Friday 28 March 2008


Following on from my recent post about Rupert, I'm once again back in the realms of youthful nostalgia...

Sixty-six years ago, in 1942, Enid Blyton sent Dick, Julian and Anne Kerrin to the Devon coast to stay with Aunt Fanny, Uncle Quentin, their daughter Georgina (known always as George) and George's faithful dog, Timmy.

What followed was that thrill-packed summer-holiday adventure recounted in Five on a Treasure Island.

Twenty more 'Famous Five' volumes followed, published every year (except 1959) until 1962. Titles include: Five Run Away Together, Five Get into Trouble, Five Have Plenty of Fun, Five Get into a Fix and Five Have a Mystery to Solve. There was also a collection of shorter tales, Five have a Puzzling Time and other stories.

For many of us, these volumes (along with Blyton's 15 books about 'The Secret Seven') were essential childhood reading.

Now the Famous Five are setting off in search of a new adventure... That is, a second generation of FFs, because Disney has created an animated TV series entitled Famous Five On The Case, featuring the children of George, Dick, Julian and Anne - and Timmy the dog himself.

Here's the story as it was briefly reported by the Press Association...
Enid Blyton's Famous Five have been reconstructed for the 21st Century.

A new Disney TV series features the offspring of the original ginger beer-loving adventurers - and their dog.

But the Famous Five's children are now multicultural, their enemies include a fake environmentalist, and they are armed with modern gadgets.

The TV series, Famous Five: On the Case, features 12-year-old Anglo-Indian Jo, whose name is short for Jyoti, "a Hindu world meaning light". Countryside-dwelling Jo is the team leader and like her mother, George, in the original Famous Five - who was thought to be modelled on Blyton herself - a tomboy.

Other characters include Allie, a 12-year-old Californian shopaholic who enjoys going out and getting "glammed up" but is packed off to the British countryside to her cousins. Her mother was Anne in the Famous Five, the reluctant adventurer who has now become a successful art dealer.

The Famous Five was first published in 1942 and is a children's classic. [Five on a Treasure Island - Ed] The new animated series was given the seal of approval by Blyton's oldest daughter, Gillian Baverstock, before she died at the age of 76 last year.

In the new TV series, the children of the original Famous Five are brought together at their aunt George's house on the English coast.

The other characters are adventure junkie Max, who is 13-year-old Julian's son; Dylan, the 11-year-old son of Dick, and dog Timmy.

Producers say the characters embark on a series of adventures similar to those experienced by their parents and that the series is faithful to the original Famous Five books but with "a contemporary twist".

But while Blyton's original sleuths targeted kidnappers and smugglers, the enemies of Disney's Famous Five include Kyle - a DVD bootlegger on Shelter Island who is masquerading as an environmentalist.

The children, who wear iPods and use mobile phones, also discover subliminal messages in DVDs to brainwash children into buying Fudgie Fries sweets.
Many commentators have speculated how fast Enid Blyton is spinning in her grave, but - bearing in mind that these are new stories not updated re-hashes of the originals - I wonder if she would really be that distressed?

Blyton seized on every aspect of popular story-telling to grab and hold her young readers and I can't help thinking that if she had lived in the age of mobile phones, laptops and MP3 players they might well have figured in her stories.

Anyway, for more reports, opinions and horrified responses check out the media response to the FF's return.

After which, dig out your old FF books, open up a bottle of ginger beer and settle down for a ripping read...

For more about The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, Noddy, Mr Pink-Whistle, The Faraway Tree and much else besides, visit The Enid Blyton Society.


Boll Weavil said...

So, pretty much new characters,new stories,everything updated....are these in anyway related to the originals ? Well there's five people in them I suppose otherwise its just nicking an original idea off someone else isn't it ? My kids grew up quite happy with the original stuff and it wasn't that long ago.Maybe they're unusual.If its no longer standard stuff why not just think up something totally new and leave the old stuff to those of us that appreciate it just as it is.Hmm showing my age with that comment.Great to see that much neglected gent Mr Pinkwhistle get a namecheck though !

Good Dog said...

Over the Easter weekend I caught a piece about this on BC News 24. As much as the chap from the prod-co was trying to big it up, the clips they showed looked utterly horrific. What a shame.

Making them multicultural reminds me of the old ITC spy dramas from the 1960s in which Lew Grade would put an American actor into the cast in a desperate attempt to flog the show to the US. Typically the networks would pass, whereas the Diana Rigg-era The Avengers, which was resolutely English, and typically eccentric, went down a storm over there.

Bit annoyed that I missed the Rupert event at the NFT. Dick Fiddy mentioned it Missing Believed Wiped when they showed a recently recovered episode. Completely forgot to put it in the diary.

SharonM said...

I loved The Famous Five and The Secret Seven (didn't they have a friend called Barnaby in one of the books/series?) I remember when we used to have our sewing and knitting class we would be allowed to take it in turns to read a couple of pages each from one of the books and it was the best time of the week at school.
I'll reserve judgement on the new 21st Century series - for a start, it's aimed at children, so if it makes them happy then it can be deemed to be a success. Just hope it's not too 'Americanised'

Brian Sibley said...

GILL comments...

But I bet they don't have trains with wheels that say "home for the holidays, home for the holidays" and I bet they don't list wonderful meals bursting with cholesterol, and I bet they don't have picnics and ask each other why food always tastes better when eaten outside.......

I came to The FF comparatively late [aged 11] as I had a very boring snobby father who would not permit the works of Ms. Blyton in the house. The he sent me to boarding school and guess what the junior library had in abundance?! Sadly, I was taken home by car and therefore missed those talking train wheels.

I wasn't allowed to read comics either............what a deprived childhood!

Brian Sibley said...

BOLL - Well they are supposed to be the CHILDREN of the original Famous Five (and are staying with Auntie 'George') in Devon, notionally still within sight of good old Kirrin Island...

Of course, your comments on 'nicking' ideas are totally justified and Hollywood has always been guilty of doing this and, nowadays, is doing it more and more - and often, happily, falling flat on their fat corporate arses!

GOOD DOG - I'm sorry to hear it looks so dire. I hoped it might at least be FUN and Blyton was great on fun!

The multicultural twist is, of course, so consciously politically-correct as to seem (to us) clumpingly awkward; but to a younger generation it will, presumably, pass unnoticed.

Interestingly, some people have been surprised by the idea of 'George' marrying an Indian, not for racial reasons, but because conventional opinion seems to have been that she leant more towards the tastes of Sapho...

(Sorry you missed Rupert & Co)

LISAH - Well, at least two of the Five are going to have American accents (not sure about Timmy!) but, again, this is the norm in children's films and television - indeed, I wonder what % of adult TV in the UK we view in 'American'?

I'm acutely aware of the extent to which American spellings and pronunciations are now rife in Britain - even reasonably educated professional people say 'skedule' instead of 'schedule', but enough! I feel a rant coming on...

GILL - Deprived you may have been, but, fortunately, you seem to have remembered all the good stuff from your limited exposure to the works of Ms Blyton!

Dear old Enid would have been delighted to know you outwitted a boring grown-up! :-)

Andy Latham said...

Oddly, one of my favourite things I remember from my childhood is reading a Famous Five book (one of many I read) and coming across a particularly exciting chapter entitled "Timmy Makes a Noise". What excitement! Haha

This modern interpretation bears a resemblance of Scooby Doo to me. Maybe the dog will be smarter though. Have you seen Scooby Doo lately? That has been updated and it really feels awkaward. I can't help but think the same feeling would come from a 21st Century Famous Five. Kinda like when soaps started using mobile phones in the stories, they seemed to assume the audience had no idea what they were doing on screen.

Brian Sibley said...

ANDY - Confession time: I was never a HUGE fan of the original Scooby Doo! Maybe it came a bit late for me. I was of the original Hanna-Barbera generation (Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Pixie and Dixie (and Mr Jinks) and The Flintstones); I always found Scooby Doo more irritating than amusing.

I know what you mean about mobile phones. I listened to a reading of Five on a Treasure Island recently and realised that if the kids had had mobile phones the whole adventure would been over in half the time and without half the danger and thrills!

But kids have always loved kid detectives (witness the long-running success of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and several other franchises) so TFF may work for its target audience and, who knows, it may take some of them back to the originals (the publishers are clearly going to be giving the books a new boost) so they can read exciting stuff like 'Timmy Makes a Noise' in the way the author intended!! :-)

Rob Cox said...

My memory is very bad! I can recall reading loads of Blyton but specifically can only remember the ".... of Adventure" books (E.g. Island of Adventure, etc) I loved and devoured those.

Even as a child though I was critical of her style - in particular her over-use of the verb 'said'. Characters seldom exclaimed, shouted, murmured or cried, etc - they simply 'said'!!

Brian Sibley said...

ROB - interestingly, the same complaint is sometimes levelled against J K Rowling...

In an article, 'Harry Potter's big con is the prose', on the Guardian Book Blog, Nicholas Lezard writes:

'Here, from page 324 of The Order of the Phoenix, to give you a typical example, are six consecutive descriptions of the way people speak. "...said Snape maliciously," "... said Harry furiously", " ... he said glumly", "... said Hermione severely", "... said Ron indignantly", " ... said Hermione loftily". Do I need to explain why that is such second-rate writing?'

While one of the comments left on this blog quoted Elmore Leonard's 'Rules for Writing':

'3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.

The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with "she asseverated," and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said"...

...he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs."'

Andy Latham said...

Oh I wouldn't want anyone thinking I was a Scooby Doo fan either Brian...I hated it! As you said, it was pretty irritating.

The old Hanna-Barbera was far more fun. My particular favourites when I was a kid were the Flintstones and Yogi Bear.

Hmmm...Flintstones in the 21st Century. That'll probably be next. I'm sure they could make a Nintendo Wii out of rocks!

SharonM said...

"Smarter than the average bear, Boo Boo."
"The Ranger wouldn't like it, Yogi."
"I hate those meices to pieces!"
Of course, I was far too sophisticated to watch programmes like that .......

Brian Sibley said...

ANDY - You're right! It is inevitable!

LISAH - Just heard about them from less sophisticated kids, I know!! ;-)