Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley
On this page - The notoriously thorny issue of the depiction of fire and water using stop motion animation.
Episode 6 - "Captain Snort"
During the fishing scene,circular ripples radiate out from a central point when they cast their lines into the water. ( left )
They appear several times.And it's very crudely done,with what looks like something as basic as string.
Although,that said,it's actually much less strange than showing nothing at all.
The stream also appears in episode 9.But there was no need for a ripple-replay as it was a much shorter scene with less water in view.
Water was rarely shown. Fire even less. Hence the watery bias that follows ...
Both elements are a nightmare to do using frame-by-frame stopmotion animation.
And all perfectly logical if you sit down and think about it.
Even a calm mill pond has ripples and reflections,whilst running water takes it to a
whole different level of complexity.
And then consider all the irregular shapes,movement and colours that flames require.
So it's no surprise that such things were simply avoided as much as possible.
Because there was neither the time nor budget to make them work very well - if at all.
Why bother at all ?
Well,this was supposed to be a real world with real people.
Fire could be successfully side-stepped.And wouldn't have been an issue at all had it not been for the firemen.
But even pre-school kids would've noticed a complete absence of water at some stage -if only on a subliminal level.
Fortunately for the animators,even small glimpses of things can give an overall impression of normality.
Meaning that you don't need to show it raining to plant the idea in the subconscious that the climate's normal.
Because green foliage can do that perfectly adequately.
And a quick glimpse of a flowing tap is as good as a long panning shot of a raging river.
So whilst it wasn't exactly their "get out of jail card",it certainly made things easier.
And,as with any production on a budget,it was just a case of being pragmatic and working out how many corners you could cut before the cracks started to appear.
Did it look any good when it was shown ?
It actually worked quite well for the most part -if only because most of the appearances were understated,and not on screen long enough to give your brain time to question it.
Obviously they look pretty basic when frozen in the still photos below.But in real time they're surprisingly effective.
Although the Trumptonshire high water mark of the Chigley fountain scene does show why they were best used sparingly !
How did they do it ?
It varied. But for most of the flowing water and splash scenes it was the simple use of a cellophane-like material.
Was the lack of water ever really an issue ?
Well,the main problem was that the firemen never had a fire to put out of course.
And that was just as much to do with the difficulties animating fire as it was water.
But the writers confronted the issue head-on by deliberately turning it into a running gag,and kids just bought into it.
So whilst the production team probably saw it as damage-limitation at the time,it actually worked beautifully.
And the firemen's subsequent notoriety has also played a large part in helping to keep the series alive decades later.
All the appearances of water in Camberwick
Trumpton Ep.7 - "The Rag and Bone Man"
Because it's even more of a problem for stop-animators than water,the only sight of fire in all 3 series came in this episode.
Park keeper Mr.Craddock,is about to light a bonfire ....
But it's only shown for a couple of seconds before being put out.The bonfire remains unlit and that's that. End of story.
And all cruelly played out under the noses of the firemen !
Episode 8 - "Roger Varley"
Mickey Murphy runs a tap in his bakery.
The shot lasts for a good 6 seconds - an eternity in the world of stop motion animation.
So they clearly felt good about the execution.And with good reason too,as it looks pretty realistic even when scrutinised frame-by-frame,nevermind when just watching normally.
Although the fact it's on such a small scale obviously helps enormously.
During the preamble,when he's feeding the ducks,the water's completely still and they simply skate around on the surface without any ripple effects.
The "falling in" sequence is pretty straightforward too.
Captain Flack shouts "Cuthbert !".Cuthbert looks round quickly, becomes unbalanced and in he goes.
It would've been far too complicated to show him actually falling into the water of course.
So we cut straight to a shot of water splashing up ( cellophane ? ) followed by just his head sitting on top of the blue surface, with not so much as a ripple.
When he's next shown,he's out of the pond,and whilst the Mayor mentions his "wet clothes" he looks exactly the same as he did before he fell in,and drip-free.
For lovers of minutiae you can clearly see the join between his neck and the "water" if you look closely at the footage.
And if you do like that sort of stuff,then check out the oddballs page,if you haven't already.
Episode 11 - "The Plumber"
In the Mayor's Parlour in Trumpton Town Hall,a leaking header tank in the attic drips down from the ceiling.And the Mayor and Mr Troop both get one drop each.
But the only water we actually see is on the back of the Mayor's hand as he wipes it from his nose -the white-ish mark in the photo.
There's no physical evidence of the drop that lands on Troop .... No shot of the ceiling .... and no water left in the tank when we go up to have a look at that either.
ie. just one drop of water shown in the whole of an episode called "The Plumber" !
And that's all the water shown in Trumpton. Not a drop more !
All the appearances of water in Chigley
Only 4 out of 26 Camberwick & Trumpton episodes depict any water whatsoever.
And the trend continues with Chigley.
But the animators also found out just how far they could push things,with the most ambitious scene in all 39 episodes.
Although please forget any thoughts of a Chigley synchronised swimming team !
Episode 4 - "The Fountain"
The most ambitious attempt at tackling moving water in all 3 series.
A new fountain is built in the forecourt of Cresswell's Biscuit factory and switched on at the end of the episode.
Once again,the same cellophane-type material was used.
Only this time there was simply more of it and it was shown for longer.
Which was the problem. As small scale success gave way to full blown decidedly dodgy.
Although,to be fair,it wasn't the animators who wrote an episode called "The Fountain" !
Episode 1 - "Lord Belborough's Secret" and Episode 9 - "Clay for Mr.Farthing"
Harry Farthing uses "plenty of water" when giving a pottery demonstration to Dr. Mopp [ep.1] And also to the Trumpton telephone repair men later on in the series. [ep.9]
"Plenty of water" presumably giving rise to a few wry smiles when it was written.
It looks like the same sort of clear cellophane used for the Trumpton duck pond scene.
Probably a crumpled sheet attached to the underside of his hand.
Or,at least that's what it looks like when he brings his hand up from the reservoir at the bottom of the wheel and up over the pot.
But it's undeniably effective in real time,however it was done.
Episode 7 - "Lord Belborough's Lucky Day"
The canal is shown about 8 mins in.
And to convey the idea of moving water they kept one half static and turned the bit under the boat into a moving conveyor
ie. the boat is static on the surface,with the join highlighted in the pic.
Very effective.Except that canal water is still course !
There's actually a much longer canal scene at the start of Episode 13 - "A Present for Lord Belborough"
But I've not included a pic as there are fewer shots of the actual water and it's also completely still this time.
Although that was just time-saving expediency rather than a sudden desire to correct any misconceptions about canals.
Episode 10 - "Trouble with the Crane"
One of the Camberwick Pippin Fort "soldier boys",Private Armitage,dives into the canal to hook up a crate that accidentally fell in ( we're told he's "the best swimmer" )
His entry point is cleverly masked by the front of the barge,and there's a small cellophane splash,just visible in pic 3.
He's shown in the water from another angle too,but not doing anything.
And,as with all its predecessors,it's very much mission accomplished -minimum effort for maximum return,or at least enough that no-one would think twice about it.
A fish out of water !
" Funny looking doughnut "
And just to finish off this elemental look at Trumptonshire ....
Concluding footnote ....
With the possible exception of the dodgy Chigley fountain scene,the depiction of fire and water was a complete non-issue to the target audience.
Just a major headache for the animators .... and a bit of fun for us adults !
And it should never detract from the fundamental part Stop Motion animation played in the series success.
And that's all the water shown in Camberwick. Not a drop more !
And if anyone vaguely remembers that Windy had "a duck pond" you'd be right.
But it was only ever mentioned in passing and never actually seen. Although a pond in Trumpton Park was shown ....
All the appearances of water in Trumpton.
Episode 10 - "Cuthbert's Morning Off"
Fireman Cuthbert falls in the duck pond in Trumpton park.