Sunday, September 20, 2009

Return of the kangaroo-paw tongs

The other night the ABC showed a good doco about the old TV show Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. There was a lot of the usual farcical dramatic recreations, using the old "there happened to be an out of focus camera on the scene at the time, pointing not quite in the right direction" technique. Apparently the creators of Skippy were drinking scotch, smoking, laughing heartily and slapping each other on the back at all times.

The best bits were the actual Skippy clips. We found about 12 episodes on DVD some time back, but in fact there were 91 episodes. 91! There were a lot of laugh-out-loud moments as some of the cast and crew would describe some outrageous production detail, then a series of clips would demonstrate the point.

For example, first the kangaroo-paw tongs were demonstrated by the one of the surviving production crew. Then a montage of clips where a tight close up on "Skippy's paws" showed her operating the radio, opening a screen door, typing etc etc. A marsupial specialist was on hand to confirm that kangaroos never, ever go "tsk tsk tsk".

I knew even when I was a kid that there were nine different kangaroos that played Skippy. I think once when we were in Sydney on holiday we went to Waratah Park where the series was shot, and met "Skippy". We were much more interested in the trampolines. At that time if there were any trampolines in Tasmania, we certainly hadn't see them.

What I did not know then was that the various Skippies spent most of their time on set in a hessian bag. When the shot was all set up she would be released. Kangaroos are quite happy in a hessian bag but are dazed and dopey for a few seconds when they emerge, before hopping off into the nearest scrub at top speed. This show revealed that every bit of footage of Skippy not hopping away was obtained in these short intervals after de-bagging. They then showed what happened after the director called "cut", which was usually Skippy going at quite a lick while the crew chased her with the hessian bag.

I was laughing my head off and turned to explain why to Elf who was reading and not listening to the TV, when, I swear to God, a wallaby bounced up onto our deck, up the steps and across the backyard.

According to Wikipedia its still being shown in Iran.

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