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Charley in New Town (1948)


Main image of Charley in New Town (1948)
35mm, 9 min, Technicolor
Direction / StoryJohn Halas
 Joy Batchelor
Production CompanyHalas & Batchelor
SponsorCentral Office of Information
MusicMatyas Seiber
ConsultantAlexander Mackendrick (uncredited)

Voices: Jack Train; Harold Berens; Dorothy Summers

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Charley is introduced to the benefits of new town planning.

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In the first of a series of postwar public information films, animation giants Halas and Batchelor bring their signature vibrancy and humour to transform some key facts about the newly elected Labour government's new towns scheme into screen entertainment for the masses. The proposal, inspired by the early 20th century garden city movement, was set in motion by the introduction of the New Towns Act (1946) and went on to become an integral feature of the postwar reconstruction programme. Around 30 new towns sprung up over the second half of the century, starting with Stevenage in Hertfordshire, which was followed closely by Harlow, Hatfield and Basildon.

The industrial revolution had seen mass migration from rural areas to Britain's towns and cities since the late 18th century, and the resulting housing shortages in urban areas were seriously compounded by WWII bomb damage. Under this shadow the remit of the new town programme was to alleviate overcrowding in cities, halt the encroachment of urban sprawl into the countryside, and bring industry to areas of high unemployment.

At the outset, the new town was seen as a utopian development: an attractive and prosperous home for city dwellers. Having dreamt up its solution, the government's next task was to encourage people to move to these havens, and Halas and Batchelor's good-humoured everyman Charley proved the perfect advocate. Tortuous, smog-blighted commutes from the suburbs to the city centre on overcrowded buses are a distant memory for Charley as he merrily cycles through his salubrious new neighbourhood, with its generous greenery and handy amenities. More than 60 years on, many 'new towns' have found themselves in grave need of regeneration, and overcrowding in cities is once again high on the political agenda.

Katy McGahan

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (8:12)
Charley Junior's Schooldays (1949)
Robinson Charley (1948)
Your Very Good Health (1948)
Halas, John (1912-1995) and Batchelor, Joy (1914-1991)
Mackendrick, Alexander (1912-1993)
Public Information Fillers