Plato, the Platypus Plumber (part-time)
by Hazel Edwards
Apart from, ‘How do you work with an illustrator?’, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ would be the most common question creators are asked.
I had the toolkit idea, but illustrator John Petropolous designed it.
Kids love tool kits. Why shouldn’t a platypus who is a watery creature, be an on-call plumber who fixes pipes but also fixes grumpy people. What would this tradie platypus keep in his underwater toolkit? Would it be a backpack or a carrybag? Apart from spanners, would he need a joke book, smile spray, feather for tickling or a smilasorus? Would the toolkit fall off when he swam? Would the mobile work underwater?
I trialled an early version called Platypussyfooting Around, with various school groups. They LOVED designing and working out what went into the toolkit.
A platypus has always seemed to be an all-purpose creature to me. Amphibious. Occasionally endangered. And with a wonderful ‘proper’ name of ornithoryncus…
I saw the platypus as an imaginary friend for a child whose fractured family was under stress. They’d live in old housing so there was need for plumbing help, with leaking pipes, dripping taps, tanks and holey gutters.
I live in Melbourne and along the upper Yarra River bike trail, there are rambling old houses made into run-down apartments. This seemed a believable setting for ferals, water access for the platypus and a money-short family doing renovations.
I talked to plumbers. I visited up river where platypus were reappearing and did some inside storm drains research with the council engineer. I found out everything that might go wrong.
The platypus plumber idea has been swimming around for thirteen years in my sub-conscious, which is ironic, because originally I called the character Thirteen. That’s how many years platypus survive in the wild if they’re lucky. If ferals or six pack plastic rings don’t get them.
From the beginning, the story was so active; I had a TV series or maybe animation in mind. So I created a family cast, with a mother with travel poster dreams, a muso father and Gran with her TV soapies in 13 possible episodes. Now it’s possible that this story may go into some very new electronic formats like Kindle or iPod.