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The Water Babies (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Water Babies
The Water Babies VideoCover.jpeg
Directed byLionel Jeffries
Screenplay byMichael Robson
Lionel Jeffries (additional material)
Based onThe Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby
by Charles Kingsley
Produced byPeter Shaw
Ben Arbeid
StarringJames Mason
Bernard Cribbins
Billie Whitelaw
Joan Greenwood
David Tomlinson
Tommy Pender
Samantha Gates
CinematographyTed Scaife
Edited byPeter Weatherley
Music byPhil Coulter
Ariadne Films (UK)
Studio Minitaur Filmowych (Poland)
Distributed byPethurst International Ltd. (UK)
The Samuel Goldwyn Company (USA)
Release date
  • June 23, 1978 (1978-06-23)
  • June 15, 1979 (1979-06-15)
Running time
105 minutes
United Kingdom
Budget£1 million[1]

The Water Babies is a 1978 live action-animated family film directed by Lionel Jeffries and starring James Mason, Bernard Cribbins, Billie Whitelaw, Joan Greenwood, David Tomlinson, Tommy Pender, and Samantha Gates.[2] It is very loosely based on the book The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby by Charles Kingsley.[3]


Tom is a 12 year old orphan living in York in the mid-19th century. He is taken under the wing of Grimes, a roguish chimney sweep, as he is small enough to climb inside the chimneys. One day they leave town and go to a huge country house set in vast grounds. Grimes rides a donkey - Tom and Grimes' assistant Masterman walk alongside.

At the house Tom gets lost in the maze of chimneys and appears in a young girl's bedroom (Elly). Meanwhile Grimes is passing silverware out of the windows to Masterman. When discovered by the housekeeper Grimes blames the crime on Tom who makes a run for it with his dog Toby. They are pursued across the estate, and end up at Dead Man's Pool: a deep pool in a fast flowing river. Although the young girl protests his innocence Tom jumps in with the dog.

The film then switches to a fantasy animation of speaking sea-creatures. Here he must help rescue his new friends, the Water Babies, from enslavement by sharks. This section includes multiple musical sequences mainly involving a Scottish lobster, a seahorse and a swordfish. The story jumps to a cave in Antarctica with singing polar bears and penguins.



  • James Mason as Killer Shark
  • Bernard Cribbins as Electric Eel
  • David Tomlinson as Polar Bear
  • Samantha Gates as Ariadne the Water Baby
  • Paul Luty as Claude the Swordfish
  • Jon Pertwee as Salmon/Jock the Lobster/Kraken
  • Lance Percival as Terence the Seahorse
  • David Jason as Cyril the Walrus
  • Olive Gregg
  • Cass Allan
  • Liz Proud
  • Una Stubbs


Producer Peter Shaw read the book in 1972 and thought it would make a good film. However he was unsure how to tackle the film technically and was concerned about how to turn the book into a script. He and writer Michael Robson spent a lot of time adapting the book. Key changes were made including adding a sidekick for the evil sweeper Grimes and having the villains get their comeuppance in the real world as well as the fantasy world.[1]

Shaw toyed with the idea of using special effects then decided to create the underwater sequences via animation. "We had the perfect excuse," said Shaw. "The surface of the water becomes the boundary between live action and fantasy."[1]

Shaw looked into hiring animators in Hollywood, but found them to be too expensive, so made a deal with a Polish company. The Poles did the animation while the British did the story, soundtrack, working designs and characters. The budget for the film was raised entirely in England, and the film was shot without a distributor.[1]

It was filmed on location in Yorkshire, England in November 1976. Primarily based at Denton Hall, Wharfedale, early scenes are filmed in the city of York. Post production took a number of months, due to incorporating the animated sequences.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Radford, Tim (1 November 1976). "Capitalist tale with a touch of class". The Guardian. p. 8.
  2. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (1999). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. Checkmark Books. p. 212. ISBN 0-8160-3831-7. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  3. ^ "The Water Babies". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 15 March 2016.

External links

This page was last edited on 6 October 2021, at 07:02
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