This class of schoolchildren are on a camping trip, and as luck would have it there is a circus nearby which enchants one of the kids, Anoop (Anoop Singh), especially the baby elephant Ranee which is attended to by young Penny (Rachel Brennock). However, he loses track of the time and his teachers, Mr Skinner (Julian Orchard) and Miss Flint (Damaris Hayman), will not be impressed at his poor timekeeping. Sure enough, when he arrives back at camp he is punished by not being allowed to attend the show, and must wash the piles of dishes instead, but he believes he can work out a way around this punishment and still enjoy the delights of the circus without the teachers knowing he has been away...
Anoop and the Elephant was a production of The Children's Film Foundation, coming at a point where the Saturday morning pictures for the nation's kids was still very much alive, thus providing an outlet for their efforts that would, as the nineteen-seventies progressed, begin to dwindle as television made inroads into their previously reliable audience. Works like this were not particularly at fault, for they were continuing more or less as they had been since the fifties, and although the presence of Anoop as the lead might look as if they were aiming to depict the multicultural society, in truth they had been doing so with diverse casts ever since the Foundation's inception, inclusivity a watchword.
While the casting may have been more sophisticated than many a grown-up project, the comedy was more of the same, easy slapstick and bumbling baddies receiving their comeuppances. Here the elephant in question is threatened with being sold to a competitor, a bigger budget but (naturally) more heartless operation led by the bumptious George Roderick with his bungling son (Ian Allis), so if the kids cannot find out a way of getting the rest of the money needed to pay him for the animal, off she will go. They get around this by, well, nicking the elephant and keeping it as a pet as all the while the hunt for Ranee steps up, leading to such sequences as it concealed in a tent that does not prevent it going walkabout.
As often, there were some famous faces here; the most famous back in 1972 would have been Jimmy Edwards and his moustache, playing the farmer who initially seems like another problem, but goes on to save the day. But now, you can spot among the kids future sitcom star Linda Robson and future Quadrophenia star Phil Daniels, quite easily in fact for it was clear that for all the film's good intentions, Anoop just wasn't much of an actor which may explain why his co-stars gradually took over the plot from him, not to mention the screen time. The rural locations were pleasant, the circus with its clown (Herbert Wroe) was about as hilarious as you would expect a circus to be (i.e. not very), and true to form, both baddies ended up falling in some water, in this case a pool their van becomes stuck in. Uncomplicated it was, but it was pleasing to see everything fall into place by the conclusion. Music by Muir Matheson.
[The BFI have released the Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box, which includes the following films:
Also included are a special feature length documentary The Children's Film Foundation Story, an interview with Veteran CFF writer John Tully, a booklet, and three shorts from the 1950s, all with heroic hounds.]