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Tom Sweep (1992)

A frustrated street sweeper fights a losing battle against constant littering from passers-by. Exasperated, Tom Sweep runs after them, catching rubbish before it even hits the ground. He ends up falling and spilling his dustbin everywhere. He sees the folly of chasing people, so instead glares at a man until he dutifully places his litter in the bin. A small victory: and Tom moves on, in time for another passer-by to rummage through the bin and cover the street in rubbish again.

Classroom Activities

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  • What do you think the story is about?

  • Who is the main character?

  • What is your first impression of him?

  • What can you tell about him from the way he looks? For example, how old is Tom Sweep? Where does he live?

  • What is Tom Sweep trying to do?

  • Does he like his job? How can you tell?


  • Spot the Shots: watch the film and note examples of all the different types of shots used in the film. Discuss why different shots are used at different points in the story.

  • Ask the class to look for different camera angles and moments when the camera moves. Discuss what difference it makes in the story when the camera is moving rather than still.

  • Discuss what techniques the film uses to show the passage of time.

  • Screen the film, asking the class to pay particular attention to the music. Listen out for patterns in the music and moments when the music changes. Note what is happening in the story when the music changes. Discuss the connections between images in the film and the music.

  • Introduce the meaning of composition and mise-en-scène in film. Then watch the film asking the class to look at the use of colour and composition to create a sense of place and time. Also look at framing in some shots (you could use freeze frame) and discuss what is seen and what isn’t seen – for instance, what does the class think might be happening around corners that we can’t see? What clues are given in the film?


  • Ask the class to write a summary of the story after watching the film. Discuss storytelling conventions such as beginning-middle-end structure, conflict and narrative time. Discuss, for instance, how long the story actually takes – is it minutes, hours, a day or more? How does the story convey this?

  • Watch to specifically pay attention to the character of Tom Sweep. Get the class to make notes of what kind of person Tom is, and write justifications/evidence of why they think this. For example, what kind of personality does he have? Does he get angry? Do they think he is quiet or talkative?

  • Discuss the use of colour in the film. Would the story be different if it were in black and white (you could try this by altering the colour balance on the TV). What parts of the narrative disappear when colour is taken away (for example, is it still clear when it is night or day)?

  • How does the film make the class feel after watching? Do they feel anything particular about Tom or his predicament? Encourage discussion about similar experiences of frustration.

  • Introduce the idea of stereotype as a narrative element. Ask the class to identify people or things in the film that seem to be based on a stereotype. This could lead to a discussion of whether stereotype is a useful or a bad tool for narrative storytelling.


  • English: Create a new story dealing with a similar situation but using new characters and settings – for instance, set it in a railway station (with a station master)or a shop (with a shopkeeper).

  • Research other people that work for the community, such as police officers, nurses and road sweepers. Find examples and quotes from the library or internet (or students could go out and interview them). Report their findings to the class in a presentation about the importance of public servants and how they are viewed by the public.

  • Art: Design a sign/poster for the school playground to encourage people to put their litter in bins.

  • Science/geography: investigate the environmental impact of waste and litter.

  • Create a campaign or hold a competition to clean an outside play area.

  • Using cameras/audio recording equipment, conduct vox pop interviews about the problem of litter in the school and local area. Is it a problem and what should be done about it? Create a podcast/news report of the results.

  • Design a refuse collection cart or trolley

  • Create a recycling project for the school, including a system for labelling and classifying different waste items for recycling.

  • English: write a first person account of a street sweeper/rubbish bin collector, telling of his day, his dedication to his job and the reactions of people in the street to his work.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-002-000-025-C
Resource Rights Holder Michael Dudok de Wit Animation
Project Ref STST2-08
Year of Production 1992
Genre Comedy
Curriculum Areas subjects
Who Anne Justice (Animator), Craig Baxter (Animator), Michael Dudok de Wit (Director, Writer, Animator)
Country of Origin UK
Medium / Content 2D Animation, Fiction, Colour, Sound
Themes Recycling, Responsibility, Work, Frustration
Clip Length 03:00