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Australian Children's Shows: Then & Now

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June Liu

on 27 October 2012

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Transcript of Australian Children's Shows: Then & Now

A Journey through Australian Cartoons and shows Australian Children's Shows: Then & Now One of the main funders for children’s shows in Australia is the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF). The main ACTF team consists of their CEO, Jenny Buckland, head of development and production, finance manager, education manager, senor corporate lawyer, and their board of directors. The boards of directors are each appointed by their respective commonwealth and state and meet up four times a year to review and distribute appropriate funding for old and new shows. A new show Wadu Matyidi made its debut this year and celebrates the Adnyamathanha language. To compare this show to our Dora the Explorer would be an injustice; rather than blinding kids with obnoxiously bright colors and an overly excited heroine, Wadu Matyidi intoxicates with its earthy tones and realistic demeanor. The three main Aborigine children introduce how life was in the days of yore while teaching kids ancient customs, stories and most importantly, keeping the language alive in modern times. Another reoccurring theme in Australia children’s shows is the Aboriginal culture. Much like America’s tentative relationship with Native Americans, Australia had its own dark history with the Aborigines. While Disney classics like Pocahontas and tid bits of Peter Pan introduced Native American cultures to younger audiences, there are very few daily cartoons that appreciate their culture. Bushwhacked on the other hand, is fully hands- on filled with action packed adventures. Young daredevils Brandon Walters and his Aborigine partner Brandon Walters explore all of Australia while tackling some of the most dangerous creatures from wrestling crocodiles to catching and eating snakes. Here in the U.S, it is rare to find children’s shows on such an extreme scale and is often seen in shows intended for an older audience (ex: Man vs. Wild). Old favorites like The Dinkey Di’s (1991) and Blinky Bill (1992) followed the adventures of talking koalas and kangaroos also stressed the importance of saving animals and the environment. Like all children’s shows, Australian cartoons cover a range of topics ranging from educational to purely entertainment purposes. One reoccurring theme found in a majority of Australian cartoons is nature with extra emphasis on wild life. Early feature length animations such as Dot and the Kangaroo (1977) paved the way to a world of anthropomorphism teaching kids not only facts the indigenous creatures but the importance of nature preservation. Daily cartoons broadcasts began in the 1950’s. The American company Hannah Barbera dominated classic Saturday morning cartoons until ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) began sponsoring children’s shows. Their first animation Kindergarten Playtime (1959) was the first children’s educational program made Australia by Australians. Within the next 15 years, ABC produced a wide range of Australian cartoons including classics like Wambidgee and the acclaimed King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. With the introduction of color and sound by Walt Disney and the Warner Bros back home, Australian cartoons followed suit. Eric Porter created many of Australia’s beloved and iconic characters such as Bertie the Aeroplane. Bertie’s quirky adventures delighted audiences all while subliminally telling children they need to buy some jelly treats. Independent producers are welcome to submit their show’s prototype for review and funding but must meet ACTF’s basic criteria. Projects are assessed based on their originality and quality of the piece, the experience of the production crew, and the “potential to engage with young audience.” Shows are required to celebrate and appreciate diversity, be innovative, but most importantly, present a strong “Australian voice and point of view.” ACTF’s methodology of approval hones in on shows that represent Australia’s multifaceted culture while allowing new and upcoming faces get a shot at the industry. But not all cartoons are meant to be educational; there are shows and animations that are intended to entertain! Vibrant shows like CJ the DJ, Dennis the Gnasher, Figaro Pho are made for laughs much like our SpongeBob Squarepants and Adventure Time. Live action shows directed for pre-teens cover the spectrum of problems every kid deals with from school to family and friends. No different from our Malcolm in the Middle or iCarly, shows like Aisling’s Diary and Blue Water High deal with the same everyday drama only with a cool Aussie accent. Australia, on the hand, has children shows devoted solely to the Aboriginal tribes. ABC’s Wambidgee (1962) is a stop motion cartoon that focused on Aboriginal life. As mentioned above, Bushwhacked also introduce children to many of the Aboriginal time-honored survival tactics such as sources of food and water while exploring their rich history and rituals. With the introduction of live action shows, nature and wildlife became even more exciting, up close, and personal. Barney’s Barrier Reef follows British television personalities Barney Harwood and Gemma Hunt as they dive and explore the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. Children learn fun facts about each creature as well as their potential dangers all from a safe distance. ACTF Staff The main children’s show channels are ABC, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network. Annual events are held to award and recognize the creative directors of the show and the actors that breathe life into each character. Equivalent to the United States Kid’s Choice Awards, the Australian Kid’s Choice features a mixture of overseas and native Australian cartoons. Children are given the choice to vote for their favorite actors who are awarded with the symbolic orange blimp and of course, the time-honored ritual of getting “slimmed.” For the past few years, American shows like iCarly and Spongebob have dominated the charts.
In the ACTF sponsored Australian Writer’s Guild Awards, the adults have the say on the winner. The categories include animation, pre-school level programs, and children’s programs. Other awards won by ACTF shows include TV Week Logie Award and the Australian Directors Guild Awards.
Australia’s children’s entertainment industry may have been a late contender in term of animation but has definitely left its mark in recent years. Featured animation films such as Happy Feet (2006) has received phenomenal ratings and great success overseas. Life action shows like The Wiggles has toddlers everywhere dancing to their quirky songs. Australian children’s shows have captured the spirit and essence of Australian culture while teaching children to respect cultures that are native and overseas. Alas each show is a true TREASURE for all the young Aussies. Australia. Ne’er is there a country that can compete with its life and character found not only in its treacherous terrains and unforgiving fauna but also in its …children's shows. While Australia has been a late runner in the cartooning industry, animators and artists are definitely making up for lost time with groundbreaking masterpieces. Australian animation may have followed the path paved by American predecessors, but it did so without losing its individuality and Australian spirit.

So let us set off on this journey to experience the magic of children shows!
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