Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, the news broke that Stephen, a blind hedgehog, had been abducted. He was stolen in a White Vauxhall-Combo Van. The van and Stephen belonged to Frank Tett, 80, who runs Andrew’s Hedgehog Hospital (named after a prominent hedgehog in-patient called Andrew) at Appleby near Scunthorpe. Mr. Tett had left Stephen in the van, in a cat-carrier, for just a few minutes in Albion Place, Leeds, whilst he loaded goods from his market stall into his Vauxhall parked outside a Barclays bank . The thief got away with the van, the goods and Stephen into the bargain.
Frank was more worried about the fate of his blind hedgehog than anything else. “If he is dumped he could be in real trouble”, Mr. Tett said, adding, “he won’t have a clue what to do”. Mrs. Veronica Tett, 77, told The Independent “I don’t mind about the van, vans are replaceable, hedgehogs aren’t”. She has offered a reward for Stephen’s return. Time has passed and hopes are fading.
Stealing and not returning even a sighted hedgehog is a low crime, a blow against an already much-squidged treasure of our countryside. And all over Britain there has been concern for Stephen. For the record, blind hedgehogs are rare; they rely on smell to get around, so tend to walk with their noses in the air. The West Yorkshire police in pursuit should not interpret this as snootiness but redouble their efforts.
I retell this sad story in order to make a modest proposal to readers. I’ve never written an animated movie script, nor have the skill to do so, but I hope Mr. & Mrs. Tett will forgive me if I say Frank and Stephen’s story, much tweaked and in the right hands, may perhaps have the makings of another Wallace and Gromit. Nick Park and Aardman Animations please note. So I am sketching in below a possible “treatment”, a story line, so a reader might supplement their income by writing a script that is accepted. Given my choice of voices for the characters it will need to be sent to an animation company with deep pockets to turn this treatment into an animated movie.
We need to change Stephen to Stephanie: Judi Dench, originally from Yorkshire: The Thief, Ray Winstone: The Smart Policeman: Brendan Gleason. Frank Tett: Perhaps himself TBC
Plot Based on the True Story above:
BEGINS. Film starts in the Hedgehog Hospital. Frank has selected Stephanie for a cataract operation and, after his stall closes, is going to the Vet’s for this critical procedure. He hopes that is all that will be needed for Stephanie to regain her sight. But Frank is short of money and may have to close the hospital for lack of resources.
Meanwhile, The Thief, about to rob Barclays Bank – see true story above - recognises The Smart Policeman, an old adversary, going into the bank. He panics, steals the van and drives off.
Stephanie is a Strong Hedgehog and is outraged, indignant and insists that she must have her operation to restore her sight. “Who do you think I am, Mrs. Tiggy-winkle….etc”.The Thief threatens to throw her out.
Stephanie begs the thief to drive slower and behave responsibly but he accuses her of being spineless. A huge row ensues in which the thief meets his match. But after this, on the road, a Hedgehogian version of Stockholm Syndrome develops and Stephanie starts to like the thief. The thief in turn starts to like Stephanie, lets her out of a cat-carrier incarceration, feeds her, and begins to feel guilty.
All this takes place c. 20 minutes in a Road Movie format with The Smart Detective in hot pursuit until The Thief gives him the slip. The Thief sneaks home where he lives with his brother, a hard man. Against his brother’s wishes, The Thief decides to pay for Stephanie’s cataract operation.
RUN UP TO THE FINALE
Meanwhile The Smart Policeman tracks down The Thief, finds a big stash of cash in his home, rescues Stephanie, and takes her back to the hedgehog hospital. Big reunion scene with Frank. Stephanie picks out The Thief from a police identity line-up by smell, heading towards him and rolling up in a ball at his feet. To reward her for providing this decisive evidence, The Smart Detective removes a wad of cash from The Thief’s stash to give to Frank so he can keep the hospital open.
Stephanie has her cataract operation and can see again. The Thief, watched in court by Stephanie, gets 100 hours of community service in the Hedgehog Hospital, his care of Stephanie having been taken into account in the sentence. Freeze frame on Stephanie, nose up, as a smiling Thief walks by her out of court. END
Well, there you go. Improve this outline in any way you like. Before submitting it to an animation company the writer, I think, should first share the script with the Royal Institute for Blind People and seek any advice they might have. The last thing anyone would want in an animated movie is to cause offence inadvertently.
Who knows, the movie may become the avant-garde sensation of 2020. And with luck a film critic will declare that Stephanie is a metaphor for a global public becoming aware of the Climate Crisis, acting to bring about radical change. You couldn’t make it up. Or could you?