The Gruffalo: An Analogy On the Nature Of Celebrity – A Little Literature Review

The Gruffalo is a children’s book by writer and playwright Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler. The book was initially published in 1999 by Macmillan Children’s Books as a 32-page hardback edition. It is aimed at children aged three to seven, is about 700 words long and is written entirely in rhyming couplets.

The simplistic story follows a little brown Mouse who, during a walk through the woods to fetch some sustenance, avoids being eaten by various ravenous woodland creatures by misleading them with tales of a fantastic monster which he is on his way to meet. The twist in the story is that the monster, the titular Gruffalo, appears and has designs on eating the Mouse himself. The Mouse adds to his fabrications by insisting the Gruffalo should fear him, returning to the other characters to show them the beast and watch them run in fear for their lives. The Gruffalo is not privy to the knowledge that his reputation precedes him and so is led to believe Mouse is the source of the other creatures discomposure. The Gruffalo relents in his desire to devour Mouse and returns to the woods, Mouse is left to enjoy the nut feast he had aspired to.

On the surface, The Gruffalo is an innocent tale of good triumphing over evil. On closer inspection, the story is an scathing analogy of the corrupt nature of celebrity, media and how one can ultimately achieve one’s goals only through deceit.

Where Donaldson succeeds is in her creation of an every-man character in the Little brown Mouse. An every-mouse, if you will. We meet the nameless character partly on his voyage, we are given no back story or character traits. He is a blank canvas on which we, as readers, can project our own personality. We have no cognition of his motivation for the tarriance through the woods, if he has a family or even a home. We are simply told he is on a journey, on which later he sees the chance to dine on a delicious nut. The nut represents the success and stability that we all crave in life, his sojourn through the woodland can only be seen as the transition to maturity and the creatures he encounters represent the hardships of modern day life.

Fox is the first creature to cross paths with our hero. Mouse knows Fox will attempt to outwit him and, doubtless, kill him. Fox attempts to engage in conversation with Mouse, but the dialogue is laced with his personal characteristics. He is cunning, a trait we have yet to see in the innocent Mouse. However, Mouse accepts the trait into his own personality, constructing a lie about an impending synergistic encounter with a colossal beast, the fictional Gruffalo, to cause Fox to flee with trepidation. Fox has no reason to question this, as he has offered Mouse dinner in his own home, knowing full-well that he is intent on eating the rodent himself. He has lied, misjudging Mouse to be innocent and pure in heart. When Mouse retaliates with a bigger lie, Fox is conditioned to accept all he says without interrogation.

Mouse then encounters the dexterously deceiving Snake, whose consummate desires and actions mirror Fox. Mouse proactively adopts a similar strategy, concocting more prefabrication and detail to his pre-existing untruth. Mouse has realised here that the only way to acquire success and defeat your enemies is through the mastery their own skills. By turning their own character traits against them, he will always win. They are weak-minded, devious characters, who have instigated the situation by revealing their own false claims of inviting Mouse to dinner.

Finally Mouse encounters his most natural foe, Owl. Owl is a notoriously erudite creature, here he is using wisdom to prey on what he perceives to be a fatuitous mouse. Mouse’s past experiences have inculated behavioural instinct, and it’s through the experiences we face growing up that shape us as an individual. Mouse is the product of his surroundings, his encounters with the malicious creatures have shaped him into a cunning survivalist. He now knows that in order to gain success, he has to lie and cheat his way to the top. Mouse demonstrates the corruption of the youth and that society is built for the good to fail. Had Mouse had remained untainted and innocent, he would certainly have lost his life.

It is now that the decidedly self-satisfied Mouse encounters the Gruffalo. The monster represents the lies Mouse has told manifesting before him. The untruths we tell will always come back to haunt us.

It is here that the underlying theme shifts to the quest for fame as well as fortune. Mouse realises that he has pre-warned the other woodland creatures of the ferocity and appearance of the Gruffalo. He has created a preordained awareness in the mindset of the other animals, and thus created a need for this creature to appear. Mouse informs the creature that he himself is in fact the most terrifying animal in the wood, a terrible falsehood which the Gruffalo rightly questions, believing the opposite to be true. As evidence of his claim, Mouse returns to the woods, encountering all the foes he had met previously, introducing them to the mythical beast he subjacently informed them of . Mouse is essentially taking advantage of the fame – the beast – he has created from nothing, he has lied about his own credentials and his relationship with the Gruffalo in order to create a reputation for himself.

The animals fear the now-infamous Gruffalo and run in terror, undoubtedly to spread the legend of this monster to all the other creatures in the wood. Mouse has acted as an agent for the creature’s fame, a catalyst of infamy.

The monster himself is a metaphor for the very essence and nature of fame. He is gigantic and all consuming, his size far outweighs Mouse in a figurative and literal sense. Fame, as a concept, is removed from the individual, it becomes an entity of expectation of the subject. The Gruffalo’s fame precedes his actual being and he has become a celebrity because of it. Mouse markets fame to fuel his own desire. The Gruffalo is pure fantasy, but through Mouse’s increasingly detailed marketing and P.R campaign he has come into being.

The lie was told so often and with such relish that Mouse, and all around him, came to believe it was the truth. The line between reality and fantasy has been crossed and Mouse has to deal with his own self promotion. This is undoubtedly a bitter attack on the nature of the Media in society. How a fabricated story, based on no hard evidence, can instantly explode beyond it’s original concept to become accepted as fact. The populace trust the media and will believe what they are told, the media exploits this to create demand and celebrity.

The conclusion of the story revolves around the Gruffalo retreating to the woods in fear of Mouse. He is fearful of what Mouse has become. Mouse no-longer needs the crutch of his lies as his fiction has, to all round him, become fact. He is famous. Mouse now lives in a celebrity world of his own creation and to the victor, the spoils. Mouse is left to enjoy the success he craved when first we met him, the nut.

“And the nut, was good”.

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Filed under Little Literature Review, Parodies, The Gruffalo

Pat Cancer: The Big Brother Specials

When my close personal showbiz pal, Pat Cancer creator and star Chris R Wright, unexpectedly entered the Big Brother house earlier this year I decided to keep our Pat Cancer comics going to drum up support and keep the character alive.

As Chris himself usually writes the strip I recruited a series of willing guest writers and we bashed out a few strips on the theme of the show.

Below are all the Pat Cancer Big Brother specials. Three were written by Chris’ chum and Stalled, Freak Out, Small Town Folk & Mug-Bop co-star – Mr Movies himself – “Quirky” Dan Palmer.

Chris’ actual real life big brother, Nick Wright, was coaxed out of hiding to write one and school pal, Beano artist and all round funnyman, Andy Fanton provided the finale.

There’s one mildly offensive one by myself in there too for good measure…

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Pat Cancer BB 2

Pat Cancer BB 3

Pat Cancer BB 4Pat Cancer BB 4Pat BB 6 A huge thank you to all the Chris fans on the Chris R Wright To Win Big Brother Facebook page and to both @ChrisRWrightBB and @CHRISTOWINBBUK on Twitter for all the support. Thanks also to all Chris’ fans for all the likes and retweets and finally a great big THANK YOU to all the writers involved – (plus an apology that I didn’t get time to use all the fantastic scripts they sent!)

As well as blogging and drawing the Pat strips, I also knocked up a few campaign posters for CRW, which you can see below – click the posters to see the originals!

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ElmStreet

Beastie Boys

Hard Days Wright

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Shitty Woman

With Big Brother over and Chris back in the real World, Pat Cancer will return to ‘normal’ soon, unless he enters the Celebrity Big Brother house of course, but that would never happen… 

Chris Logo 2

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Filed under Andy Fanton, Big Brother, Chris R Wright, Dan Palmer, Parodies, Pat Cancer

Great News Inside!

Remember how whenever a comic would end it would always have ‘Great News Inside’ splashed across the cover, only to tell you the comic was ending that week? Well, sadly today marks my last day as a full time cartoonist. I’ll still be drawing and writing in my spare time, but just not as a career.

This last ten months has been a blast and I’ve been given the opportunity to do some amazing things and work with some amazing artists. A childhood dream came true when I was allowed to draw Minnie The Minx in the mini strips How To Train Your Parents and Breaking Dad, as well as writing for Nigel Parkinson’s Minnie in The Beano Summer Special.

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BakingDad

I was apprehensive when first asked to write both Little Plum and The Nibblers, as I wasn’t that familiar with the characters, but the inimitable Hunt Emerson (who draws both strips) is an amazing artist whose ability to take my stories to another level with his fantastic artwork has been both a jaw-dropping joy and a privilege to see. The talented swine!

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When I was offered the chance to write the iconic Gnasher & Gnipper I very nearly gnashed the Editor’s hand off, I’ve been writing most of the Gnasher strips for the past seven months for Beano legend Barrie Appleby. Seeing Barrie draw my scripts is like hearing The Beatles perform a song you’ve written.

Gnashed bits

Other highlights include writing Bash Street Kids for the legendary Dave Sutherland, Bea for Nigel Parkinson, a Grinch parody for the infuriatingly talented Laura Howell, as well as drawing puzzles featuring my all time favourite characters: Calamity James, Billy Whizz, Les Pretend, and Pup Parade.

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I also got to bring back Gnasher’s kids, Dennis’ pet spider Dasher, Walter’s pet poodle Foo Foo, make more obscure references to films than you could possibly imagine, draw Alex Matthews’ Nuke Noodle clothes-lining zombies, kill Jedward and – amazingly – bring The Dandy back from the dead…

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Next year you’ll read some of my writing in both The Beano & The Dandy Annual, which is easily the career highlight of any Beano artist or writer, but If I had to pick a current highlight, this would be it: Hunt Emerson’s Little Plum in my script of ‘The Guffalo’.

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© DC THOMSON 2014, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

So, as I return to a ‘real job’, I just want to say thank you to Craig, Mich, John & Mark at The Beano for all the work and help they’ve given me, to Steve Beckett, Wayne Thompson, Hunt Emerson and Lew Stringer for all their advice and support and to all the readers who’ve read my work over the past ten months.

And finally, to Sarah Trinder & Andy Fanton, without whom none of this would have happened.

See you in the funny pages and remember – everyone we know loves The Beano!

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Filed under Andy Fanton, Barrie Appleby, Bea, Billy Whizz, Calamity James, Comic Strips, Dave Sutherland, Dennis the Menace, Gnasher, Gnasher & Gnipper, Gnipper, Hunt Emerson, Lew Stringer, Little Plum, Madverts, Minnie the Minx, Pup Parade, Puzzle Pages, Roger the Dodger, The Bash Street Kids, The Beano, The BeanoMax, The Dandy, The Gruffalo, The Nibblers, Zombies

Shark Infested Beano

It’s the school summer holidays, which means The Beano is packed with even more laughs than usual! This week it comes with five special gifts – a ‘Where’s Dennis?’ Poster, a pea shooter, some sweets, some stickers and some trading cards.

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The Beano – £2.99 in newsagents now!

Plus there’s the usual menacing mayhem from all the Beanotown regulars: Dennis The Menace is bowled over, it’s just not Cricket for Billy WhizzMinnie The Minx is behaving herself for once, there’s boxing clever in The Bash Street Kids, Bananaman takes the Bananamobile for a test drive, Tricky Dicky has his bubble burst and Roger The Dodger finds the piano is not his forte.

There’s also a four page sporting special featuring all the Beano gang in ‘The No Common Sense Games’, a Monster Truck Mayhem wordsearch, a colouring page, Tricky Dicky’s School Pranks, How To Make An X-Wing Fighter from stationary and a Menacecraft Spot The Difference.

My involvement this week comes through writing duties on Hunt Emerson’s  Little Plum, in a strip called Baby-Face Bravo (as it’s loosely based on the film Rio Bravo) and Barrie Appleby’s  Gnasher & Gnipper in Gnaws!

Gnaws

Gnaws: We’re gonna need a bigger Beano.

There’s more fin-tastic shark-related laughs in The Beano soon, as I stood in on writing duties while Bash Street School is closed for the summer. Look out for The Bash Street Kids in Jaws 5 toward the (shark) tail end of summer!

The Beano is available in Sainsbury’s, WH Smith, Asda and all good newsagents now, priced £2.99.

The Beano and The Dandy Summer Specials, (which I also worked on, fans) are also out now, priced £4.99 each.

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Filed under Barrie Appleby, Billy Whizz, Dennis the Menace, Gnasher & Gnipper, Gnipper, Hunt Emerson, Jaws, Little Plum, Parodies, Roger the Dodger, The Bash Street Kids, The Beano

Intergalactic Idiocy In The Beano.

This week’s Beano is the most Munro-packed issue yet! Joe Jupiter crash-lands on planet trampoline on the puzzle page, plus there’s Gnasher & Gnipper, Little Plum and Bea (which I wrote) and more boyband bad jokes in Pun Direction – but it all starts with Joe Jupiter on the cover!

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Joe Jupiter started life as a reincarnation of Spaceman Jim from The Dandy when I noticed The Beano was short of a science fiction character. The idea is to have a recurring character in the puzzles and the cosmic clot is due to run for ten non-consecutive weeks.

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Jawsome: Joe Jupiter flees from a Shark-Infested Fireball From Another Dimension!

Elsewhere Dad is reading Bea a bedtime story and she’s kicking up a stink, Harry faces the chop in Pun Direction, the Butcher has hired a crack security team from The Beano vaults in Gnasher & Gnipper and Little Plum is having a rotten time, as this week’s strip is all in rhyme.

Plum Guffed

This Little Plum strip – a parody of The Gruffalo – started life in 2010 as a pitch for a 2 page story in The Dandy and I’m glad I finally got to see it in print. Hunt Emerson has done an amazing job bringing it to life and this is definitely my favourite Little Plum strip so far.

The Beano is available in Sainsbury’s, WH Smith, Asda and all good newsagents now, priced two quid.

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Filed under Bea, Gnasher & Gnipper, Hunt Emerson, Joe Jupiter, Little Plum, One Direction, Puzzle Pages, The Beano, The Gruffalo

Freshly dropped Pat for Chris R Wright.

If you’re a fan of Channel 5’s Big Brother you’ll no doubt be enjoying the antics of “loveable oddball” Chris R Wright, described by Lionel Blair as this generation’s own Rodney Bewes.

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Chris R Wright – TV’s Mr Chuckles.

Once described by Sky Movies as “Marvellously punchable”, funnyman Chris is a distinctive artist/writer/performer notable for embracing off-beat character roles in films such as Faintheart, cult horror comedies Stalled, Freak Out and Small Town Folk (which he also co-wrote and produced) and stylish British noir thriller Emulsion.

Chris recently completed work on Gutpunch, a short film with Justin Edwards (The Thick Of It, Misfits, Black Books) and Rufus Jones (Toast Of London, House Of Fools, Terry Jones in Holy Flying Circus).

Chris films

The Wright stuff – Chris’ movies, click the image to buy ’em.

In addition to his work as an actor, Chris is a professional illustrator and performs stand-up comedy with his gloriously downtrodden character ‘Pat Cancer‘, as well as putting his hand to writing and producing.

Earlier this year Chris asked me if I’d like to collaborate on some cartoon strips featuring Pat Cancer. I’ve known Chris for ages and I’m a huge fan of both his art and films, but it’s undoubtedly my love of the well-to-do weirdo Pat that made me say yes.

Pat Strip

Pat Strip 2

Pat Strip 3.2

Chris had never written comics before, but I have to say his scripts are hilarious. He sent me a shed-load and I don’t think there’s a bad one in the bunch! There’s more Pat strips to come (and I expect you’ll be seeing a lot more of Chris from now on too)!

Pat 4

Pat 5

Pat Cancer 6

To celebrate Chris’ appearance in Big Brother, I roped in long-time Wright-collaborator/co-star, Stalled & Freak Out writer and Small Town Folk star Dan Palmer, to write a few Pat Cancer Big Brother specials. Here’s the first one!

Pat Cancer BB 1

You can see Chris‘ beautiful biro art HERE and why not take a moment to sit and muse with the ever genial Pat Cancer himself HERE or follow Pat on Twitter. You can also follow Chris himself on Twitter or contact him through his website.

If it’s Chris R Wright comedy clips & short films you’re after, just pop back to the start of the blog and click on all the multitude of links as you go, but here’s a little something special to leave you with – Chris’ first onscreen role!

Big Brother is on Channel 5 weeknights at 10pm or you can follow all the action from the house HERE  and HERE.

Stalled is available now on Netflix, iTunes, Blinkbox, Amazon in HMV stores on Bluray & DVD and on DVD in Asda for £5 now.

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Faintheart is available on DVD, (but is on the Film4 channel quite regularly).

Freak Out & Small Town Folk are both deleted, but available from various sellers on Amazon & eBay.

 

 

 

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Filed under Big Brother, Chris R Wright, Comic Strips, Dan Palmer, Pat Cancer, Stalled

Sarah & Duck.

Forget Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and Game Of Thrones, the best show on TV at the moment is on CBeebies – the BBC‘s digital preschool channel – and it’s about a girl and her waterfowl friend: Sarah & Duck.

Created by Sarah Gomes Harris and Tim O’Sullivan and loosely based on Gomes Harris’ childhood, this traditional animated series follows the idiosyncratic adventures of Sarah, a happy-go-lucky trombone-playing seven year old girl (voiced by Tasha Lawrence) and her best friend Duck, a deadpan Mallard with a serious bread addiction (voiced by an unnamed duck).

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Sarah & Duck, cooking up a treat on cBeebies.

Sublimely narrated by The Thick Of It‘s Roger Allam, the series centers around the relationship between the two main characters and the charmingly surreal adventures they have together. Along the way we meet a quirky cast of supporting characters, such as Scarf Lady (a dotty, knitting-mad matriarch voiced by Downton Abbey‘s Lesley Nicol) and her companions the cockney jack-the-lad Bag (her knitting bag) and her grumpy pet Donkey, as well as an excitable Umbrella, bizarro World Sarah & Duck: John & Flamingo, the Ribbon Sisters, Plate Girl (Jet Girl to Sarah’s Tank Girl), Scooter boy, a talking cake, a rainbow with a mustache and a button-collecting bug.

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Scarf Lady & Bag rock out with Sarah & Duck.

The show is visually stunning. Beautifully designed, with an iconic style of it’s own, yet with a soft hand-drawn quality reminiscent of classic shows like Mr Benn and Ivor The Engine. The plots strongly revolve around the theme of learning through play, but their frequent abstract tangents, surreal situations and emphasis on humour make Sarah & Duck as enjoyable for adults as it is for children.

In the episode ‘Sarah, Duck & The Penguins’ Sarah & Duck visit the zoo, as Duck decides he wants to be a penguin for the day. Duck’s failed attempts to ‘speak’ penguin are hilariously met with cold indifference from the blank-faced penguins and the narrator concludes that being a penguin wasn’t all it was “quacked up to be”. Sarah & Duck’s fourth wall breaking reaction to this pun is one of the funniest pieces of animation I’ve seen in a long time.

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“Your meal, Sir” “Just put it on the bill”.

I’ve been a big fan of the show since I saw the very first episode, so you can imagine how excited I was when The Beano accepted my pitch for a parody ‘Madvert’ entitled Sarah & Velociraptor.

Sarah & Duck

The page was an absolute pleasure to draw, I loved every minute of it. I recently tweeted it and the official Sarah & Duck Twitter account gave it their seal of approval, which was a real thrill.

I’m very pleased with the finished work, but if I could draw it again I’d definitely cram in more of the shows characters and maybe have Duck fighting off the ‘raptor, as I wanted to draw him too, but as Sarah Gome Harris herself said on Twitter “This is quite eventful!”

Sarah & Duck is produced by London-based Karrot Entertainment, using computer-assisted animation techniques and the CelAction2D package. The first series consists of 40 episodes, with each episode lasting 7 minutes. A second series of 40 episodes starts this summer. Lots Of Shallots, a DVD featuring the first 10 episodes, is available HERE and HERE, or you can buy the whole first series for just shy of £30 on iTunes, Amazon Prime and Google Play.

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You can tune in to Sarah & Duck every day on CBeebies at 5.10pm, or catch up with the week’s episodes on iPlayer.

The Beano is available every Wednesday in WH Smiths, Sainsbury’s and your local newsagent.

 

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Filed under Madverts, Parodies, Sarah & Duck, The Beano