THE LITTLE CONVICT
Australia, 1979, 80 minutes, Colour.
Voice: Rolf Harris.
Directed by Yoram Gross.
The Little Convict is an engaging Australian family film. Written and directed by Yoram Gross, the maker of the film Dot and the Kangaroo - an adaptation of a 19th. century bush novel about children and animals for very young cinema-goers - this film is for an older group. It would not keep adolescent interest nor that of young adults perhaps. However, for smaller children and older adults it is probably very enjoyable. The film capitalises on the presence of Rolf Harris and he has an opportunity to do his famous 'Jake the Peg' song as well as several of his other songs which are worked into the plot e.g. the aboriginal song 'Sunarise' and 'Whisky on a Sunday'. The film also uses some traditional convict and bushranger songs. The style is a blend of animation and real-life backgrounds and these combine very well. Harris is the ubiquitous storyteller appearing and commenting somewhat didactically on the situations and characters. The basic plot is traditional convict material and the attitudes expressed are very egalitarian Australian views, anti-authoritarian and critical of the British and their treatment of convicts. There is also great pride in the convict heritage and the building of Australia. There are many enjoyable sequences from the convict ship to the work on the land and Jack Doolan's escape. There is an aboriginal boy character who makes friends with Toby the little convict of the title. Together with Jack Doolan they save the day for the convicts. The film probably reinforces some basic Australian sentiments and fosters the white aboriginal background of the nation. The ending is enjoyable when the characters on whom the animation is modelled all appear on a merry-go-round.
1. The appeal of the film - to young audiences, older audiences, families? An Australian audience and its presuppositions? Non-Australian? audience?
2. The presence of Rolf Harris - personality and style, his Australianism? His ability to sketch, to sing? The humour of his 1Jake the Peg' song? The value of having him tell the story, be present throughout it, comment on the action and characters, moralise and give Australian attitudes? His songs? His presence at the end and introducing the characters on the merry-go-round? How well did he sustain the film?
3. The moral of the story: Australian history, the convention of looking back at convict days, the convicts and authority figures, pride in pioneering and the establishing of the land? The basic outline of Australian history text books? A romantic looking back at the convict days? The egalitarian tone of the film? Anti-authority and proud defiance of soldiery and governor? The struggle with the environment? Friendship with aborigines? The need for work, the need for freedom?
4. Audience identification with the film from the start - with Rolf Harris, the children with the boys and girls at Luna Park, the atmosphere of Luna Park and balloons and sideshows, Rolf Harris' song?
5. The quality of the animation and its particular style, humour? Its appeal to a children's audience, realism with Rolf Harris walking in amongst the animated characters, the natural landscapes and bush? The end with the introduction of the people on whom the animated characters were modelled?
6. The basic plot and keeping the audience interest, expectations of a convict story and their fulfilment?
7. The picture of the convicts - their being condemned, life on the ship and its hardships. the landing and the hostile country, the Governor and his pompous attitude, the troopers and their severity, the supervision during work and the hard work, food, punishment and the lash, prison huts, humiliation? The proportion for the crimes originally committed?
8. The Governor and his rule, his wife and her pomposity? Looking the convicts over, finding a cook? His eating the cake and Rolf Harris' comment? The fire and his worry about Augusta at the end? His benevolent freedom for the convicts? Poking fun at authority figures?
9. The warders and their look. manner, cruelty? Their nicknames of Bully and Weasel? The audience disliking them, their harshness towards each of the convicts, their greed, the horse, their drinking?
10. Jack as hero? On the ship, his friendship with the various convicts, with Toby? The hard work? His decision to escape, the activity with the horse and his riding away? George's help and the need for rescue? The appeal by Toby and his return? The comparison with the other convicts - Dipper and his age, friendliness, support of Toby, Silly Billy and his always talking? George the blacksmith and his strength and support of Jack?
11. Dipper and the koala, his getting it for Toby and putting it in his bed, his watch and his giving it to Toby at his death, his being made to do hard work, his illness, the sadness of his death?
12. Toby in this context - on the ship, a convict? The work? The fascination with the koala and the warders thinking that he had escaped? Dipper giving him the koala and the Governor allowing him to keep it - after he turned the tables on Bully and Weasel? His escaping in order to bring Jack back to rescue George? A hero and the title of the film?
13. Polly and her love for Toby, her being selected to work by the Governor's wife, her work in the house, her song? Her fears for Toby and for George, rushing to the prison? The fire and the rescue?
14. How well did the film introduce Australian Flora and fauna realistically with the environment, the animated animals?
15. Toby and his search for Jack, his finding of Warunga? The white boy and the black boy? Their communication and attempts at language? Signs and sounds? The boomerang and its help? The emphasising of friendship of black and white and their place in Australia?
16. The difficulties of pioneering ~ hard work, cutting the trees - the importance of the tree-cutting sequences - and the death of Dipper?
17. Jack encountering the boys in the bush, coming to the rescue of George, the details of their plan, the drink and the fuss, George's escape?
18. The songs and their illustration of characters and themes - Rolf Harris, particular contribution: 'Sunarise' and the aboriginal motifs and their collage to illustrate the aboriginal atmosphere, 'Whisky on a Sunday' and its various uses? The traditional songs of Botany Bay’.’ The Wild Colonial Boy', Polly's song?
19. How satisfying a story of Australia, a children's and families' film, the quality of the animation? Enjoyment and learning about Australia?