Rupert and the Frog Song (1984)

Around 1986-87, when I first decided I’d start collecting records, I remember being amazed to learn that the dimwit record companies would often just not release songs or singles in one country or another. The wildest example I heard of at that time was that Paul McCartney had a massive hit single in the UK at the end of 1984 called “We All Stand Together” that wasn’t issued here. And adding insult to injury, soon there was a new McCartney best-of with a brand new single, as you get with best-ofs, and when that record made it to American shelves, it had a different track list. Both “Together” and the new song were omitted.

Okay, so neither “Together” nor the new song, “Once Upon a Long Ago,” are among McCartney’s best. Not among his hundred best, even. That’s not the point.

“We All Stand Together” was the theme tune to a short animated feature called Rupert and the Frog Song, starring Rupert Bear, a character who’s appeared in a strip in the Daily Express for one hundred years this week. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that probably ninety-odd percent of those Americans who’ve ever heard of Rupert Bear are Beatles fans. It seems to be a sweet and simple story about an idealized pastoral village populated by animal people being nice to each other. The film is a thirteen minute piece about Rupert going into a cave behind a waterfall and watching some frogs sing a song, which they do every two hundred years. There are two potentially mean cats and an owl, but they don’t actually do anything.

McCartney had been a big Rupert Bear fan as a boy and this had been a long-simmering project with him, to put Rupert Bear on the big screen. In the UK, it was shown as a short subject before his deeply ill-advised film Give My Regards to Broad Street. Nothing of consequence happens in Frog Song, but it’s simple, sweet, bucolic, and nicely animated, and, unlike Broad Street, it’s over in thirteen minutes. A new remastered edition of the film debuted today on McCartney’s YouTube channel. It kept our son’s attention, and he chuckled a couple of times, but at nine, he’s certainly a little old for it already. I think this is the sort of character you need to meet as a preschooler and he’ll stick around in your nostalgia circuits for decades to come, kind of like Bob the Builder.

Paul was excoriated by the humorless and mean-spirited British press for ages for producing this movie, which doesn’t seem fair. Was it an indulgence by a multi-millionaire with buzzing nostalgia circuits of his own? Possibly, but it made lots of people happy, both beginning readers and older folk with attics full of dusty Rupert annuals. I guarantee you that there are far more irritating cartoons for under-sevens than this. And maybe “Together” isn’t among my favorite hundred McCartney solo songs, but I’d much, much rather listen to it than the theme tunes to Monster Machines or Paw Patrol or anything else we suffered through on Nick Jr before our son outgrew the channel!

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