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In The Night Garden (2007-2009)
Filmmaker(s): Martin Durkin

In the Night Garden is a magical place that exists between the waking and sleeping imagination of children close to the representation of a nursery rhyme.

In The Night Garden (2007-2009)


There seems to be quite a consensus that this doesn’t have any educational value. Such a stance presumes that kids need explicit teaching and preaching. Either you need to include an alphabet in your song like Sesame Street or have some obvious moral conclusion. How silly.

Kids learn by what they see of how things are abstracted. If they are abstracted by nitwits, then they learn to be nitwits who cannot think critically. I don’t have a TeeVee in my house, but I do allow my one and two year olds to watch this, because it has some very clever ideas in it.

Oh, the ideas are not in the story at all. Good ideas seldom can be; they are in how you get to the thing in the first place. Consider:

The thing is nested in a vignette of a toddler’s hand being stroked to sleep. That hand morphs to a boat in another enclosing situation, one that is amazingly rich. A simple being pulls down his sail at the end of a day. The boat becomes his bed and the sail his blanket. in this level of reality, the boat then drifts and we transition to yet another layer under reality. The stars become blossoms that surround and cover the night garden, where most of our time is spent.

If you think kids don’t get and appreciate this deep folding of reality, you haven’t been around bright kids. It isn’t what happens in the world of the story so much for them, but what that world is, how it works and how they get there.

Once in the garden, we have some events, which one could think of as a day in the life of these characters. Several things go on, only a few of these make complete sense. Many things that happen, just happen without cause or consequence. Again, think like a child and how they see the world.

Then finally we have the fourth inner world: the story we have seen in the abstract garden is recounted in drawings. This follows Ted’s Law of abstraction: the abstract distance between those drawings and the puppet/animated world is the same as between that world and ours.

The crossover character, Igglepiggle once in his dream world has only a few expressive dimensions. he squeaks and he falls down. He alone seems to be able to communicate with the narrator, a sort of higher self.

Yes, some of the characters and objects have winning appeal, but it is the way this layered world is built that I think can teach my kids something worthwhile.

Posted in 2014

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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