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First Adventures of Thud and Blunder, The (1964)


Main image of First Adventures of Thud and Blunder, The (1964)
35mm, colour, 3 mins
Production CompanyTV Cartoons
SponsorNational Coal Board
AnimatorBill Sewell

Two miners disobey safety rules underground and suffer the consequences.

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Alongside more detailed instructional and safety films, often with dramatic reconstructions of accidents and lashings of fake blood, the National Coal Board also sponsored short items such as the 'Thud and Blunder' series. Here cartoon slapstick is used to create a humorous reminder of safety procedures rather than any detailed explanation.

The films were produced by the Canadian George Dunning, who started the company TV Cartoons in 1957 primarily to produce animated television advertisements for the newly arrived commercial television, as well as sponsored films for British industries. These 'first adventures' were directed by an Australian, Bill Sewell (father of actor, Rufus), who worked frequently with Dunning, as well as on other projects with distinguished British animator Bob Godfrey. Sewell is best known for his work on the 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' section of Dunning's Beatles film Yellow Submarine (1968). Using footage from an unfinished film project of Sewell's called Half in Love with Fred Astaire, the sequence used a rotoscope to trace negatives of old 1930s footage and apply abstract colours.

Whilst less avant-garde, The First Adventures of 'Thud and Blunder' still exhibits its creator's visual imagination and flair. The characters are drawn in a delightfully sketchy style, with edges loosely defined, bringing a vitality to the drawings that industrial animation techniques can often remove. The animation itself is quite staccato and economical (literally in terms of cutting costs). Paper cut-outs are used on top of cels to save time, but this only adds to the visual style - particularly in the case of the arrow which not only points out the errors of the characters, but has a mischievous air of its own.

These first adventures were followed by Thud and Blunder in 'Knock Off Time' (1964), which was directed by Alan Ball, and Thud and Blunder in 'Haulage Hazards' (1964) and Thud and Blunder in 'Materials Handling' (1966), both directed by Bill Sewell.

Jez Stewart

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Portrait of a Miner: The National Coal Board Collection Volume 1'.

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Video Clips
Complete film (3:13)
Hands, Knees and Bumps a Daisy (1969)
Dunning, George (1920-1979)