Bananas in Pyjamas
Release Date: Daily, 9:00 am
One of the benefits of having three boys over a period of nine years is that you’re guaranteed a long-term perspective on the progression of children’s television. Let me say that broadly speaking it isn’t pretty, and Bananas In Pyjamas is one of many unfortunate victims.
Over the past three years some children’s gems have received some unwelcome updates; Bananas is one of them. What was once a studio based program built on pantomime style acting and a cast of six characters has been transformed into a rather bland computer generated animation. A few of the original voices have been kept; others have been dropped, or lost in a confusing selection of new inclusions. Paradoxically, now that the program has been freed up of all studio constraints, the storylines have actually become less creative and the acting less clever. The result for the viewers is somewhat similar. There’s no need to imagine anything if a cartoon can just take you there, nor is there the opportunity to mimic the teddies or bananas’ games if they get to actually do everything they can conceive.
To be fair Bananas In Pyjamas isn’t on its own. Other classics like Thomas The Tank Engine, Fireman Sam and Postman Pat have undergone similar transformations over the past few years. The filming of actual models and the stop-motion animation that was familiar to both have been abandoned because ultimately they’re not scaleable. You can turn out a lot more programs, a lot faster if you can segment the production process, writing your scripts in one country while out-sourcing the CGI to Indian animators. But what’s the cost of this mass production?
As a producer I’m going to comment on the depressing direction this is for children’s television. The mass production of iconic series like these inevitably leads to not only poor quality imagery but shallow characters involved in less considered storylines.
As a parent I’m concerned for the way this flood of material panders to my child’s desire to be entertained on demand. I’m a big advocate of ‘intentional viewing’ – I don’t think we should turn in the TV unless we know what we want to watch, and I think it’s best to select what children watch rather than let them surf the channel and interact with what networks think are good for them. However there’s an additional issue here and one that might seem strange from a television reviewer: sometimes it’s good just to leave the telly off. The mass production of series means there is always something new, always another DVD to own. In short always something to watch. There’s little room in this ‘catch up’ environment for a child to develop contentment or patience. Instead they’ve barely finished watching one series before they’re wanting the next.
And that leads me to how I feel as a Christian. I’m never happy about any development that places a child of mine at the centre of his own personal universe. There was a time when a parent could simply say, ‘It’s not on right now’, or ‘You’ve watched that already – how about you go outside?’ but the endless supply of material means that parents have to come up with a better explanation. How about, ‘That’s not what our family is doing now’?