I didn’t know much about Maurice Sendak before the hipster-friendly Spike Jonze adaptation of his Where the Wild Things Are. It wasn’t part of my childhood and though I’d seen those iconic illustrations before – as well as Sendak’s weird In The Night Kitchen and his lovely old-fashioned drawings for Little Bear, the latter of course having a charming animated series – but the film was a memorable, brilliantly melancholy work. But it was not until his tragic passing that I heard of Higglety Pigglety Pop!, and the fact that it was his favourite of all his stories.
Written as an affectionate tribute to his recently-deceased dog as a way of coping with both that loss and, according to most reports, the loss of his mother, the story is a stream-of-consciousness-like flight of fancy in the Alice in Wonderland vein. Silly, selfish little doggie Jennie, despite having every whim taken care of, decides there must be more to life and runs away from home. She meets a pig advertising for a new leading lady for a theatrical troupe, but the position requires experience. From a feline milkman she learns of a vacant position for a nanny – which will, she is assured, be an experience. So after helping herself to most of the milkman’s deliveries, she becomes a nanny for Baby, only to find out that the nannies who fail to feed the querulous child get thrown to the huge lion in the basement. Will she be able to do it? And when push comes to shove, will she remain self-serving or grow up a little and learn to sacrifice herself for others?
Though the ‘animation’ here is minimal – Clyde Henry Productions were approached after the success of the stop-motion Madame Tutli-Putli but did not have time to create another such a short in the time they were given so opted for puppetry – the aesthetic is very in-keeping with animation and the human characters are the ones who look odd in the world. Still frames of this short look remarkably realistic and the cat costume in particular is a phenomenal piece of craftsmanship.
Included as an extra in the Blu-Ray of Where The Wild Things Are, this peculiar and entertaining little extra is well worth a watch, and perhaps more excitingly for me, led me to the other Clyde Henry Productions short, which I watched straight after.