On the final disc of the set is a feature called The making of The Enid Blyton Adventure Series. I can’t say I noticed one on the Secret Series DVD but I will have to check that.
THE SERIES IN A NUTSHELL
The series is described as: A foursome with a parrot roaming the world finding treasure running away from baddies capturing them at the end. There’s a lot of adventure in it by David Taylor who played Jack. He had read all the Secret Seven and Famous Fives passed down from his brother but never the Adventure Series.
Also described as Critically acclaimed, The flagship of the Blyton estate. The jewel in the crown and the legendary Adventure Series, brought to the screen for the first time ever. Well, not quite as Island and Castle had already been adapted for the small screen, but as they’re being so nice about Blyton’s work I’ll let them off.
It could also be slightly inaccurate to say that it is amazing how few of her books have been adapted for the screen as at a quick count there were 14 adaptations before this one! Not all in English, but they still exist.) Also said is that the books are the story of Allie Mannering and her secret agent friend. I think that’s where the series went a bit wrong, to be honest. Focusing too much on the adults – it’s supposed to be about four children and Bill popping up when necessary.
Another claim made is that it was the biggest children’s series ever filmed. There were 24 episodes, so the equivalent of 8 feature films back to back. Well, if a feature film is only an hour and ten minutes! Both adaptations of the Famous Five had more episodes than this series did, though they filmed as two separate series with a break in the middle.
A MODERN SERIES FOR A MODERN AUDIENCE
None better than Blyton they said, for a family audience from Granny right down to a five year-old.
And they have cleverly adapted and updated the stories to appeal for a modern family audience without losing any of the original values and the charm and a lot of humour too. Not sure that completely make sense, at least not the but about the humour. Did they not lose a lot of humour? Did they mean they added a lot of humour?
I’d go with the second meaning as they added rather a lot of slapstick moments (the clip playing of the idiotic baddie from Ship crashing his bike is playing while this is said). I also think they did lose at least some of the original values, and a lot of the charm!
WHERE AND WHO IN THE WORLD?
Where in the whole wide world would they make the series? Apparently they did do a lot of searching for locations and ended up in New Zealand as it has a very versatile scenery. It has beaches, grasslands, hills, rivers and all sorts of things. I know New Zealand often gets used in place of Britain for filming (and also doubles as Middle Earth too).
I agree it’s a very attractive place but doesn’t quite double as the Middle East!
Being filmed in New Zealand it was natural that many New Zealanders would audition for roles. In total there were around 1,200 children attended the audition – in the rain – and some had flown in from Australia and elsewhere.
Do you read EB? the presenter asks one group of rather older looking teenage girls. NO, they laugh, and then, yes we do, all the time, religiously.
I really almost cried at those 1200 kids queuing in the rain for hours and getting up at 5am to drive to the audition. After that, they were narrowed down to 12, three children for each part, and sorted into four groups.
It was interesting to see the different groups with one or two of the final kids rehearsing with those who didn’t make it. Alexis Jackson, who played Dinah, had never acted before. They included hidden camera footage of her getting told she was getting the part over the phone. (I may have cried real tears.) It also revealed that Alexis was not fond of creepy crawlies (but not to such an extent as Dinah) and she very bravely allowed a real spider to crawl across her face in one episode
Jennyfer Jewel revealed she loved all the screaming she was allowed to do (and that was a lot!).
Mothers from the books are described as middle-aged plump, homely women, baking cakes and serving lashings of lemonade and ginger-beer. Well, I think they’re confusing mothers with the cooks, really! Aunt Fanny wasn’t plump even if she helped with the baking! They describe Kirsten Hughes’ Aunt Allie as more modern than the one in the book. So that would be the Mrs Mannering who ran an art gallery for years to support her children after her husband died? Even in later books she’s hardly a homely or plump woman tied to the kitchen. She holidays with her children all over the place and I’m sure she drives her own car.
To be fair she never went toe-to-toe with Sir George (or any equivalent) but that’s because nobody was phoning Bill’s mobile constantly and ruining their plans!
Malcolm Jamieson, playing Bill, liked to think of himself as a bit of a James Bond and did some of his own stunts – like the jump from one boat to another during Sea of Adventure.
They rather over-promote their baddies here, showing us all the ones they had. Unfortunately most of them over-acted their parts and came across as foolish rather than frightening.
PLACES AND PETS
We get to see the making of the various tunnels they used for filming. They are actually the same ones, turned to different angles and repainted across the eight episodes. I do have to admit that this wasn’t too obvious (not as obvious as say, the later series of Red Dwarf where they only had one corridor and used it over and over for different parts of the ship).
For Craggy Tops, they found a perfect house, and a great location that really looked like it could be in Cornwall (even if it wasn’t quite the desolate craggy coast of the book). The only problem was, the house and the location were not in the same place. It was solved by putting the house on a very large lorry and simply driving it to the new location!
For Kiki they had either three or four cockatoos acting (they used both numbers at different parts of the documentary). One was called Benny and another, Goldie. The trainers had to squeeze into full sets to ensure the birds did the right action at the right moment. David Taylor (Jack) said he got along well with the birds, apart from the occasional bite, and even got used to the claws in his shoulder. That’s probably because his shirts had padding sewn into the shoulders!
This was a nice 45-minute look into making the series, without going into boring detail of every location or character. I learned a few things certainly.