Filmmaker: Kai Pannen
Year made: 2009
Length: 6′ 45″
Technique: hand drawn animation
Synopsis and voice-over script
Soft, scratchy, squishy noises are heard before the title appears in pink, cracked letters on a white background and ‘tiddly pom’ music starts up. We see the back view of a fat chef at a stove and hear a male voice-over with a German accent commenting on the action.
Voice-over: Not long ago when Mr Bumble decided he wanted to eat a pancake, something very strange indeed happened. [sings] “Tally Ho! A pancake is really quite nutritious. Add lots of maple syrup and make it quite delicious” said Mr Bumble. “Flip it over again and yum – but the pancake didn’t flip back into the pan. Instead, it flew out of the window and far away. It didn’t like maple syrup. Much too sweet, and sticky. Mr Bumble’s mouth watered at the thought of that delicious pancake with syrup. But he couldn’t be bothered to make another. So he started chasing after the pancake.”
We see Mr Bumble scampering left to right across a basic green landscape. The film now follows the familiar ‘chase’ format of the Brothers Grimm version of The Golden Goose: a succession of greedy characters are compelled to chase after something. In this case, each of the seven characters adds a new verse to the “Tally Ho!” song with a new garnish for the pancake, with each song rendered by the voice-over artist, Bruno Bachem. The characters, their preferred garnishes, and the voice-over story-telling, are as follows:
Voice-over: At the sight of the flying pancake the cow got such a shock that the milk in Farmer Finlay’s bucket curdled. Here we see the cow moving forwards and dropping a lot of ‘poo’ into the bucket, while the milk splashes on to the ground as Farmer Finlay continues to milk and sings the “Tally Ho!” verse with the addition of “Add a slice of cheese, and make it taste delicious”. Farmer Finlay’s big round cheese rolls along with him as he chases Mr Bumble, he disturbs a bird perched on a telephone wire, who flies after the pancake as well.
Voice-over for the back view of a fat woman in a frock pegging out washing:
Mrs Minty had popped the sausages in the washing machine yet again. When the pancake flew by, she unpegged the sausages and the washing from the line and tossed them in her basket. Mrs Minty turns and holds up two slices of sausage that look like large spotty pink breasts with green nipples, and suggests “a juicy sausage” as a garnish.
Next we see a bearded man sitting in a boat with a fishing line surrounded by twitching, multicoloured fish. Voice-over: Captain Gruff had just sat down to choose his lunch. “Fish with yellow fish” he mused. “Fish with red fish, fish with orange fish – just then the pancake flew past, narrowly missing his fishing rod.” His garnish is “a little fishy” but he doesn’t get to chase after the other immediately because his boat falls over a waterfall and he follows the others – now in a yellow canoe – a long way vertically down until they splash into a lake at the bottom.
Voice-over for a man in a shirt and tie teetering on a ladder over a green tree:
In his lunchtime break, naughty Mr Summer was nicking an apple from the garden next door, when the pancake zipped past. Mr Summer’s garnish is “a juicy apple”.
Voice over for another fat woman with high heels, red hair and a big nose perched on the top strand of a barbed wire fence, juggling eggs: Agnes had already broken three eggs when the pancake appeared out of nowhere and flew straight through her juggling practice. Now she had four broken eggs. Agnes’ suggested garnish is “some scrambled egg”.
Voice-over for a man in old-fashioned military uniform standing on a pile of six wooden banana boxes: The general was practising looking dignified for his memorial statue when his nose started to twitch at the delectable smell of the pancakes and his statue’s post began to wobble. The general and the boxes collapse in a heap as he recommends “a squishy banana”.
Instead of the previously repeated shots of the chasers running from left to right across a simple green ‘horizon’. They are all now seen running around the rim of a green hole which revolves faster until it dissolves into a big revolving pancake.
Voice-over: Finally the pancake got tired of all this mad racing around and flopped down to rest over a telephone wire which was just as well for Mr Bumble and [list of all the characters] who were completely out of breath. All seven and the bird are shown in a high angle shot clustered round a telephone pole, casting long shadows. All of a sudden a happy little girl with a big empty plate came dancing by. An empty plate is a much more inviting place for a pancake than a thin telephone wire. So the pancake hopped off the wire and settled down comfortably on the plate. Very few pancakes can resist the temptation of so many delicious tidbits. So the pancake finally gave in and let [the characters] pile all their delicious things on top of it. A vertical shot of the pancake shows all their hands garnishing the pancake. They guzzled and guzzled happily together until there was only one tiny morsel left. Everyone was so full that they couldn’t eat another bite. Everyone except Mr Bumble, who rummaged in his apron and pulled out the large bottle of maple syrup. The lusciously sticky golden juice trickled sweetly on to the last piece of pancake. Mr Bumble had never eaten a pancake that tasted so good. The film ends with an iris-in on Mr Bumble’s contentedly munching face.
I am mainly an illustrator, but I’ve also been inspired by trickfilm (German for ‘animation’) from my early years. So now I’m happy to combine both, drawing and animating, which is very lucky for me. The main message of the film is that a pancake is always delicious, but is much more delicate, when you eat it together with your friends. I found the picture of an escaping pancake in my head from a dream early one morning. It was when I was heavily involved in animation, so that I not only drew all day, but also dreamed about it all night. From this initial image I wrote the little story about Mr. Bumble and his friends. The production process was much fun but I didn’t have enough money.
Things you might notice
• The minimal background and scenery – just enough visual information to support the story – but economically used, for example when the edge of the waterfall appears in the Captain Gruff sequence and sets up pleasurable suspense. In this visual style, tiny features are important, for example the long shadows at the end perhaps indicating the end of a long day’s chasing about. • The continuous right-to-left movement which is the conventional format for a film chase. Left-to-right movement tends to imply reversal or failure: you could explore this with children in creative work as well as discussion.
• The fairly elaborate language of the voice-over will be useful if you want the children to reflect on word choices, eg “mused”, “zipped”, “delectable”, “rummaged”, “lusciously” etc, particularly as a way of making the repetitive structure of the story more entertaining.
• In some schools difficulties may be anticipated with the explicit images of cow faeces and the breast-like positioning of the sausage slices. But this is clearly a film meant for children so it could offer an opportunity for reflecting on cultural differences as German schoolchildren probably aren’t shocked by these images.
Themes to explore
Repetitive structures: Many children’s stories and traditional tales make use of the cumulative chase format. You and the children could collect examples, create new ones and consider what the appeal is of this kind of tale. In the Brothers Grimm version of The Golden Goose the structure emphasises people’s foolishness and gullibility; the message here is lighter and more friendly. You could use Strategy B to identify the point at which the children identify this as the organising structure of the film. They may enjoy predicting the kinds of characters and situations that the pancake is going to encounter, and inventing a few more of their own.
Variations: The repetitiveness is balanced by the introduction of unexpected variations to the format. You could ask children to identify moments when they were surprised. Answers may include the cow- poo, the sausage slices, the waterfall, the egg-juggling, etc. There are also visual variations, for example the appearance of the line of chasing characters in silhouette.
Irrationality: This is a film that clearly doesn’t care about being realistic or predictable and takes delight in overthrowing expectations. Flying pancake? Sausages in the washing machine – again? Juggling eggs on a barbed wire fence? Multicoloured fish? Surviving a thousand-foot waterfall? Whatever! Children may enjoy discussing the irrational and surprising features of this film and introduce their own daft ideas into the films they make.
Arbitrary ending: Opinions may vary about whether the ending just seems arbitrarily tacked on or is just another amusing example of the filmmaker’s carefree attitude. Unlike the moralising denouement of The Golden Goose, this story just ends when the pancake has had enough – and suddenly becomes much bigger than it had been before!
The function of voice-over: Try out this film without the voice-over. Does it work? Does this voice-over add too much to the visuals or is it an essential part of the entertainment value of the story? Note that this story with these visuals is also available as a book (in German): Kom Essen Pfann-Kuchen! Lappen Verlag 2009.