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Joe and Petunia: Acceptance of the Country Code (1971)


Main image of Joe and Petunia: Acceptance of the Country Code (1971)
16mm, colour, 1 min
Production CompanyNicholas Cartoons
SponsorCentral Office of Information

Voices: Peter Hawkins (Joe); Wendy Craig (Petunia)

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Urban visitors Joe and Petunia, picnicking in a field, demonstrate how not to abide by the Country Code, to the fury of a local farmer.

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Released in 1971 to coincide with the publication of the revised edition of the Country Code (first issued in 1951), Joe and Petunia - Acceptance of the Country Code (1971) was designed to raise public awareness about the importance of preserving Britain's rural beauty.

Stereotypically-drawn northern cartoon characters Yorkshireman Joe and his rotund partner Petunia, along with the local farmer, comically play out the historic conflict of interests between town-bred recreationalists and the farmers and landowners' who have resented relinquishing their land for leisure use. The postwar Labour government, in keeping with its manifesto to even out class divisions, was keen to grant the general public more access to open land and it was hoped that a programme of education in the form of the Country Code would go some way to appease resistant landowners.

At the time this film was made in the early 1970s, the Country Code was the target of criticism from organisations such as the Ramblers' Association who complained that it was one-sided in neglecting to stipulate rules for landowners as well as for visitors. Joe and Petunia's extravagant behaviour and outrageous flouting of the Code is at once amusing and offensive - certainly the purple-faced farmer is incensed by their thoughtless ignorance. This 'sending up' of working-class 'townees' implicitly reflects the 'them and us' class antagonism that has historically existed around the rural access debate. Notwithstanding this, characters who demonstrate total ignorance of the dangers and problems that their behaviour causes to others have long been a mainstay of the public information filler.

Acceptance of the Country Code was one in a hugely popular series of four Joe and Petunia films made by Nicolas Cartoons between 1968 and 1973. Other themes included safety at the seaside and the danger of worn tyres. Voices were provided by Wendy Craig as Petunia (replaced by Brigit Forsyth for the last film), and Peter Hawkins as Joe. The Country Code has undergone two further revisions, in 1982 and 2004, when it was renamed the 'Countryside Code'. To launch the 2004 updated version, the Countryside Agency ran a publicity campaign, this time featuring the animated characters famous from Aardman's Creature Comforts series.

Katy McGahan

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Video Clips
Complete film (1:01)
Craig, Wendy (1934-)
Public Information Fillers