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First gracing Canadian air-waves in 1999, the House Hippo captured the title of world’s greatest short documentary almost immediately. Birthed by Concerned Children’s Advertisers, and a production team of mysterious bravehearts, it is allegedly a mockumentary advocating “media literacy”. It warns children about mistaking television magic for truth, and arbitrary ill-thought content (such as drug fun) as appropriate behavior.
But in fact it is Canada’s strangest, and certainly most popular, short documentary concerning the domestic pygmy hippo (hygmy pippo in Latin). It over-achieves in the short department, denoting its mind blowing truths in 60 seconds, and at the same time, it shatters the restricting paradigms of “truth” and “document”. The video simply wills the house hippo’s existence with its footage so real.
The end of this documentary, however, incites controversy: the image of the pygmy hippo finds itself being transposed out of its closet habitat and placed upon the African wilderness, likely in the place of a lion or something. This was a coup at the existence of the pygmy hippo and it was unacceptable . The CCA had better explain itself, and in an effort to get to the bottom of this farce I referred myself to the them.
I was told to seek out Publicis, an agency specializing in hyper-short and excessively persuasive documentaries. But this was a dead end. Their website revealed nothing but a cryptic sun-lion emblem and a small selection of videos. E-mails went unanswered, and phone calls were time better spent doing almost anything else. I was left with no choice but to call out “Illuminati” and bring the investigation to an end.
While investigative justice may not have been served, something dawned on me: the validity of all truths we see on screen are questionable – whether or not this “African” hippo was the real deal is besides the point. I submit some sort of creative broadcasting and critical thinking campaign for the benefit of viewers. But should the lessons of the House Hippo remain only for children’s networks? If commercials such as these have anything to say, it’s that media “illiteracy” isn’t an issue of age. House Hippo, your work is never done.
by John G