Monday, December 12, 2022

How they made The Box of Delights

Renny Rye, who directed The Box of Delights, and Devin Stanfield, who played Kay Harker, are interviewed for a Guardian piece on the making of this children's classic. 

Here is a little of what they have to say.

Renny Rye 

I remember reading the script for the first episode, which includes Punch and Judy man Cole Hawlings riding into a painting and Kay landing in a wolf-besieged Roman encampment on a flying pony, and thinking, "OK, how do we do that?" 

These things just weren’t possible in those days, but the technology was changing daily and the BBC was building an electronics workshop we were allowed to use. I ended up spending almost six months in there.

Not all the solutions were hi-tech and they included pantomime-style costumes and traditional animation. I knew that children’s imaginations would paper over the cracks. We could only afford four-frame animation, which gave a sort of slow-mo quality, but it’s quite dreamlike, which suited the narrative.

Devin Stanfield

The other children in the cast would turn up for a week’s shooting and then disappear again, whereas I was stuck in hotel rooms with my chaperone for months at a time. But I got on well with the adult cast. Pat Troughton was charming, kind and patient. 

I remember waiting with him for hours until we were needed on a night shoot with hundreds of extras in the grounds of Hereford Cathedral. We had an in-depth discussion about how his being impaled with a lightning rod was achieved in The Omen.

I recently treated myself to the edition of The Box of Delights you can see above. Quentin Blake is a national treasure, but I'm not convinced that his style suits the story.

But it's the text I bought it for and this edition was compiled from John Masefield's original manuscript. It includes passages that were omitted in error and others left out to make room for the illustrations,


Frank Little said...

You are too young to remember the serialisations (there were several in those days when recording media were expensive} on Children's Hour on the old Home Service. The narration by Harman Grisewood (cousin of the more famous Freddy) as Kay Harker in old age and the background music of Hely-Hutchinson's Carol Symphony by the Boyd Neel orchestra added to a vary effecting experience.

I liked the TV production, especially Patrick Troughton's contribution and the fact that it included episodes which were not in the radio dramatisation. But the animations were a let-down. Now that the technology has moved on, would it be possible to integrate more realistic animations into a revised production? it would be worth trying.

A further thought: "the wolves are running" is appropriate for our times. :-(

Jonathan Calder said...

I do remember hearing a radio play of it in 1967 or 1968 that I thought was wonderful.