STOP LOOK LISTEN
The Magazine's Public Information Film festival
Your votes are counted, and the result is in. The nation's favourite public information film is... Charley Says.
Perhaps it won't come as a surprise that, of all the films featured in the Magazine's public information film festival, Charley Says has triumphed as the nation's favourite.
For while many of the films, including second placed Tufty, are fondly remembered by many, Charley Says seems to have secured a special place in people's affections.
Nearly 25,000 readers of this website voted in the poll, organised to mark the 60th anniversary of the Central Office of Information, the government department which is responsible for the films.
Charley Says, featuring the voice talents of Kenny Everett which were later sampled in a hit single by The Prodigy, came out well on top, with nearly 10,000 votes.
RESULTS OF YOUR VOTES
1. Charley Says
3. Joe and Petunia
4. Dark and Lonely Water
5. Green Cross Man
6. Reginald Molehusband
7. Protect and Survive
8. Learn to Swim - Rolf Harris
9. Clunk Click - Jimmy Savile
10. Teenagers learn to swim
11. Think Bike
12. Play Safe - Frisbee
13=. Fireworks - Hale and Pace
Bullying - Tell Someone
15. Splink - Jon Pertwee
16. Close to the Edge
17. Jobs for Girls
18. TV Licence - Columbo
19. Disused fridges
20. Rabies warnings
21. Litter Defence Volunteers
22. Think Bubble
See menu on right for links to entries
Tufty was second, Joe and Petunia third and the terrifying Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water fourth (see table, right, for full results).
Six films were made in the Charley series. The most famous probably was the one featured in our festival - Don't play with Matches - though the others will also be well remembered: they concerned the dangers of water, of pulling hot things off tables, of hot things in the kitchen, of not telling mum where you are going, and of strangers ("This man came up and asked if I would like to see some puppies").
Richard Taylor, the animator who made Charley, along with nearly 40 other public information films, has very clear memories of creating the character, way back in 1973.
"I had been doing the first series of Crystal Tips and Alistair, and was just preparing for the second series when the COI asked for some films warning pre-school kids about domestic dangers.
Richard Taylor, Charley's creator: 'It's a trick of fate'
"They listed the dangers they wanted to focus on, and asked me to come up with ideas, the key feature being that they would not be presented in such a way as they would cause imitation among children."
Once his ideas had been approved, it took Taylor and an assistant six weeks to make the films at studios in Rathbone Street, central London.
The technique involved painting the characters and cutting them out, then photographing these cut-out figures in different positions. Facial expressions needed a number of different heads painting.
"It's like working with flat paper-puppets," says Taylor. "It's a quick and easy way of working because you simply re-use the pieces."
Kenny Everett was given the script and timings for the voiceover. He then recorded them at home and sent them back to Taylor on quarter-inch tape, just as he would do with his programmes for then just-launched Capital Radio.
So what is it about Charley Says that explains its popularity. Apart from Kenny's voice and the attractive earnestness of the boy's voice, Taylor says it's down to a "trick of fate".
"Some characters catch on, and some don't," he says.
Charley certainly did the job, and the COI is delighted that a film which is so well recognised has been chosen as the nation's favourite. Chief executive Alan Bishop said: "The response to the voting on the BBC News website has been terrific. We know that people hold very fond memories of the films. The comments made on the site show that these films worked and had a real effect on people's lives. Charley the cat is a great example of the importance of the films we produce."
Kenny Everett with the mews
The National Archives has launched a new website to mark the anniversary, which makes many public information films available, including all those featured in our festival and 67 others (see Internet Links on the right). Films can be viewed online or downloaded to devices such as video iPods or PSPs.
And here's a final snippet for fans of Charley.
Until now the boy's name has not been known. Taylor reveals that, although he liked the voice of the cat which Everett had recorded, he was not satisfied with the child's as it sounded too American.
So he asked a neighbour if his son would be willing to stand in. He was, and so one Sunday morning the three of them went into a studio and recorded the boy's lines.
Naming the character in honour of that boy's contribution, Taylor says the rightful name of Charley's friend is.... wait for it.... Dominic.
Stop Look Listen is compiled by Giles Wilson
Miaow miaow miaow.
Charley says: I'm pleased to accept this award on behalf of Kenny and my friend Dominic. I would like to thank my agent, my family and God.
scott, London, UK
I read somewhere that one of the great life savers of the 20th Century was washing up liquid, in that cleaner kitchen utensils quietly saved tens of thousands of lives. Likewise, if we could quantify how many lives these COI films have saved then the civil servants who commissioned them would be hero's of Geldof proportions, sadly we will never know - but well done ladies and gents of the COI and all the film makers!.
Rob C, Solihull
It's a fiddle! Tufty Rules! Long Live Tufty!
Nigel Macarthur, London, England
This has made my day! I used to love the 'Charley says' films and watching one again reminded me how good they were. Can't we have them back for the new generation? I know my little boy would like them - especially with Charley's/Kenny's mews.
Yasmin Keyani, Norwich
I do remember Charley, but for the wrong reasons. I always found the adverts very creepy, especially for sounds that the cat made, and my first reaction was always to turn the TV off.
Marc Jones, London
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