Thursday, August 23, 2018

Looking for quiet

There's just too much STUFF right now. Too many unsettled and unsettling things in my life, and I find for me the best escapes are very simple and very fantasy themed things.

Last night, casting about for a bit of something to watch while I knitted - there was literally nothing on the airwaves I wanted to watch ("Big Brother" is still going? How? And all of the cartoons between 8 and 9 pm are blech - "Bunnicula," which is on earlier is tolerable, and if I could stay up past 9 there'd be a "Bob's Burgers" re-run. And the ER shows, which I used to enjoy watching - well, when you have an aging parent who's taken a few trips to the ER in recent years, you don't want to watch those any more. And the news is just straight-up depressing, and it seems a lot of the post-6-pm news is actually "commentary" anyway, which is worse)

So I decided to see what Amazon Prime had on offer. I started with "Parks and Rec" but it seems too many of the episodes I saw had the people who were at least marginally earnest/caring about their jobs (Leslie and Ron) getting defeated in some way, and I can't take that kind of cynicism that says that someone who gives a darn is a chump who deserves to suffer, so I've kind of given up on it.

I decided to try the children's stuff.

It turns out they have the old "Angelina Ballerina" series. Now, granted, this is VERY much a series aimed at under-7 girls, but then again, I have a history of being fond of shows whose original target audience was the age group that likes Fruit Roll-Ups and wearing tutus to school

This is the older, animated cartoon - I think it came out in the early 2000s but it may have been earlier than that. (I remember the books from when I was on the cusp of teenhood: yet another Good Thing that came out five or so years too late for me to fully enjoy). There's been a more recent show with the subtitle "The Next Steps" and I tried watching a few episodes when it first aired on PBS,'s CGI, and I really prefer cel animation (or even the Flash stuff, like is used for "traditional looking" animation now - like My Little Pony) and cheaply done CGI (most television shows using it) is kind of ugly. And add to that that the mice are older, and "sassier" and the location has lost its British-rural character, and....I just wasn't interested

But the older cartoon is just NICE. It has pretty soft colors in it. The backgrounds are interesting because they do look very much like the small-town/rural England I have seen photographs of - houses with thatched roofs, a High Street with small individual shops instead of a mall or a shopping center or (I guess this is the future of bricks-and-mortar?) one or two big Stores That Sell Almost Everything. So it has charm and a big part of that charm is that it is Different from how my life goes, and so it's a nice escape.

And it turns out is has kind of a pedigree to it - Dame Judi Dench voices the ballet teacher (and apparently her daughter, Finty Williams, did the voice of Angelina). And apparently in at least one episode, Sir Derek Jacobi voices a minor character.

It's a world full of mice. Mice seem to be the only animals in it, or at least the only sentient animals, so it's essentially a "humans in [animal] suit" world sort of thing (as opposed to My Little Pony, where there are different species with their own quirks - though it's also possible the different species could correspond to different cultures, like the yaks with their odd Scandinavian/Uralic blend). And there are some mouse-cartoons where the mice clearly live in the human world, usually living off the leavings of it. (The old "Sniffles" cartoons where all his furniture was made of things like spools and matchboxes; some of the Tom and Jerry cartoons had Jerry living similarly). And then there are some where the animals are sized-by-scale, so there would be small mice and then much larger dogs or horses or something....apparently here mice are the only common beings.

It's also unclear WHEN the series takes place in time, which is another sort of nice thing. There are no computers or FAX machines or apparently even telephones - it could be 1920 or it could be 1950 or perhaps even 1970, and that timelessness adds a certain sweetness. And for me, having grown up in an era when we had telephones but FAX machines were extremely uncommon and the internet was not something anyone outside of the defense industry had....well, that's another thing I like about it. (I suppose some day there will be no programs like that, maybe outside of a few self-conscious "historicals" that contain a world without constant smartphone/internet/etc. stuff.)

It's a very nice world, though. Very English, like I said, it resembles the photos of small towns there I have seen. There are lots of cottage gardens; there's a confectioner's shop. Angelina lives with her parents (and I guess later on in the series she has a baby sister). Her cousin Henry is often around; it seems her mother watches Henry during after school. Angelina has a best friend, Alice. Angelina is good at ballet. Alice is, too, but she's even better at gymnastics. (A lot of this is removed in the "next steps" series and Alice, as I remember, isn't even really present much). Henry, though he seems younger and is shorter, looks like he's in the same class as them at the village school. And then there's William, who has a crush on Angelina. (And William is in ballet class - in fact, I think he's the only boy mouse there). And there's a pair of bratty-implied-rich-kid mice who are the thorn in Angelina and Alice's side.

This series is very home-and-school oriented. We see a lot of Angelina in her family at home. (And that's another reason why I disliked the newer series: it seemed to take place almost exclusively at school, and the "grownups" involved had much less involvement; it became more child-centered. I am SURE that was somehow focus-groupped but it seems to have subtracted much of the charm of the thing)

And while it is very sweet and very pretty and there's nice talk of nice food (Angelina's mother is well known for her "cheese pie," which I am wondering whether that's more like a quiche than anything.....) well, I admit I had some flashbacks to stuff in my childhood. I forgot how DRAMATIC friendship drama is when you are seven or eight but yes, seeing it, I remember it now. The whole "I will never ever ever be your friend again!" and bursting into tears and running away over a minor slight....

(I often think of a line from "Square Meals" by Jane and Michael Stern, where they wrote something like "No matter how miserable it actually was, the farther you get from childhood, the better it looks" and yes, I can see that. After watching that one episode and remembering the squabbles and jealousies of childhood....yes, that part wasn't so fun.)

And like a lot of these cartoons, the comforting thing is the problem is resolved in 20 minutes or so. The Friendship Problem that had Alice declaring she'd never be Angelina's friend ever ever again arose from a misunderstanding, with collusion from the bratty rich-mouse sisters: the school, to raise money, is having a Fete Day. Angelina and Alice originally planned to do a gymnastics presentation (donations accepted), there was a coconut shy I saw in the background, and there was to be a jumble sale. And there was the source of the misunderstanding: Alice had made a gym bag for Angelina. As Angelina was running out the door to meet her, her mother called her back to do the dishes, and Angelina left her bag on the doorstep. Previously, the Little Rich Mice had told householders to leave Unwanted Items on the doorstep - and they also teased Angelina about Alice's "homemade" bag. And so, deciding to sow chaos (Ah, aren't there kids like that everywhere), they interpret Angelina's absentmindedly leaving the bag there as "she doesn't want it" and when Alice finds out, of course she is mortally wounded.

Whereas if Angelina had listened to William's advice and TOLD Alice, "I don't know what happened but the bag you made me has gone missing!" there would have been far fewer problems.

(It's resolved sweetly enough: needing a bag to collect money from donors in, Henry somehow winds up buying the gym bag off the Unwanted Items table, and when Angelina sees it, she is overjoyed to have it back - and Alice overhears, and realizes her friend is still her friend.)

But yes. Very sweet and very simple and the problems get fixed and everyone is happy again at the end. And maybe people learn things - I suppose the lesson of the episode I summarized above is "don't keep things from your friends even if they are things you think might bother them"

While doing that I knitted a bit more on the first sleeve for Augusta. I didn't *quite* get the sleeve increases done but it certainly felt good to knit for a bit.

1 comment:

Anj M said...

and I went down a rabbit hole looking for cheese pies.

I found several but this one seemed like a good basic one.