I've split everything in "Production details" and "Trivia", because, well, it seemed like the logical thing to do. The trivia section also includes a few bits on the short and the book, but mostly is about the show.
The series was filmed from March 1987 through to mid August 1987. Original paperwork states that shooting would last until early August, so production apparently overran its schedule slightly.
Monash for the win
Most outdoors footage was shot in and around Glen Waverley, part of the City of Monash, a suburb of Melbourne. It's located in the east of Melbourne's metropolitan area.
- The Barton's house is on 5 Copnal Court;
- Mr Jensen's house is right next door to it, at No. 6;
- The Capaletti's house is right across the street, at No. 10;
- The Banksiawood city center, seen during the chase scene in Mr Snoller's Black Bag, is actually that of Glen Waverley;
- Elly follows Mr. Snoller into a library; that's the Glen Waverley branch of the Monash Public Library;
- In the shot where she looks around just before entering the library, you can see the Monash City Council building, which is right next to it;
- The scenes where Clare and Elly post the application letters for the fire department in Position Vacant, were filmed on Townsend Street. The street sign is visible and readable in Clare's scene;
- The mall shown in Suspected is the Century City Walk mall;
- The cinema in that same episode is the Village Cinema inside that mall.
Indoor shots of the Barton's house were filmed in a studio. Set designers Frank Earley and Mem Alexander did a great job making the sets look like the real thing. Pics of the interior of the real house can be found online (links to a real estate agent's site). The kitchen and the bathroom look just like the Bartons set (or rather the other way around).
The location scouts couldn't find a suitable house that actually had a tree in the backyard. So they went with a house that didn't, and filmed the scenes involving the tree elsewhere. If the house and the tree were needed in a single shot, like the opening shot of the first episode, the tree would be added to the shot in post production.
Episodes were filmed and produced in a staggered way. This means that, as the cast and on set crew moved on to the following episode, the previous episode went into editing and post production with that episode's director. While saving time compared with doing things the "sequential way", it means a reshoot of a scene for the previous episode could cause delays in the schedule or would be moved all the way to the back of the schedule. This sometimes led to funny situations (see "Tight fit" below).
The children in the cast got time off classes for filming as it was during a school period. The production made sure they didn't fall behind on their curriculum by enlisting the help of tutor Rachel Evans. Olivia was sent letters from her class mates because they missed her at school. Awww! :)
Some characters have their own musical themes, that pop up in some form or another as part of the composition playing over the scene. Elly's is the most prominent (as most stories revolve around her) and you hear her theme quite a lot. For example, variations of Elly's theme are part of the music that plays over the end credits of The Barton's League of Bird Lovers (the entire end credits theme is one large variation of Elly's theme) and Beautiful Beetroot (heard in the chorus of that theme). You can usually hear it in scenes that start with Elly alone, like in her tree or in her room, and is usually part of or starts off a larger composition. Occasionally you just hear the notes of Elly's theme themselves, like when Elly's reading the newspaper in The Great Billycart Aid Race. It's a lovely piece of music in my opinion. Read more about that in the interview I did with Royce Craven, one of the show's music composers.
The footage was shot on video in 4:3 in PAL 50/B format. A little technical, but this means it's a real pain to upscale it to get you lovely people some better quality stills :(. I'm hoping for a better source (better than the digitised VHS tape I have right now) before I even attempt that. Right now the results would be even fuzzier than Lee Morriconi's mustache.
I'm actually not sure if sound was originally in stereo. All the sources I've seen (three different VHS tapes including my own) are in mono, but that could be because they were taped on a mono video cassette recorder. 1987/1988 was in the middle of the big stereo push (at least in Europe) so it might very well be. Does anyone know for sure?
The knitted sweater Elly is wearing in the opening credits, was not issued by the ABC's wardrobe department. It's Olivia's own sweater she brought from home.
In the UK, viewers got a lot less 'Bartons for their buck', as the episode Suspected was never shown there. This left British viewers with only 11 episodes. The BBC (allegedly) decided not to broadcast Suspected because of the word poofter being used a lot in it. Regulations in the UK don't allow certain swear words in television programming before 9 PM, which is known as the watershed. And although poofter itself is not on that list, it comes pretty close to a British equivalent that is (just leave out some letters). If that is really the reason, I guess the BBC was afraid The Bartons would add a swear word to British playground vocabulary.
I wonder how many COTB fans from the UK just realised there's 8.33% more Bartons still to be seen. I sort of envy them, as the rest of us have 0% more Bartons to look forward too.
In the Netherlands, the show got a second run just months after its original run ended. This was after Dutch viewers (including myself) wrote the TV station telling them they loved the show and they missed it already. It wasn't an organised petition; it just so happened a good number of viewers felt the same and decided to write in. The host of the children's block of programming that Bartons was a part of during it's first run there, told viewers they recieved quite a few letters asking for a repeat. Eventually Bartons was repeated in full over the summer of 1991.
Primetime Elly (or: De Bartons Tegen De Tanners)
Not only did the Dutch station repeat The Bartons, they even bumped it to early primetime. The Bartons replaced Full House during that show's summer break. As the BBC repeated it during that same time period, Dutch viewers could watch Bartons twice a week for the entire summer. Those were the times!
Hands down, Germany is the country that's most nuts about the Bartons. Atleast if the number of runs the show had there is anything to go by. No less than seven runs, over a period of ten years, not counting next day repeats. Six of those runs were on national television, spread across several networks both commercial and publicly funded.
Last line of defence
Germany has another record up its sleeve: for as far as I could find out, the very last time The Bartons were on TV anywhere in the world, was in Germany in November 2000. Just stop and think about that for a second; that's nearly thirteen years after the series first aired world wide in Australia.
This probably also explains why, to this day in October 2020, you can still buy the German edition of Jocelyn Moorhouse' Bartons book, new and sealed, in Germany.
Compare the above trivial facts about Holland and Germany with the Barton's broadcast history in Australia, the show's home turf no less, where it only showed once. ONCE. Three weeks and gone. Someone at the ABC made a bad decision there.
When Olivia came to Denmark as an exchange student in 1992, she was told that The Bartons was still on TV in Europe. She could hardly believe that at the time, but she now knows that was very true!
Real Girl Guides
The extras that play the Girl Guides in Beautiful Beetroot are actual Girl Guides. It's the Glen Waverley Guide Troup, who might even be the world's most famous Australian Girl Guide Troup out there because of it. And they probably don't even know it…
Speaking of Beautiful Beetroot: after finding the cigarettes, Elly lists which Guide Laws Vivienne must have broken ("1, 2, 4, 5 ("Definitely 5, that poor frog", Anita adds), and most likely No. 8 as well").
Well, I checked, and Elly's right: according to the Australian Guide Laws that were in use in 1987, Vivienne broke those exact ones.
More Beautiful Beetroot: While Elly hated the barracks, Olivia absolutely doesn't; it's the very place her school booked for its annual Music Camp. So even though Elly is disgusted with the bunks and dorm rooms, Olivia has some great memories from that place.
Another love/hate relationship
You know what else Elly dislikes in that episode? Vivienne's obnoxious blonde side kick Shelley! But again: Olivia absolutely doesn't hate her, as that girl was played by Andree van Schaik, Olivia's real-life best friend at school. Olivia was really excited when it was time to shoot this episode as she had missed seeing her school friends while away on shoot.
This wasn't the first time Andree and Olivia shared the screen; Andree was also in the Kaboodle episode that Olivia was in.
One last Beautiful Beetroot bit of trivia: the book specifies how long Elly was a Girl Guide: three weeks. In the episode, it appears to be much shorter. Time flies when you're not having fun, I guess.
Picture courtesy of Toni.
When reading the book, you'll come across the term Hills hoist a lot. It's also in the show; it's the thing Elly has the eggs hanging off while answering bird related questions during initiation. Hills hoist is the Australian name for a drying mill. Hills is the company that invented them, and the name just stuck. Hills is still around today (external link). The picture is of my friend Toni's original Hills hoist.
Although, to me, they don't look like they can handle children hanging off them during bird club initiations, according to this article by the ABC, a Hills hoist was the only thing left standing after Cyclone Tracy hit a Darwin family's home during Christmas 1974. So yeah, on second thought, I think they could perfectly handle a few eggs hanging off them.
Frankie J. Holden is the only actor who's both in the short film and the series. I guess he really is the perfect Robert Barton!
Now that we've mentioned the short: the next time you watch Australian soap Neighbours, take a long look at the character Terese Willis. Her actress, Rebekah Elmaloglou, portrayed Elly in the short film when she was about 11 years old.
And speaking of other Elly's, there's another one we should mention while we're on that topic: Stephanie Kellner voiced Elly in the German dub of the Bartons.
The song "True Blue", as sung by Lee and Douglas in the episode Bartons at the Beach, baffled me as a kid. Only when I got some Australian friends later in life, who explained it to me, I finally got what it was about.
The original is by Australian singer John Williamson and is up on Youtube for you to enjoy. (Most) Australians are very fond of this song; it's to them what John Denver's Country Roads is to (most) Americans.
What's in a name?
Jocelyn Moorhouse was living in a shared house when in school and Douglas, Anthony and Paul were her house mates. As a joke, she decided to name Elly's brothers after them. She later married her housemate Paul, who we all know better as PJ Hogan.
Jocelyn drew more inspiration from her own life when inventing characters for The Bartons; she had a red haired best friend named Anita when she was young, so Elly got one too. The real Anita is now a chef. Read more about Jocelyn's inspiration in the interview I did with her in 2020.
Speaking of (Elly's) Anita: her little sister Yvonne is played by Pippa Smith; she's the real life sister of Rosemary Smith, who plays Anita.
Some scenes from earlier episodes needed to be redone. Among those episodes were Half-time and Bartons on the Beach. This was a problem, as the kids had grown over the 5-6 months between the original shots and the reshoot. This meant that the sports uniforms from Half-time were now too small. And Olivia struggled to fit into her ugly matching bathing suit from Bartons at the Beach.
© 2020 - 2021 Erwin Leerentveld.
All rights reserved. Content not created by me is used with permission or under the clauses collectively known as "citaatrecht" in Dutch copyright law. This site is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation