Friday, 8 July 2011

Rupert and Collecting

In the early 1980's my Grandmother used to cut out the Rupert panels from the Daily Express and save them for me. She also saved for me PG Tips tea cards, stamps and other various items of interest. I had many of these Rupert cuttings but throughout the years of desk culls and sorting through drawers only a treasured few remain in my collection.

Daily Express Newspaper Clipping Circa 1983
As with all good newspaper ephemera, they exhibit tiny gems of information from the time of print. Rupert, of course, transcends any age, he will always live innocently in the fabled world that many Express or Daily Mail readers wail over as a lost paradise, all the more enchanting to right wing idealists because it never really existed. On the reverse are listings for ITV's "Duty Free", the sitcom based on the Spanish package holiday boom that reached glory days in the '80's. We also get a snippet of the dining experiences on offer to the average tabloid reader - Beefeater Restaurants. Breaded mushrooms remained a staple of '30's built mock Tudor dining establishments well into the mid 1990s ( I served hundreds of thousands during a 3 year stint as a Sous Chef at a Tetley restaurant pub) More associated 1980's content in later posts.

Daily Express Newspaper Clipping Circa 1983 - reverse
Back to our little bear friend. As a vehicle for narrative, illustration and storytelling, Rupert is about as pure and as delightful as it gets. I was a big Rupert fan and still am when it comes to the original drawings. I'm not enamoured by current responses to the Rupert brand and if anything sums up the perils of being tied to the renderings of the digital age than this.
On the presumption that this site is an on-line content response to a client's brief, I still find the style garish and unsophisticated and as a result patronising to the developing child. I don't lay the blame on the designer completely. I've worked with many clients who think they know what children want, but are instead obsessed with what they think children want and as a consequence create a sterile response to what should be magical and inviting. The pure beauty found in the original line drawings has been squashed and overwhelmed by the solid pre-school block colours and crude shapes. I'm protective over the original Rupert charm, but nostalgia for my own childhood put aside, I really don't like this "modern" update.
I'm quite sure that all of the client's boxes were ticked - all but the "retain original charm and magic" requisite. Rupert doesn't need re branding for younger children of for any stage of a child's development. The original format panels show how the rhyming couplet caption translates the story perfectly for the younger child. They are captivated by the illustrations and the verse before they progress to the lengthier text, and when they are able to enjoy the text their experience continues to be enriched by the illustrations.

It's not all bad for Rupert. Some older animations of the franchise held close to the beauty and charm of the original line drawings. Geoff Dunbar's Frog Chorus  holds the essence of the original Rupert drawings enhanced via the animation process with empathy and skill. Nostalgic or not, that can't be denied.

When I handle the Rupert clipping I occasionally wonder if I would have had the same love of ephemera if I had been born later. Children growing up now find themselves forced into an age of instant gratification of information and virtual visual reward . If I was a child now, would my grandmother have sent me - in place of saving a clipping from the paper -  a link to the Rupert Eco Explorer's site, which I would have bookmarked and, 25 years later would I think to retrieve the link and imagined my grandmother clicking on the send button? I'd rather have my cut out yellowed newspaper clippings with the edges made by my grandmother's scissors, rendered jagged by the slight tremor that she had in her later years.