CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 4 . . . . October 15, 2004
Both of these short animated films feature Mr. Edgar, a mechanical cuckoo who takes his responsibilities extremely seriously. Not only must he appear on the hour to announce the time, but also he must keep his clock in good mechanical repair. In the first film, the audience learns that Mr. Edgar's home is the inside of a cuckoo clock hanging on the chimney of a fireplace. Strangely enough, there is no house surrounding the fireplace. The fireplace, chimney, stone floor and a basement are all that remain of the original house. What has happened to the house, or the family who lived in it are not explained in the film. Liner notes suggest that teachers should raise the question of what may have happened to the house and its original occupants with the children before discussing the story.
In Cuckoo, Mr. Edgar! a sudden storm occurs, and three eggs end up in the mechanical bird's living room. Since Mr. Edgar doesn't have the heart to push them out of his house to smash on the concrete floor below, he is stuck with raising three newly hatched birds. Discovering what baby birds need to eat and providing it for them takes up so much of his time that Mr. Edgar realizes he must teach the birds to find their own food. The next step is to get them to fly, a skill he must teach the fledglings by the book, since unlike them, he cannot fly. Eventually Mr. Edgar's adopted sons heed the call of nature and fly south, leaving the mechanical cuckoo to await their return in the spring.
In Operation Cuckoo, the second film, disaster strikes when Mr. Edgar drops a gear wheel on which he is working to the floor far below where it slips through a crack into the dark basement. While he is retrieving the wheel, he meets Fifi the firefly who shows him the most amazing device: "a clock that puts pictures in motion." What Mr. Edgar sees is the operation of an old 8 mm film projector, the kind that was used for many years to show movies in homes and schools. With a mixture of magic and machinery, Fifi uses her light to illuminate the frames of the film and project them through the lens of the projector. After Fifi masterminds the rescue of Mr. Edgar and his gear wheel from the basement, the two become fast friends. Later, the clever cuckoo is able to entertain his little friend by building a projector in his living room and showing one of the old home movies that had been stored in the basement. What a surprise for Mr. Edgar to watch his younger self appearing as "the first-ever movie star cuckoo".
Both films feature brightly colored, engaging animations created by Pierre M. Trudeau which will no doubt appeal to young children. Louis Gagne's original music is lively and toe-tapping and moves the simple script jauntily along the story line. A.J. Henderson provides a rather precise and slightly British sounding voice-over for Mr. Edgar, who, instead of talking, makes an interesting array of meaningful sounds. Liner notes inform the viewer that Mr. Edgar provides "A timely lesson in fatherly love" and that Operation Cuckoo could be subtitled "Friendship can light up your life." These themes are detectable but certainly not developed in a heavy-handed way. The set of suggested questions for discussion found on the back of the liner should prove useful for teachers wishing to show these films in a primary classroom.
The second of Mr. Edgar's adventure featuring his firefly friend Fifi (a bug whose nether region resembles a Christmas tree light bulb) may cause some confusion to young viewers who will not be familiar with the workings of the 8 mm film projector. Because the insides of a clock will also be mysterious to them, the importance of the gear wheel in this story may escape a young audience. Mr. Edgar! is a more appropriate and understandable video for its intended audience than the second adventure, Operation Cuckoo. Both films are more suitable for K to Grade 2, than for students in Grade 3.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.