The Water Babies (1978)

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Released 21-Jul-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The Wind In The Willows, The BFG, The Bear
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 90:14
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Lionel Jeffries

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring James Mason
Bernard Cribbins
Billie Whitelaw
Joan Greenwood
David Tomlinson
Tommy Pender
Samantha Gates
Paul Luty
Jon Pertwee
Olive Gregg
Lance Percival
David Jason
Cass Allan
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Phil Coulter
Bill Martin

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    How far have children's movies come since the late 1970s? Well, here is your chance to find out. Water Babies was made in 1978 and is a feature film based upon a 19th century children's story by Charles Kingsley (not Kinglesy as it is spelt on the front of the case). It was a UK/Polish co-production with the animated elements being made in Poland. It is a combined live action and animated production (although never in the same frame).

    The plot involves a young orphan called Tom (Tommy Pender) who has fallen in with a drunken chimney sweep, Mr Grimes (James Mason) and his assistant Mr Masterman (Bernard Crimmins). They treat him badly and involve him in their criminal exploits. They head out to a country house to clean their many chimneys, but Grimes' plan is that they will also rob the place. Upon arrival, they send Tom up the chimneys and Grimes proceeds to collect items of silver. When Tom gets lost in the many chimneys, Grimes plan comes unstuck, but he blames the thievery on Tom who tries to run away. In order to avoid what he thinks will be the gallows, he jumps into a river and enters a magical world under the water (which is the animated part). Once in the underwater world he works out that he must get help from the water babies, without knowing who they really are, to escape back to the real world. However, many obstacles are in his path including a bad shark and eel who are planning to enslave the water babies.

    This is a very dated film these days and I think it unlikely that you could convince kids to watch it. The acting is pretty average and the production and direction perfunctory. The animated sections looks extremely old fashioned but they were not even that flash when the film was made in the late 1970s. If you compare the quality of the animation to that of Bambi which was made much earlier, this doesn't stack up at all. The animated section also includes a number of musical numbers.

    All in all, this is not much of a film but may be of interest to people who remember it fondly from their childhoods.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is poor.

    The feature is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio non 16x9 enhanced which is NOT the original aspect ratio. The original aspect ratio is 1.66:1. I will remove one star from the overall video rating as per the site's policy.

    The picture was fairly soft throughout although there was no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail was below average. There was significant grain throughout and some spots of minor macro-blocking.

    The colour was poor, with faces being blotchy and bleeding being present, especially from lighter colours.

    Artefacts include telecine wobble, evidence of excessive noise reduction, some splodges during the live action and lots of specks during the animated sections.

    There are no subtitles.


Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is average.

    This DVD contains an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack encoded at 224 Kb/s.

    Dialogue was mostly reasonably clear although regularly lines of dialogue were hard to make out.

    The score of this film by Phil Coulter is reasonable but quite dated. The music sounds a little distorted and harsh.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu included music and the ability to select scenes.

Theatrical Trailer (3:21)

    Unlike the feature, this trailer is in the original aspect ratio although not 16x9 enhanced.

Photo Gallery (1:41)

    Fairly pointless gallery of stills from the show set to music.

Umbrella Propaganda

    Trailers are included for Wind In The Willows, The BFG and The Bear.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This movie is available in Region 2 in the same format.


    A fairly ordinary late 1970s English children's film.

    The video quality is poor.

    The audio quality is average.

    The set has a few very ordinary extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Monday, May 15, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Yamaha YST SW90 subwoofer

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