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Monday, 30 July, 2001, 19:00 GMT 20:00 UK
TV nostalgia sells on DVD
Jo and Petunia
Jo and Petunia: Watch out for the coastguard
Old fashioned animated public information films, warning of such everyday hazards as crossing the road, are enjoying robust sales on DVD.

Charley the Cat
Charley: top cat and lifesaver
A compilation DVD of 150 short films featuring characters such as Charley the Cat, Tufty the Squirrel and the Green Cross Code is proving a sales hit just one week after release.

"It's a nostalgia kick really," says Jackie Huxley, head of marketing at the Central Office of Information.

"These films have a special place in people's memory."

Network Video produced just 2,000 editions of a DVD which compiles two earlier videos of Public Information Films and one week later there are just 100 left.

Jimmy Savile
Jim'll fix it: Savile championed seatbelt use
The short cautionary tales were screened to fill the gaps in the TV schedules, but became particularly associated with Saturday morning children's TV.

To get the message across to their young audience, the makers made extensive use of animation.

Charley's incomprehensible pronouncements on water safety and the dangers of teapots even inspired a Top 10 hit by controversial UK dance act Prodigy.

The films also employed the services of established stars such as Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris and Dr Who actor Jon Pertwee.

David Prowse
Green Cross Code Man David Prowse was a force for good
Some years ago Tim Beddows, manager of NetworkVideo, stumbled across the cartoons as he did some research and approached the COI with a view to developing them.

The ensuing video compilation has sold some 22,000 copies.

"Charley Says is probably the quirkiest thing on our catalogue, but we're not into mainstream material and these just worked," says Beddows.

Neither Beddows nor the COI had any idea that the videos would sell so well.

"I don't think we knew just how popular these would be," says Huxley.

"These are films that the COI has been making since the 1940s and continues to make on health, welfare and social issues."

In a series entitled Children's Heroes, soccer ace Kevin Keegan, boxer Joe Bugner and leather-clad rocker Alvin Stardust all excelled at telling careless children "you must be out of your tiny minds".

Perhaps the most famous of the public information campaigns involved David Prowse as the Green Cross Code Man.

Prowse, who later swapped his green cape for the black mantle of Star Wars figure Darth Vadar, says his road safety message cut the number of accidents by half.

Basil Brush
Boom, boom! Basil Brush says beware of inflatables at the beach
As well as saving lives, the films also kept the wolf from the door for countless struggling actors and stuntmen between episodes of The Sweeney.

EastEnders star Gillian Taylforth and John Altman, the soap's Nick Cotton, were among those who served their apprenticeship on such shorts as Stupid Git and Forget It.

Most people of a certain age seem to be able to name to name a particular favourite character or film.

Beddows is no exception and his choice, also that of Huxley, must surely be one of the stars to watch out for.

"I never liked Charley and Tufty was a bit childish," he says.

"But I was fond of Jo and Petunia - they were right up my street."

See also:

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