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Last Updated: Friday, 19 May 2006, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Joe and Petunia: The remake
By Megan Lane
BBC News Magazine

Joe and Petunia 2006

Joe and Petunia, the classic public information film, has been given a 21st Century makeover. Can you spot the differences?

The world is in many ways a different place since cartoon couple Joe and Petunia starred in a series of public information films some 40 years ago.

The best-known - voted third in our poll of your favourites in March - dates from 1968, urging people to dial HM Coastguard on 999 for coastal emergencies. As a sailor in small boat struggles against high waves, the couple picnic on a clifftop. It takes them some time to realise he's in trouble.

To mark the 60th anniversary of the Central Office of Information, the government department responsible for the memorable films which warned the public of the dangers around them, Joe and Petunia "the remake" has been digitally re-mastered and given a 21st Century spin.

Joe and Petunia original

At first glance little has changed from the original, drawn by the late Nick Spago, creator of the 1980s cartoon series Willo the Wisp.

But out go... well, have a look for yourself (see link at the top of this page) and compare it to the original film on the right. Then vote for the number of changes you spot.

"The original film was extremely effective in raising awareness that HM Coastguard is a 999 emergency service," says John Astbury, chief executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. "This message is equally important today so we were delighted to work with COI to re-launch the film with a modern twist."

How many changes did you spot in Joe and Petunia, the remake?
2654 answers so far. It's nine - check cap, Hello! magazine, cool bag, car, plane, iPod, mobile phone, Joe's trainers and computer in coastguard's office.
It will be broadcast on TV later this year.

While the look of the film has been tweaked, the storyline remains the same and the characters are still voiced by Wendy Craig and Peter Hawkins, a celebrated voice who appeared as a Dalek, a Cyberman and Captain Pugwash.

So the audience still gets a superior glow from knowing that smart alec Joe is mis-pronouncing "dinghy" - it is a staple public information film technique to flatter the audience.

And whereas the original couple at first seemed stereotypical northerners, today's Joe and Petunia have adopted some characteristics of the chav.

Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

Why was it necessary to remove the bag with the union flag motif? Cool Britannia eh... seeth.
Stig, London, UK

This is extremely serious. I blinked and 40 years have passed.
Tonto Kowalski, Switzerland

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