The BFG (1989)

The BFG (1989)

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Time for a whizz-popping.
Time for a whizz-popping.

Twitter Plot Summary: Orphan Sophie spots the BFG dishing out dreams to children, where they attempt to stop the evil giants from eating children.

Five Point Summary:

1. His cloak doesn’t really make him invisible, does it?
2. Whizz-popping and catching dreams in Dream Country
3. Those giants are a bit evil.
4. The Queen!
5. Chinooks! Bosh! Bash! Surprisingly easy result, too.

Cosgrove Hall were one of the UK’s most prolific animation studios in the 1980s, mostly limiting themselves to TV animated classics such as Dangermouse and Count Duckula, but also dipped their toes into feature length with the likes of 1989’s The BFG. Adapted from Roald Dahl’s 1982 novel of the same name (and not from the Doom gun of the same name), it is a story of the one friendly giant in Giant Country who catches dreams and then blows them into children’s bedrooms whilst they sleep.

Both the BFG and his orphan friend Sophie are fun to be around, voiced with gusto by Cosgrove Hall regular David Jason and children’s TV voice actor Amanda Root. The BFG frequently muddles up his idioms and human phrases and is a source of great delight, as is the father/daughter relationship that develops between him and Sophie. The pair bond quite quickly, so it’s convenient that Sophie is an orphan and has no family to miss her.

The music score perfectly conjures up the fantasy and dramatic aspects of a world of giants, but it’s the song   “Sometimes, Secretly” in Dream Country that really tugs at the heartstrings. It’s a genuinely touching song that follows shortly after the fun yet silly flatulence-based Whizzpopper song.

Bit of a size discrepancy even amongst the giants. And a touch of casual racism.
Bit of a size discrepancy even amongst the giants. And a touch of casual racism.

It’s also a story none more British – where else would you see a giant eating breakfast with the Queen in Buckingham Palace? Throw in some stiff upper lipped soldiers and the only way this could be more British is by turning it into a Monty Python sketch. There’s a fine line of British humour throughout as well – a discussion about what children from different country tastes like (Swedish children taste like Swede and Sour, Brazilian children taste like Brazil Nuts and so on) has the potential to be horrific but is in fact quite charming and amusing.

That’s not to say the story doesn’t have its moments of darkness. The other giants are truly terrifying creations, eating children and towering over even the BFG himself. Their deathly pallour and slobbering nature liable to cause the very sort of nightmare that the BFG is trying to prevent children from having. It has been toned down when compared to the book, but if that had been adapted directly it would not have been far too horrific. There are some concerns looking back at the evil giants, whose character designs are based seemingly on aboriginals. When considering that the oppressors of these giants are all white it does add a slightly racist air. There’s the possibility of reading too much into this however, so it’s not really a point worth dwelling upon. The giants are what they are, and arguably their design comes from multiple sources.

In many respects The BFG does look quite dated, but no more so than the majority of other animated features that came out of the 1980s. It also doesn’t compare quite as well to Dahl’s original novel, but it’s good enough to stand on its own as an entertaining kids film. Or for fans of Chinook helicopters.

Score: 3/5

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