(Updated 24/8/09): CCBC’s revamp of The Beano‘s Dennis the Menace, which launches next month on the TV channel, has been given the big thumbs down by his creator’s family.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Rosemary Moffat and Alison Gardiner, the daughters of the late David Law who created Dennis back in 1951, said their father would have been horrified by the transformation.
According to the newspaper, the 52-part cartoon series features a more ‘caring’ Dennis – no, really – without his trademark catapult, peashooter or water pistol, his trademark scowl replaced with a boyish grin, and he won’t be allowed to bully Walter the Softie.
And, instead of allowing his dog Gnasher to bite people, Dennis will now be more creative, getting into scrapes when his imaginative inventions go wrong.
(Since we first published this story, top British cartoonist and comics expert Lew Stringer has carefully deconstructed this and other press reports about the new show, poting out many inaccuracies in some newspapers coverage).
Upping the ante on earlier reports claiming the CBBC version was ‘political correctness gone mad’, the Telegraph reports the decision to “re-imagine” Dennis for the “iPod generation” has disappointed Law’s daughters.
”I think my father would feel they are downgrading him to make him quite ordinary,” said 63-year-old Mrs Moffat, while Mrs Gardiner, who was given a preview screening of the cartoon, said it was nothing like the real Dennis the Menace.
The makeover hasn’t gone down well with some Dennis fans, either. Talking to The Bristol Evening Post, comics writer and artist Kev F. Sutherland said “I think it’s probably a bad idea but you cannot do anything about it. I think perhaps they could have targeted a slightly older audience with the cartoon.
“You can do humour and sophisticated comedy without scaring the horses. If you pander too much to over-sensitive parents you will end with not very funny comedy.”
DC Thomson, which collaborated on Dennis’s new look with Red Kite, an animation company, said it “wanted to remove any traces of nastiness”, while the BBC argues that like many cartoon characters, Dennis the Menace has been evolving ever since its creation in 1951, so changes are nothing new.
“The Beano comic book style of the 1950’s is very different to children’s expectations for their entertainment heroes today,” said the corporation, while in another statement reported by Pink News over a week ago, they did argue the changes to Dennis wouldn’t make dull.
“Although the stories and animation have been updated to appeal to current CBBC viewers, his character has not changed significantly and Dennis remains as boisterous and mischievous as ever.”
Pink News readers found the idea that Dennis’ traditional enemy Walter was potentially gay, which had resulted in the ban on him getting beaten up for fear of accusations of homophobia, laughable.
“By doing this the BBC are just pandering to the typical stereotype that gay men are pathetic wimps who’ll get bullied,” said one.
“The children of today are going to turn into a nation of ‘Walters’,” said another. “I read Dennis the Menace as a kid, and all the others.
“Kids like to be anti-social and rude and anti-establishment and making fart noises behind teachers backs. You haven’t grown up until you’ve had a scrap and a bloody nose.
There is some good news: the Beano editors apparently have no plans to make Dennis a softie in the comic itself.