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The Chimpanzees of Happy Town: "Chutney is a bit of a Bob Dylan character"

17 Jul 2023

News Story

This year's Family Festival tells the story of Chutney the Chimp and his attempts to bring happiness wherever he goes. Brought to vivid life by the music of Paul Rissmann, it's a life-affirming tale sure to delight 4-8 year olds and their parents.

We are delighted that Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees, author and illustrator of the original book, agreed to a short interview.

How did the original book come about?

GILES: Guy and I had had success with a previous collaboration, Giraffes Can’t Dance, which was a light-hearted, playful book, but with a strong moral. We wanted to do this again, but with a different message that we both felt passionately about.

GUY: When I received Giles’ text for the story, I loved it straight away; it’s such a positive, uplifting fable for our times. Giles is a bit of a genius at getting a profound message across in a seemingly simple tale.

GILES: It can be best summed up in the final couplet of the book “Things will always blossom if we dare to set them free / It’s no different for a little flower as for a chimpanzee”.

GUY: It was quite a challenge to create the world the chimpanzees live in – from the design of the houses to thinking about what a chimpanzee-designed playground would look like – but that’s the fun part of my job!

Chutney the Chimp is a super character! Could you tell us how you brought him to life on the page?

GUY: I wanted Chutney to look a bit magical. Originally, he had a flowing multicoloured cloak but it wasn’t quite right. The idea of making him a bit of a Bob Dylan character with guitar, purple waistcoat and battered suitcase seemed to nail it.

GILES: From what I remember, we were having a little trouble characterising him until I mentioned Bob Dylan! Guy then added the guitar and the hairstyle, and subsequently came up with that wonderful butterfly motif, as a symbol of freedom and joy. Suddenly, Chutney looked and felt exactly as he should have been!

What messages are you hoping people take away from the story?

GILES: That freedom will always win out over restriction… that joy wins over gloom… that light wins over darkness. We want children to believe that the world is both their playground and their land of opportunity. Guy has infused the book with so much colour and beauty - and that is how we like to see the world, and how we want to encourage our readers (small and big!) to see it as well.

GUY: Yes, I agree, I wanted Chutney's tree to visually convey that beautiful, organic, creative force. Just as you can’t stifle the creative power of nature, so you can’t stifle the joyous, creative power of the human spirit.

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