cos- tume changes, and 65 episodes have been made so far.’That’s a heck of a lot of tiny costumes! ‘All the puppetry was done here,’ added Justine. ‘Nigel Plaskitt, the voice of the main character, Faraway, is also the puppeteer of that character. He came out and showed the puppeteers how to use the puppets – you’ll see that there are no rods or strings, it’s all done mechanically by hand at the bottom, so the puppets have a much more fluid movement. Our puppeteers here recorded a guide track with Nigel showing them how to do it.The voices are added in the UK.’ Five Minutes More is a deliberately quiet series. I asked Justine how it had been received here. ‘It’s not screaming at the adults, so that was difficult at first, trying to get people to recognise that it was there,’ she admitted. ‘It was a slow build – which we were prepared for anyway. But it has now taken off, and those who have discovered it have come back with the most lovely feedback – particularly parents who have recognised that it has many of the qualities of the programs they grew up with: Magic Roundabout, Tales of the Riverbank. It’s that love of story.’ Certainly, when watching the ten episodes on the first DVD collection, I was struck by the Magic Roundabout feel, and wasn’t surprised to learn that one of the writers was involved in a remake of that series last year. It has that laid- back, friendly, involved feel that’s so important for toddlers to be exposed to. And now children can watch their favourite episodes over and over. Parents can also read the stories to their pre-schoolers as the first in a projected series of books comes out. ‘My nor mal reaction to photographic books is to run for the hills,’ Justine laughed, ‘but Belinda and Angela of ABC Books have made books that I’m very proud of, they are beautiful.’ Justine added that working on the series was ‘one of the most enjoyable processes I’ve ever been through. And we had such lovely feedback from the crew – because I think if you have something with heart, and everyone enjoys themselves, you produce something quite magical.’ That they have done. Let’s hope the green light is given to a further series, and that Faraway, Florrie, Georgie, Sam and Louisa will enchant and entertain both each other and their audience for many, many more episodes. Five Minutes More DVD is available now at ABC shops, ABC centres and and leading DVD retailers, rrp $19.95 Neptune’s Visit and Little Gnome are out now from ABC Books, rrp $14.95 each ‘Working on the series was one of the most enjoyable processes I’ve ever been through. I think if you have something with heart, and everyone enjoys themselves, you produce something quite magical.’ Left to right: The Five Minutes More production team: co-producer Donna Andrews, executive producer Angus Fletcher, co-producer Justine Flynn — with friends.