Rupert the Bear and the Frog Song1 is one of the finest examples of animation in the 1980s and is a film that holds a special place in the hearts of children growing up in that period. The BAFTA award winning Rupert the Bear and the Frog Song, produced by Paul McCartney, was a short, uplifting animated film which continues to entertain children to this day. No children's birthday party in late 1985 or 1986 was complete without a screening of Rupert the Bear and the Frog Song.
Rupert the Bear is a cartoon character that first appeared in the Daily Express in November 1920, a character that the young Paul McCartney was fond of. The film has a simple plot; Rupert goes out to play, and with Bill Badger and Edward Trunk unable to join him, runs off to the hills near his home. After seeing beautiful butterflies, terrifying trees and wet waterfalls he notices that lots of frogs seem to be travelling in the same direction. Following them and dodging the Guard Frogs2 he finds himself in a wondrous cavern, where he hides and watches the frogs sing their chorus - 'We All Stand Together'.
The song won an Ivor Novello Award for 'Best Film Theme Or Song 1984'. In 1985 Rupert the Bear and the Frog Song won a BAFTA3 for Best Animated Short Film. It was also nominated for the 'Best Music Video - Short Form' for the 1986 Grammy Awards.
Inspiration Behind The Film
Paul used to read the Rupert the Bear stories as a child and rediscovered his fondness for them when reading them to his stepdaughter Heather. In April 1970, shortly after leaving the Beatles, he bought Rupert the Bear's film rights. He stated at the time:
I've bought up the film rights for Rupert the Bear the cartoon character from the Daily Express. As a kid I loved that strip – I've still got all the old Rupert annuals at home.
He later in 1990 described how it came about with the words,
I ended up going to see Sir Max Aitken who was the head of the Daily Express at the time, in his big office in Fleet Street, and said, 'Look, Max, baby, we've got to keep Rupert in England because if the Yanks get hold of him they'll make him talk like Winnie the Pooh and he'll be an American Rupert.' So I said, 'You've got to let someone like me do it.' I gave him all the big spiel and he was impressed. So that was how we got the animation rights to do Rupert.
Paul's original plan was for a full-length animated film, for which he wrote 11 songs. He approached writers to develop this into a full script, including former member of Monty Python, Terry Jones. In the end, however, only 15 minutes was filmed. His original story outline involved Rupert working on behalf of the King of the Birds to investigate why the North Wind was out of control.
The inspiration was a 1958 Rupert story Rupert and the Water Lily which shows a frog chorus.
The film was dedicated to the creative genius of Mary Tourtel, who invented Rupert the Bear and Alfred Bestel, the artist who drew Rupert the Bear between 1935 and 1973. Paul acknowledged Alfred Bestel's influence with the words,
I had read the annuals, which used to come out each year at Christmas of this character called Rupert... I really was always very impressed with these end papers, instead of little drawings there was this big full drawing that the artist, Bestel, would do and there was one of these in particular where there was a choir of frogs and they were being conducted by a ...frog, there were all little details in the drawing. There was a frog with a violin, so I just thought well wait a minute. We've got a flute we've got a violin we've got a choir there's someone conducting them, let me make some music with that in mind. So I took the drawing and tried to imagine how it might sound, and then once I'd done that we then started making the animation.
The film was directed by Geoff Dunbar.
|Paul McCartney||Rupert the Bear, Edward Trunk, Bill Badger and Boy Frog|
|Windsor Davies||Mr Bear and Father Frog|
|June Whitfield||Mrs Bear|
Windsor Davies is an actor famous for his comedy roles, including British Army sitcom It Ain't Half Hot, Mum. He starred in two Carry On films, Carry On Behind and Carry On England. June Whitfield has appeared in four Carry On films: Carry On Nurse, Carry On Girls, Carry On Abroad and Carry On Columbus. She is also famous for television sitcom roles such as in Terry & June, Absolutely Fabulous and also appeared in the Doctor Who two-part story 'The End Of Time'.
Sir Paul McCartney is most famous for being in The Beatles. The Beatles were heavily involved in pioneering the development of the music video, and Rupert the Bear and the Frog Song is often considered to be one of the most successful music videos of all time. He had not originally intended to be the voice of Rupert, and described how he took the role with the words,
We searched high and low for Rupert. We must've auditioned every kid in London. And they all came in and we said, 'All you need to do is say 'Hello, my name's Rupert.' And nearly all of them came in with, 'Hello, my name's Wooper'. We said, 'Not 'wooper', 'Rupert''.... In the end Geoff [Dunbar, the director] said, 'would you do it?'
'We All Stand Together'
'We All Stand Together', the Frog Song sung by the Frog Chorus, is a song by Paul McCartney, one of his most successful songs of the 1980s. The 'Frog Chorus' backing on the song was provided by the King's Singers choral group and the choir of St Paul's Cathedral. The B-side was 'We All Stand Together (Humming Version)' performed by Paul McCartney and the Finchley Frogettes.
The single cover showed a picture of Paul McCartney dressed as Rupert the Bear, wearing Rupert's trademark red jumper and yellow scarf, being hugged by Rupert the Bear himself. The initial release was on a blue background with a border of Rupert's scarf; a re-release, however, had a simple white background and just Paul and Rupert's faces and shoulders. The back cover also has a yellow scarf border. In the centre is the same picture of Rupert that is on the original video's cover, with four pictures behind. The picture on the top left is of a singing fish, the top right picture shows the three tenor frogs, bottom left shows the 'hiya' chorus frogs, and the bottom right picture is of the mother and her frog family, on a red background.
The deceptively simple introduction, 'Bom bom-bom', evokes images of frogs croaking even though no frogs are mentioned in the duration of the song. The song has a positive, upbeat message perfectly contained within a feel-good song.
Win or lose
Sink or swim
One thing is certain we'll never give in
Side by side
Hand in hand
We all stand together
Christmas Chart Success
When 'We All Stand Together' was released in the Christmas charts in 1984 it was the Christmas Number 3. Songs released in time for the Christmas Number 1 slot in 1984 were particularly strong, with Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'The Power Of Love', Ray Parker Junior's 'Ghostbusters', Gary Glitter's 'Another Rock and Roll Christmas' and Madonna's 'Like A Virgin' also in the top ten, not to mention Toy Dolls' 'Nellie The Elephant'. The song that was Christmas Number 2 that year was Wham!'s 'Last Christmas', a song which sold over a million copies and became the biggest selling single in UK chart history not to reach number 1. The Christmas Number 1 was Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas?'4, the best selling song of the 1980s and still Britain's second best selling song in the UK ever after 1997's 'Candle In The Wind (Princess Diana version)'.
The song is still available on CD and can be found as a bonus track on the CD of Paul McCartney's 1983 album Pipes of Peace and the Greatest Hits compilation album Paul McCartney: All The Best. Sadly the B-Side, 'We All Stand Together (Humming Version)' is not available on CD.
Original VHS & Betamax Release - Paul McCartney's Rupert and the Frog Song
The video is 22½ minutes long and shows a picture of Rupert frolicking with butterflies on the front, hot air balloons on the side and back, with the three largest balloons on the back representing the three animated shorts the video contains; Rupert and the Frog Song and Linda McCartney's Seaside Woman and The Oriental Nightfish. Unusually the British Board of Film Classification 'U' for Universal Viewing symbol on the spine is at a 45 degree angle to allow it to fit into a picture of a balloon. The video was released at the same time as the single 'We All Stand Together' and quickly became the biggest selling video of 1985. It was the Christmas Number One video and sold 200,000 copies, making it the best selling Music Video ever up to that point. Paul McCartney was awarded the 'Best Selling Video Of The Year Award' at the British Video Awards in October 1986.
This song, written in November 1972, was the first song Linda McCartney wrote and has a delightful Reggae Caribbean flavour. The music is by Wings. This song was later released in 1977 as a single, the B-side to which was the cheekily named 'B-Side to Seaside'. The animated film that accompanies this, about a hard-working woman and her fun-loving daughter, was made in 1980 and won the Cannes Film Festival's Palme D'Or award for Best Short Subject.
The Oriental Nightfish
This Wings song was written by Linda in October 1973 and was animated by Ian Emes. It is quite a surreal, entertaining three and half minute long cartoon made in 1977 about an inexplicable alien force visiting a woman who was working late on a Thursday night. Both The Oriental Nightfish and Seaside Woman are available to listen to on CD on Linda McCartney's Wild Prairie album, but the animated films sadly are not available on DVD or Blu-Ray.
Paul McCartney Once Upon A Video
This 18-minute-long video was released in 1987 and contained four music videos and two adverts. This video has not been released on DVD, but two of the music videos are available on the The McCartney Years DVD. The three songs other than 'We All Stand Together' can be heard on Paul's Press To Play album.
'Once Upon A Long Ago'
A single by Paul McCartney that reached Number 10 in 1987. The film shows Paul and Linda McCartney and their band in black and white performing their song in the middle of a rocky outcrop, intercutting to a colour cartoon of a typical Victorian Christmas complete with snow, Christmas tree, a present of a puppy and a sing along around the piano. This song is on The McCartney Years DVD.
'Stranglehold' ('Move Over Busker')
This music video was filmed in October 1986. In Nogales, Arizona, Paul McCartney and his band are playing songs from his Press To Play album in a run-down restaurant named 'The Halfway Station' which doubles for the fictional 'Cactus Club' shown in the video. A child who plays the saxophone, hearing the last three words of Paul McCartney's song 'Move Over Busker' wishes to enter the building and play with Paul, but bouncers prevent him from going inside. Fortunately he bumps into Linda McCartney, who tells the bouncers to let him in, he plays his saxophone and ends up on stage next to Paul McCartney. This song is not available on DVD.
'Pretty Little Head'
This song was originally written as an instrumental piece which Paul McCartney later added lyrics to, describing the process as 'like abstract art'. The video begins with the refrain from the classic Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band song 'She's Leaving Home'. A young girl runs away from her home where her parents are always arguing to a big city, which is frightening and full of strange creatures, including the tape-stealer from Paul McCartney's film Give My Regards To Broadstreet. Fortunately a larger-than-life Paul McCartney is at hand to blow all the baddies away, and the girl magically appears back home at the end with her hairdryer, and her parents make up. This song is on The McCartney Years DVD.
'We All Stand Together' (Edited version)
This version has several differences from the original video release. Firstly, it has a different opening. Instead of Rupert the Bear being given his scarf by his mother, this version opens with Paul McCartney entering the attic of a house, discovering an old trunk, opening it, blowing the dust off the cover of a Rupert annual, inside which a child's handwriting states that it belongs to Paul McCartney at his childhood home. Beneath this address is a picture inside of a conductor frog, and the camera zooms in, taking us into the frog chorus. After a few seconds of the frogs singing we see Paul McCartney singing along rather than the animated frogs jumping sequence. Quite a lot of the middle of the frog song is edited out, including everything involving the cats and owl and the middle verse. Everything between the fireflies flying to the lamp and the overhead fly past of the hot air ballooning frogs is similarly edited out, including the entire underwater sequence and the ballet dancing frogs, as well as the fireflies wiggling their bottoms. The song ends before the owl's assassination attempt on the King and Queen Frog, the last image being the frog conductor bowing.
The standard length of 'We All Stand Together' is 4 minutes 23 seconds. The edited version is only 2 minutes 40 seconds in length.
There are two adverts on the Once Upon A Video video. The first advertises Paul McCartney's Paul McCartney: All The Best album, which includes 'We All Stand Together'. The second is an advert for the Rupert the Bear and the Frog Song video. This is a short advert narrated by Windsor Davies and informs us that the retail price was originally £6:99. The scene in the film where Rupert tells his father, Mr Bear, 'I'm off for a walk, Dad' and he replies, 'You take care, son' has been redubbed especially for this commercial. In the advert the charming conversation now goes:
Rupert: I'm off to buy a video, Dad.
Mr Bear: What's a video, son?
They were simpler times.
Paul McCartney - The Animated Collection
In 2004 the film was re-released on DVD to mark its 20th Anniversary, along with two other Paul McCartney shorts directed by Geoff Dunbar, Tropic Island Hum and Tuesday.
Tropic Island Hum
Tropic Island Hum is the perfect accompaniment to Rupert the Bear and the Frog Song as it has several themes and elements in common. The themes of a voyage of discovery and seeing a show are present in both films. Both have a positive upbeat song with a message about belonging. The instrumental background music heard when Rupert explores the hill is also used at the start of Tropic Island Hum. The character of Froggo the hot air ballooning frog has goggles like the hot air ballooning frogs in Rupert the Bear and the Frog Song. The Moonlit kiss ending is similar to how the fish kiss beneath the moon at the end of Seaside Woman. The sequence where a boy monkey asks his father if they're nearly there yet is similar to a scene in Rupert the Bear and the Frog Song where a boy frog asks his father when the show is about to start. Most of the voices in Rupert the Bear and the Frog Song and Tropic Island Hum are voiced by Paul McCartney.
Tuesday unusually is not an original story by Paul McCartney but is based on an award-winning children's book by David Wiesner written in 1990. The film has almost no dialogue, and tells the story of how on a magical Tuesday night frogs can fly on floating lily pads, and the frogs visit a nearby American town. The film was made in 2000, and was directed by Geoff Dunbar with Paul McCartney and Dustin Hoffman providing the voices. The frogs are more realistic than those in Tropic Island Hum and Rupert the Bear and the Frog Song, however the opening shot of the lily pads is very similar to the lily pads that the King and Queen of the Frogs arise beneath in Rupert the Bear and the Frog Song. The instrumental music piece, 'Tuesday' is available on Paul McCartney's Working Classical album.
Rupert the Bear and the Frog Song
This is the full length version but introduced by the Paul McCartney uncovering the annual in the attic introduction. There are a couple of changes from the version in Once Upon A Video. Some CGI magic sparkle flies off the book when Paul McCartney blows the dust off it and instead of the picture of the conductor frog inside the book cover, the picture is of Mrs Bear giving Rupert his scarf. Other than that, the version shown is the same as the original video release.
As an extra on the DVD is an option to view a line-drawing version of Rupert the Bear and the Frog Song, showing the film in its initial but primitive moving state, a fascinating insight into the animation process.
The story was also novelised, with the story book version published by Ladybird Books aimed at children. The front cover of the Ladybird book shows Rupert in the corner looking at the three bow-tie wearing tenor frogs who are singing 'bom bom bom'. The picture on the back is the same as from the first issue of the single, but without the scarf border, below which are the words, This adaptation of Paul McCartney's Rupert and the Frog Song is illustrated with stills from the film and will delight and enthrall children of all ages. The last three pages of the novelisation show the musical score for the Frog song.
We All Stand TOGether
Terry Wogan and friends released a version of 'We All Stand TOGether' in 2009, by Terry Wogan and the TOG Chorus, a play on Terry Wogan's fans nickname of TOGs5. This version is available on the BandAged Children In Need charity album, whose name is a play on words bringing to mind Band Aid, the fact that Pudsey Bear, Children In Need's mascot, has a bandaged eye, and the elderly nature of Terry Wogan and the TOGs. A holiday company also used the song in their 2009 television advert, showing children swimming round underwater in a video reminiscent of the underwater frog swimming sequence in the original video.