Helping Johnny Remember

The old educational short becomes a horror acid clip

Helping Johnny Cover 1

Made in 1956 to teach children about the dangers of selfishness and exclusion, the 10 minutes short presents a group of children working together to create a miniature city.

Johnny is a jug-eared little brat whose friends won’t play with him because he is “selfish” and “always yelling.”
This entire film is shot in a late fifties Black Void, as Johnny’s five former friends struggle to build what looks like a miniature city block out of cardboard boxes and construction paper. The omniscient, invisible narrator is apparently standing right behind the camera, and the children are not shy in voicing their disapproval of Johnny’s behavior. “He said all our ideas were corny,” says one. “He wouldn’t let anybody else use the blue paint,” whines another. “Gee whiz, what a creep!” adds a third.

Helping Johnny Cover 3

Helping Johnny Cover 2

The narrator-behind-the-camera beckons — we see his arm — Johnny in from the edge of the Black Void and draws two cartoon faces on a convenient blackboard: “Smiley” and “Sulky.” “If you want other children to like to play with you, you’ll have to be a Smiley, not a Sulky,” he warns. He tells Johnny that “learning to be considerate of others is like learning to tie your shoes” and instructs him to put on “a happy, considerate-of-others face”. Johnny vows to try, but what if he slips up? The children suggest tapping their temples — “giving him the signal” — whenever Johnny begins acting rude, thus helping him remember to be good.

“If Johnny keeps trying hard,” the narrator concludes, “it won’t be long before he’ll be nice all the time!”
Very similar in style to Holiday From Rules. In order to simplify synching the on-screen kids’ voices with that of the narrator, the narrator apparently stood on the set while he spoke, you can hear the echo. “Cathy’s” little brother, who suggests the temple-tapping signal, is obviously retarded.

Helping Johnny Cover 5

Helping Johnny Cover 4

The real horror at the core of Helping Johnny Remember — besides the morphing demon children with laser eyes — is the fact that it was produced in an era when comparatively little was known about child psychology. In modern times, a kid like Johnny would be evaluated for learning disabilities, his home life would be investigated for signs of abuse. In the 1950’s, however, Johnny just needs to get with the program.

From the original version, New York artist Ashleigh Nankivell comes up with a new 3 minutes acid version of sheer creepiness and an alternate ending, using After Effects video software. His remix won 1st place at the RE/Mixed Media Festival.



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