Mole as Painter/Knowledge Rules

by Henry Farrell on March 10, 2008

Two very different outside links. First is to the Mole series of Czech cartoons, which is probably well known to lots of CT readers, but which I hadn’t heard of before I ran across it on Youtube. It keeps my 2 year old son happy, while not containing any tricky content beyond a couple of scary moments involving foxes and cats chasing after the eponymous hero. I was given pause when I found out on Amazon that Michael Medved rates it highly, but it’s good enough even to survive that most dubious of recommendations. The embedded video is “The Mole as Painter,” which is quite beautifully animated. Nominations for other Youtube videos likely to please toddlers will be gratefully received in comments. Information on where/how to procure DVDs of the Mole series even more so.

Second, and more seriously, the SSRC have a new blog, “Knowledge Rules”:, which looks worth following. It deals with a topic that we’ve frequently discussed on CT – the intersection between intellectual property issues and how the academy disseminates knowledge. For your bookmarks.



harry b 03.10.08 at 3:04 am

Medved is worth paying attention to on these things — he has good advice on how to entertain children, and the fact that he even knows Mole does him credit. We used to watch these on BBC1 — probably before your time.

Look for Postman Pat and Fireman Sam; also the Clangers. When he’s a little older, Gumby, Morph, and, eventually, Camberwick Green (I just assume someone has posted them all on youtube, but I may be wrong…)


eric 03.10.08 at 3:52 am

My son and I also love Krtek. Our favorite is Jak krtek ke kalhotkám přišel, in which the mole gets a new pair of overalls thanks to the cooperative efforts of his flora and fauna comrades.

As for Medved, he’s got a Czech name, so perhaps that’s why he likes it?



Henry 03.10.08 at 3:56 am

I’m being a little flip here in re: Medved – one of the things I actually agree with conservatives on is that parents should be able to keep small children protected some of the nastier aspects of modern life. Where I part company with them is in thinking that older kids and certainly teenagers should have access to a healthy amount of subversive stuff … The recommendations sound good, esp. the Gumby cartoons (Jack recently got a Gumby toy as a present from his American grandfather and is fascinated by it …)


gabe 03.10.08 at 6:00 am

Belgian favourite Bumba.

If you insist on vintage E.European, my vote for beautiful animation is Colargol-Jeremy-Barnaby

Regarding comment 3, this reminds me of my all time favourite thread at CT (the one where Timothy Burke rips into “veggie tales”). Happy times.


magistra 03.10.08 at 7:44 am

Your son may not be quite ready for it yet, but the classic name in British children’s TV is Oliver Postgate, who wrote Ivor the Engine, the Clangers, Noggin the Nog and Bagpuss, all of which are wonderful and deeply imaginative. (The first book I ever read myself was about Noggin the Nog, who I have recently learned was inspired by the Lewis Chessmen).

For a good idea of what is currently being produced in toddlers’ TV, see the CBeebies website, which is for the BBC channel for preschoolers and which has some clips from the shows. It depends a bit on your child’s taste, but there is a lot of UK material on this channel which doesn’t have the same relentless prosocial moralising of US shows. This includes things like In the Night Garden (now I believe the adult trippy-hippy programme of choice), Balamory, Pingu, Big Barn Farm etc. If anything does appeal, most of this is available on DVD.


Martin Wisse 03.10.08 at 11:05 am

Czech animation series Pat and Mat (better known in holland as “Buurman en Buurman”) might be interesting: two d.i.y. neighbours who together create the most impossible cackhanded jerryrigged solutions to simple problems like building a bookcase. Great fun and can largely be followed without dialogue.


Matt McIrvin 03.10.08 at 11:40 am

I have bad associations with that cartoon: I remember an elementary-school “Back to School Night” (the annual open house for parents) for which my parents couldn’t get a babysitter, and took my sister and me to the school with them, where we ended up parked in the gymnasium with a crowd of rowdy kids, supervised for at least part of that time by older children who wouldn’t let us go to the bathroom for some reason, while they showed whatever ancient movies they could dig out of the vault for what seemed like twenty hours. “The Mole as Painter” was one of them. At least it was in color.


Sumana Harihareswara 03.10.08 at 12:45 pm

Parents: the Miro video viewer/podcast catcher is a great tool for grabbing YouTube clips to save on your computer. It’s free and open source and runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux.


harry b 03.10.08 at 1:55 pm

gosh, gabe has a long memory.

He is too young for Oliver Postgate, but only, I’d say, by a year or so (The Clangers come first). Its worth getting Noggin the Nog on dvd (not at amazon uk, but at and dedicating a computer to playing region 1 discs. Noggin the Nog is brilliant.

I really hate to say this, but there’s a lot to be said for the Wiggles (Play School in colour, basically).

magistra is right about Cbeebies. And it is true there’s nothing pro-social about them (I am working on a post about this, oddly). BUT, I would advise against Pingu, who is evil incarnate.


Dingbat 03.10.08 at 2:45 pm

Just a note of thanks from the parent of a 2-year-old. We’d been keeping the TV viewing largely in the realm of nature documentaries, but last week when Jr. informed us in the morning that “crocodile bite you–sharp teeth–owie!” I started to think that perhaps some lighter fare was in order (and the neighbor whom she likes to visit has a propensity for sharing Sesame Street, to which I am–probably excessively–opposed).


harry b 03.10.08 at 2:55 pm

Is this your “Did anyone see Casualty last night?” post?


notsneaky 03.10.08 at 7:39 pm

For Polish cartoons, there’s Bolek i Lolek:

and Reksio (I, like many other kids, had a dog named Reksiu)

The animation is much simpler than “Krecik” though.
There’s also some arty Russian animation somewhere that I remember that folks may like, but personally, clay-animation (which is what this was), still spooks the hell outta me.


notsneaky 03.10.08 at 7:42 pm

And the Mummintrolls!

But here you need the dialogue which is in Polish (not sure if it’s Polish or Finnish production).


Harry 03.10.08 at 7:52 pm

Actually, the moomins are now available through amazon, in region 1 NTSC dvd. Fantastic.


notsneaky 03.10.08 at 8:47 pm

Ah. It’s Japanese production.


harry b 03.10.08 at 9:32 pm

Yes it is — and the youtube version is from the Japanese (I didn’t check it till now). Very interesting. I had assumed that it was the same version we own (region 2 dvd, PAL) but its not — the version we have is German (I think) and is from 1977. It is eerie and delightful, I can’t imagine that it has been done better (but I may be wrong). Definitely, Henry, this one is too old for your toddler — wait 3 years. Also, now, try The Woodentops, and Torchy the Battery Boy (bizarre).

A friend told me that as soon as she saw there was a single comment under this post she knew it would be me. Pathetically predictable.


Cian 03.10.08 at 11:33 pm

There’s also a Moomins that was (I think) a US production using stop gap animation. Avoid – absolutely bloody terrible.

Most of CBeebies shows are awful. Charlie & Lola is the only other show (other than “In the Night Garden) that is good. But presumably anybody with a toddler knows that show already…

My kids like Len Lye, for what that’s worth.


vivian 03.11.08 at 1:35 am

Most anything on the Noggin cable/satellite channel is great for kids under school age. Some of it is rather dull for the parents, at least the hundredth time, but it has no unpleasant surprises. Most shows are not as faux-sweet as disney fare or other moralizing crap (except for Franklin, Lazytown, Miss Spider, probably forgetting something else that is saccharine and very… suburban). Backyardigans is possibly most interesting to parents because of the song parodies and the dancing. But I’m not ashamed to have my kids watch these shows, even if I will introduce the clips y’all are recommending too.

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