This is the seventh and perhaps most famous in the highly-regarded "Tales for All" children's films from Quebec producer Rock Demers. The film arose from a request by Canadian postal authorities that Demers help promote stamp collecting. Demers and writer-director Michael Rubbo did even better; they concocted a splendid fantasy equally captivating for adults,...read more
This is the seventh and perhaps most famous in the highly-regarded "Tales for All" children's films from Quebec producer Rock Demers. The film arose from a request by Canadian postal authorities that Demers help promote stamp collecting. Demers and writer-director Michael Rubbo did even
better; they concocted a splendid fantasy equally captivating for adults, kids, philatelists, and those with no interest in stamps whatsoever.
Tommy Tricker (Anthony Rogers) is a Montreal youngster whose schoolyard scams include dealing in limited-edition postage issues. Tommy cheats weak-willed Ralph (Lucas Evans) into trading away his father's rarest stamp, which he then peddles to a dealer. When Ralph tries to retrieve it, the
treasured stamp is priced at $600, and the dealer consoles Ralph's weeping sister with an unopened old stamp album. It contains a note by one Charles Merriweather, an adolescent from 1928 claiming to have hidden a fortune in stamps in faraway Sydney, Australia, to which he journeyed by the arcane
art of stamp-traveling. One recites a spell that transforms one into a tiny, two-dimensional figure seemingly engraved on the face of the stamp. Then it's a matter of simply getting mailed anywhere in the world. Ralph's friends use the magic to send him on his way to the antipodes, but an
eavesdropping Tommy Tricker interferes and Ralph winds up in mainland China, at the home of his sister's pen pal. Ralph manages to communicate his plight to the local kids, takes in the sights, and even passes a test of courage before he's mailed again (literally riding on a dragon illustration)
to Australia. But Tommy Tricker has preceded him, and is captured while stealing the stamp album from its inheritor, the hermit Mad Mike (Tony Barry). Ralph and some newfound friends successfully plead with Mike for Tommy's release, and the two Canadians ride a stamp back home with the valuable
Merriweather collection. By a strange coincidence, Ralph's father knows an old collector who possesses a stamp from 1930 on which a stamp traveller remains imprisoned--it's Charles Merriweather. Tommy "relapses" and snatches the Merriweather stamp before its occupant can be liberated.
Admirers rank Demers alongside Walt Disney as an auteur of family entertainment, but there are a few notable differences--not the least of which is that Demers is barely known to US viewers, even though his "Tales for All" series has been embraced by audiences worldwide. In addition, a Demers
feature follows a few basic tenets, chief among them the most un-Hollywood doctrine that no character is wholly good or purely bad. For all his mischief, Tommy Tricker is mainly trying to support a family abandoned by his drunkard father, while Ralph's perils earn him some much-needed
self-confidence. The moral lessons go down painlessly, as do the tutorials in stamp collecting, sweetened by the wildly original premise and a genuine sense of adventure and discovery. It's worth remembering that TOMMY TRICKER AND THE STAMP TRAVELLER premiered when China was still an insular realm
slowly emerging from the Bamboo Curtain. For the Demers crew to actually shoot there (and proceed onward to the Outback) was a feat in itself. Considerable credit must to go Austrialian-born Michael Rubbo, educated at Stanford University, who made several international documentaries prior to his
career with Demers, and has an expert touch with the young cast. Special effects are also first-rate, with Ralph and Tommy rotoscoped into cartoons when they "go postal," so to speak. TOMMY TRICKER AND THE STAMP TRAVELLER won numerous awards, including first prize at Italy's Milano Cinema
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