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Tufty: Ice Cream Van (1973)


Main image of Tufty: Ice Cream Van (1973)
16mm, colour, 1 min
Production CompanyCentral Office of Information
SponsorDepartment of the Environment

Narrator/voices: Bernard Cribbins

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Tufty's friend Willie the weasel finds out to his cost the perils of crossing the road without taking his mummy.

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This is one of a series of six road safety TV fillers featuring the undisputed national icon of road safety, 'Tufty' the squirrel. By the time the Department of the Environment sponsored the series in the early 1970s, the Tufty Club, founded in 1961 by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), had become an educational and merchandising phenomenon and boasted a membership of around two million children. Tufty Fluffytail (later just Tufty) and his anthropomorphic companions were conceived in 1953 in story form by a RoSPA employee, Elsie Mills, as a means to convey simple road safety lessons to children. The books were beautifully illustrated by artist Kenneth Langstaff and formed the basis for the Tufty Club, which has been at the vanguard of road safety for five decades.

A year after the Tufty Club was launched, an article in The Guardian commended its role in road safety and quoted Brigadier R.F.E. Stoney, director general of ROSPA: "the reduction in deaths of the under fives from 305 in 1961 to 255 in 1962 shows the value of the Tufty Club launched a year ago."

Stop Motion, a small animation studio jointly owned by veteran puppeteers John Hardwick and Bob Bura, who had painstakingly brought to life Gordon Murray's landmark Camberwick Green (BBC, 1966) and its Trumptonshire successors, was an obvious choice for interpreting the Tufty stories for the small screen. Alongside their work with Murray and the COI, Bura and Hardwick made cinema advertisements, inserts for children's programmes such as Blue Peter (BBC, 1958-) and Hey Presto - It's Rolf! (BBC, 1965-66). The pair also did the animation for Captain Pugwash (BBC, 1957-66; 1974-75) in the 1950s and again in the 1970s, and made an acclaimed puppet film of the ballet Petrouchka in 1968.

The animation might be charmingly homespun but the lesson doesn't pull many punches. Our ears aren't spared the dull thudding noise as we hear Tufty's impetuous friend, Willy Weasel, being knocked down by a car behind the ice-cream van - thankfully our eyes are spared the sight of crushed weasel.

Katy McGahan

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Video Clips
Complete film (0:45)
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Green Cross Code 1 (1975)
Cribbins, Bernard (1928-)
Public Information Fillers