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  Dot and the Kangaroo Talk To The AnimalsBuy this film here.
Year: 1977
Director: Yoram Gross
Stars: Barbara Frawley, Joan Bruce, Spike Milligan, June Salter, Ross Higgins, Lola Brooks, Peter Gwynne, Ron Haddrick, Richard Meikle, George Assang, Kerrie Biddell, John Derum, Kevin Golsby, Nola Lester, Sue Walker, Noel Brophy, Anne Haddy, Robina Beard
Genre: Animated, Adventure
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Little Dot (voiced by Barbara Frawley) is lost in the Bush near her home and now as she sits crying under a tree, she remembers and regrets her foolhardy wish to get her parents' permission to head off on her own for a while. Her mother was reluctant, but her father didn't see anything wrong, and is now full of regret himself as he searches for her - she has been missing for a day now, and has spent the night alone in the open air. When she wakes up, she feels hungry and thirsty, but does not know where to find food or water, so how lucky she is that a kangaroo appears and offers her something to eat which has a magical effect...

That's right, after eating the, um, whatever it was (we are never told), the little girl can now talk to the animals just like Doctor Doolittle, which is handy for the way the plot is mapped out. Dot and the Kangaroo was adapted from Ethel Pedley's late 19th century children's book by Yoram Gross, a Polish animator who had emigrated to Australia and through hard work and determination set up his own animation studio there, becoming in time the country's foremost director of cartoons. He had obviously embraced life in his adopted land, as this film was a proudly Aussie work, and often felt like an educational special in the guise of an adventure.

This was down to the manner in which the wildlife and folklore of Australia were clearly delineated so that even a child could pick up on the lessons here. But do not go away with the impression that this was a dry, hectoring effort, as it played out as a charming fairy tale that explored the Land of Oz, as Dot is adopted by the kangaroo (Joan Bruce) who tells her that she has lost her own baby recently. The implications of that, where the marsupial replaces her missing infant with a human one, are not dwelt upon, but the kangaroo demonstrates that she could be a very good mother no matter that circumstances have conspired to indicate otherwise.

Dot and her new friend then set out on a quest to find Dot's home as all the while her father grows less and less certain of ever seeing her again. In a way, this is the kids' version of Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout, only the white girl is younger, and the guide is non-human, although the ending is no less heart-rending. Gross did not shy away from painful truths, and it may surprise some viewers to see that the kangaroo never does find her joey, not to mention the inevitable but all the same tearjerking finale where the two friends realise they must part for good, as the world of flora and fauna can never truly be so intimate with the world of people.

This is not all dour, though, as there are pleny of cheery songs sung by the animal characters to buoy the mood - or mood swings, for that matter. Dot gets to sing a ditty about riding in the kangaroo pouch, and it seems that every creature here has his own theme song, from the kookaburra to the platypus, which is voiced here by guest star Spike Milligan. Every character is distinct, with only the humans appearing either generic - the parents - or unknowable - the aborigines, and there is a tune about that Australian wildman of myth and legend, the bunyip, which will bring back memories for those who saw this as children, mainly because they would have found it too scary. The memorable style, where the characters are cartoons while the backgrounds are live action, adds to the idiosyncratic appearance, and it's small wonder something this sweet is fondly recalled by so many. This was followed by other Dot films from Gross, but this is the one that stays in the memory. Music by Bob Young.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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