Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Remembering Skippy

If you are my sort of age then you may have watched the adventires of Skippy the Bush Kangeroo as a child. Apparently there was a kind of Skippy the next generation in the 1980s. However, I think that version was short lived and quickly forgotten. The 1960s Skippy was about a boy and his pet kangeroo who lived with his father (a park ranger) on a nature reserve in the Australian bush.
I got a nostalgic reminder of Skippy a few weeks ago when I was channel hopping (no pun intended) absent mindedly. One of the BBC channels was showing a Skippy documentry. I tuned in and was immedialty engrossed. They talked about how Skippy strange vocal clicking language was developed. Apparently real kangeroos don't make any kind of noise like this but they felt some sort of vocalisation was needed to imply that Skippy was communicating to and listening to humans interactions. Before shooting 'talking scenes' Skippy would be fed somethign which would require chewing and was then her 'voice' was dubbed on. Then they explained Skippy's amazing dexterity. Apparently a pair of kangeroo legs were used for close ups where Skippy apeared to be lifting or manipulating objects. Skippy did a fair bit of animal sleuthing and sometimes had to secrete important evidence in her pouch. Most amazing of all was a clip showing Skippy sitting in fronty of a set of drums- the artificial paws were manipulated in front of her to make it look like she was playing the drums.
The documetry did dig up some dirt on Skippy, however, -well on the pervy camera crew. Apparently during breaks in filming they would shoot up-skirt shots of the female guest stars. A compilation of this footage was shown sugggesting that did rather a lot of this.
The documentry went into some deep psychological and sociological territory. It was banned in some scandanavian countries because they thought that seeing animals with impossible levels of intelligence would be psychologically harmful for children.
For Australians Skippy was remarkable because it wasd the first Australian programme to be shown widely across the world and it showed the beauty of the Australian countryside to the worls with some excellent cinematography.
Germaine Greer considered the fact that the child companion of Skippy lived in completely adult domiated world at the ranger station and had no friends his own age to interact with. This experience was paralleled by the young actor who played him. There was also discussion of the the treatment of women in the show. Generally girls were the but of jokes, getting frightened by bush animals and not very competent.
Skippy did show some very progressive social credentials however, in relation to aboriginal people. At a time when Aboriginies were fighting for basic civil rights, they were portrayed realistically and sympathetically in a number of episides of Skippy. There were some positive messages about valuing diversity and equality between peoples.
No mention was made of what hapopened to the original Skippy though I understand that she was stuffed and can be seen in a Skippy museum somewhere. If you really want to experience the Skippy phenomenon first hand then it is available on a set of dvds packed with extras. Even I amn't nerdy enough to have them but they could be a good pouchfiller for someone you know.

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