The Peculiar Adventures Of Hector, Aardman animation (2007)

A stunning piece of animated story telling deployed as a children’s road safety campaign

Texaco free

Like all the best stories, ‘Hector’ is a thing of many layers. The dvd comes in a full plastic case and, as it starts to play gives every impression of being a highly superior piece of children’s animation. Hector is a super-cool, cycling, nine year old who inhabits an extraordinary world – largely of his own invention.

There are is an amazing range of animation techniques deployed – 2D characters in a 3D world, drawn characters on partially photographed backgrounds, cars that morph into spiders, a script full of delicious made-up words and a musical sound track that will stay with you for days.

The five, five minute episodes are a treat to watch – although as the surreal story lines develop, it does become obvious that these are movies with a message. The format owes something to the Charley the Cat public safety films of the 1970s. And for all the delights of Hector, when it comes to ramming home the messages – wear bright clothes when going out at night, wear a helmet and use lights when cycling and so on – they do drop into the stories with a bit of a clunk.

Getting to the bottom of where these delights have sprung from does take a little work. In fact, they are part of a campaign by petrol retailers, Texaco. Their advertising agency created the character as part of a campaign to promote road safety, and thereby create ‘brand warmth’ for Texaco.

Texaco, however, are so far in the background, that only the eagle-eyed would guess at their involvement – a smart move on the part of the company. Apparently they decided to create a character, rather than licensing one so that they could use it in other markets. In doing so they have financed the creation of something every bit as compelling as, say, Charlie and Lola. It would be nice to see them do more with it in the future.

The dvd was originally offered free on Texaco’s forecourts. I was given one at a cycle promotion roadshow, and there appear to have been school-based events at which Hector himself appears. Texaco appear to have abandoned their ‘Hector’ site, but the films are still on YouTube. Film two, with the telepathic, talking helmet, is the most ‘cycling’, although Hector’s bike features in several of the episodes.

PS May 10

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