Okay my dear friends - let’s raise the glasses today to celebrate the 50th birthday of some childhood heroes:
Jim Button, Luke the Engine Driver and Emma the Locomotive!
In Germany everybody knows who I am talking about, but I do not know how popular the stories about these guys were in the US. So let me explain a little bit:
You know for sure the famous German children’s book author Michael Ende. His books “The Neverending Story” and “Momo” were and are very popular around the world.
At the very beginning of his career back in 1960 he invented today’s birthday boy Jim Button and wrote down his adventures in “Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver” and “Jim Button and the Wild 13”.
I won’t tell you the stories now – that would take too much time, but you can check the storylines and characters out here at Wikipedia .
Like it should be so typical for Michael Ende through his entire career he developed for Jim a colorful fantasy world, which populated with a whole bunch of amazing characters and packed with critical and ironical references to our real world and society. Ende’s stories does not only invite to a trip into fantasy and imagination, but also give us, the grownups, who hopefully read the stories to the next generation of kids, something to think about.
The second part of this posting I would love to dedicate to the people who brought Jim Button to life on screen:
The Augsburger Puppenkiste (Augsburg Puppet Crat)
This is a theater company which is since the 1950ies specialized on converting children stories into marionette plays. One of their most famous features from the 6oies and 70ies are the stories of Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver.
What they do is amanzing and so simple – a small stage, marionette puppets and cute papier-mâché sceneries make a whole little world.
One of my sister's and mine favourites has always been the ocean Jim, Luke and Emma have to cross to make it to China. It is made from nothing but plastic foil, which they put just up and down a bit faking waves and let the light reflect a little bit on the top. That very easy effect makes a real good ocean.
In fact every time we are in Rogoznica and watching the Adriatic in the moonlight one of us says “Look – the sea looks like Augusburg Puppet Crat Ocean today!” – and it DOES.
And there is one more thing which makes me really happy: Kids still love it!
To my big surprise in a time when three dimensional for a zillion $ animated super movies are quite standard such a simple thing like a few puppets and a plastic foil ocean can still attract kids.
Doing some small research for this article I found out that the original puppet theater is all around the year working with on new productions and classic plays. And it is SOLD OUT months ahead.
So there is hope for the land of fantasy and that is really good news!