Millennium: The Musical

Friday, December 31, 1999 by

Being a Bob Godfrey fan can be a thankless task.

You mention his name and people, if they respond at all, say “Oh, isn’t he that guy who did Roobarb?” Well, yes he is, and yes he did do Noah and Nelly and Henry’s Cat as well. But for some of us, the absurdist humour and freewheeling stylistic pastiches of his other work, especially 1961′s Do-It Yourself Cartoon Kit and 1975′s GREAT – Isambard Kingdom Brunel, represents the real highpoint of his career.

Astonishingly, Godfrey is now 78, but he has continued to teach animation at Southampton Institute, and the announcement of this sardonic antidote to the media’s commemoration of the last thousand years, with script and lyrics by Colin Pearson (who wrote the Cartoon Kit) pleased me no end.

Not every idea here was particularly fresh or original. The format of cockney-accented backroom boy as narrator with plummy-voiced director telling him what to do recalled GREATto a certain extent, and the setting of the Battle of Hastings to the Match of the Day theme was a bit too Rory Bremner for my liking. The Steam song was grossly inferior to the similarly-conceived IKB and We’re Victorious songs in GREAT, but the skeletons’ Black Death song, the Richard III song, and the Great Plague and Great Fire of London sections were fully up to standard, and the “Wars” section was incredible, pointing out the futility of war without seeming like some contrived bit of “pathos”. I suspect the involvement of The Guardian’s Steve Bell, who was credited as a guest cartoonist. The quickfire succession of 20th century images ending with Time for Peace, the 13th-Century monks’ cod-rap (for me, much funnier as such than Ali G) and the retrospective closing song were a fine conclusion.

Millennium: The Musical breaks no new ground, but as a retrospective of Godfrey’s past work (semi-nude pictures of Gracie Fields and Amy Johnson recall the description of Gina Lollobrigida as “Miss Mavis Clarke, the famous Olympic hurdler” in the Cartoon Kit, and Edward VII’s flying top hats were surely lifted straight from GREAT) it works just fine.


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