Nutwood chum
December 5, 2006 10:03 PM   Subscribe

Rupert Bear has been given a makeover so that he'll have more appeal to today's audience. Invented by Mary Tourtel in 1920 and appearing in the Daily Express newspaper, he also stars in the Rupert Little Bear Library and in a long-running set of annuals - which also championed the art of paperfolding (origami). [more inside]
posted by tellurian (23 comments total)
Sadly, a lot of the original puppet animation shows are missing (intros can be seen here). The original show theme was sung by Jackie Lee and Rupert has been lauded in song by Paul McCartney.
It's not been all beer and skittles though. Our Rupert is not without controversy, being a component of the OZ obscenity trial and a bit of a dustup over some political incorrectness.
posted by tellurian at 10:03 PM on December 5, 2006

This is a TV show of some sort?
posted by smackfu at 10:34 PM on December 5, 2006

I haven't thoroughly explored this new iteration of Rupert Bear, but it looks like a major turn in the wrong direction. As in less Christopher Robin, more Teletubbies wrong direction. (Don't worry, I'm not mixing my bears).
posted by Alex404 at 11:05 PM on December 5, 2006

Um, I prefer the term "racism" to "political incorrectness" in this case.

I had an anthology of these comics as a kid and remember loving them, but also have some memories of racist images. Clicking on the "political incorrectness" link above I'm not sure I remember something that overt though.

My favorite character was the dog with the fluffy ears. I forget it's name.

Check out these corny figurines!
posted by serazin at 11:06 PM on December 5, 2006

Oh no. A little Googling showed me that the dog's name was 'Ping Pong'. Sadly also racially stereotyping since he was supposed to be Pekinese.

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia the 'new' Ping Pong is a girl!
posted by serazin at 11:11 PM on December 5, 2006

Thanks, this post reminded me to try and find this Paul McCartney video featuring Rupert.
posted by champthom at 11:54 PM on December 5, 2006

I have, and have always had, an inexplicably strong antipathy toward Rupert: he gives me the creeps. I am not happy to know he is still being kept alive.
posted by misteraitch at 12:05 AM on December 6, 2006

I guess Golliwog is out then?
posted by pracowity at 1:20 AM on December 6, 2006

Rupert finds Gypsy Granny
posted by Joeforking at 1:32 AM on December 6, 2006

Rupert the racist? Oh well. Chalk up another child memory desecrated by metafilter.
posted by Alex404 at 1:47 AM on December 6, 2006

My own feelings (based on the childhood experience of sitting and reading with my grandmother) are much better expressed by Paul Norman - "At the risk of sounding sentimental, I can call it the sense of wonder, the magic that is perhaps always there, just under the surface of ordinary human experience but which, when we step out of childhood into adult life, we tend to lose."
And yes serazin, I agree there is racism and racial stereotyping in those early stories, it was rife in those times. I have more recent annuals (1987 onwards) that I read with my daughter when she was small and that sort of stuff isn't there anymore.
posted by tellurian at 1:59 AM on December 6, 2006

misteraitch - same here, but am not sure why. but Rupert was the one cartoon I never liked. Well him and Marine Boy
posted by quarsan at 2:47 AM on December 6, 2006

Tourtel started Rupert, but her version was merely whimsical, no more noteworthy than the Mail's rival , Teddy Tail.

It was Alfred Bestall who introduced the dream-like quality which gives some of the Rupert stories a slighty eerie fascination (no doubt what repels some who have commented). It's a combination of greater realism and a strong sense of place with a head-on approach to the anthropomorphism, anachronisms, and other bizarre elements which in Tourtel's hands were just the small change of nursery-rhyme tales, but in Bestall's became distinctly trippy.

It follows that updating and normalising Rupert is like doing the same to Alice: at best pointless, at worst destroying the weirdness which is half the pleasure. But obviously the television version is just a matter of exploiting a well-known brand for mechandising, etc.

Since Bestall's death, John Harrold has done a remarkable job of continuing in a style somewhere between Bestall and Tourtel, but his version is slightly bolder and less subtly drawn than Bestall's, and the magic is not quite the same. IMHO.
posted by Phanx at 4:20 AM on December 6, 2006

Phanx, that is without doubt the best bit of Rupert the Bear criticism I have ever read.
posted by Mocata at 4:58 AM on December 6, 2006

without doubt the best bit of Rupert the Bear criticism I have ever read.
Seconded. Phanx, spot-on.
Alfred Bestall - oh dear! I don't have the expertise but this surely should be fixed.
posted by tellurian at 5:28 AM on December 6, 2006

Phanx--what I disliked about Rupert the Bear were not the storylines, which I concede might have been excellent, but the character of the bear himself, which I found so off-putting that I never gave the stories a chance. As to why I disliked him so much, it's hard to say ... partly I suppose because he never seemed quite bear enough or quite boy enough to me, and partly because he seemed to epitomize a kind of cosily middle-class Daily-Express-reading Englishness that felt perfectly foreign to me (coming from a Welsh, working class, Daily Mirror-reading family). It's a reaction that is oddly out of proportion, given that my senses of nationality, cultural-identification & class-consciousness otherwise tend to be weak to the point of non-existence: but there's something about that bear that strikes an otherwise-vestigial nerve.

My apologies, tellurian, for ranting all over your fine post!
posted by misteraitch at 6:10 AM on December 6, 2006

A makeover? Looney.
posted by anthill at 7:36 AM on December 6, 2006

John Mortimer, who defended OZ Magazine in the Rupert obscenity trial, later wrote the Rumpole of the Bailey books.
posted by jonp72 at 10:21 AM on December 6, 2006

Rupert the Bear

I am almost certain the themesong went:

Rupert, Rupert the Bear, everyone knows his name
Rupert, Rupert the Bear, everyone come and join in, with all of his games.

thus establishing his nomenclature in the hearts and minds of small undernourished children everywhere.

That said, he's an annoying little tit who should die horribly in a fire. Plus he wears a scarf even in summer.
posted by Sparx at 3:01 PM on December 6, 2006

One more voice for having always loathed the bear, but from what I see, the new one is quite as hateworthy in his own fashion. Standard commercial downhill slide, similar to Steamboat Willie, who, originally, showed such promise. (I'm discussing aesthetics, you understand, never mind the old timey race stuff.)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:19 PM on December 6, 2006

I see what you mean, misteraitch - but you must have had a thin time of it so far as children's books were concerned if you didn't like cosy middle-class characters!

What happened to the Wikipedia entry? There's a long article about Bestall elsewhere which is credited to Wikipedia - eg
posted by Phanx at 12:07 AM on December 7, 2006

Add me to the Rupert is creepy faction. Reading the annuals always made me feel icky and unhappy as a child, although I don't really remember why. Just being left with a creepy unsettled feeling. It somehow rubbed off so I couldn't read Tin Tin because I thought he would do the same.

It's nice to know I'm not a total freak.
posted by shelleycat at 2:50 PM on December 9, 2006

Rupert loathing! I'm surprised by this reaction especially because so many of you aren't able to define what it is that bothers you.
posted by tellurian at 2:25 PM on December 10, 2006

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