'Bob & Margaret' focuses on the lives of
Bob and Margaret Fish, a very ordinary,
humdrum, middle-class, suburbuban couple leading
a very ordinary, humdrum,
middle-class, suburban working life. She's a
chiropodist and he's a down-in-
the-mouth dentist and together they face down
the good, the bad and the
ugly of everyday life, like Keeping Up With
The Joneses, parenting, sex,
and bereavement. The show is a spin off from
'Bob's Birthday', Snowden
Fine's Academy Award winning short film in which
Bob manages to
ostracise each and every member of his family
and friends as he mooches
about his home unaware that they are waiting
to give him a surprise
birthday party. The toecurling observation was
fabulous. And it's that same
observational naval-gazing that makes the 'Bob
& Margaret' series a
winner too. We love to pick through the toenail
clippings of life, don't we?
It's an intriguing period for Alison Snowden
and David Fine now. For a decade
and a half they have toiled upon their exploratory, introverted
tinged with sardonic humour. 'Second Class Mail',
'George and Rosemary',
'In and Out' - these short gems have won awards and
from within the film community, allowing them to
develop their themes from
film to film as their muse takes them. But that
fragile balance between
artistic fulfillment and commercial need appears
to have been unsettled
by the grand success of 'Bob's Birthday' and,
subsequently, 'Bob & Margaret'.
Now a world of Global Sales Targets, Licensing
Deals and Promotions
appears to have loomed up before them and I think
it's set them at odds
with their endeavours. They surely welcome the
attention it's brought and
the financial benefits which are being wafted under
their noses, but they
must be viewing the potential loss of creative control
that comes with it
with some trepidation. It'll be fascinating
to see how things develop...
the time we talked, Snowden Fine were 'between projects' with
'Bob & Margaret' wrapped and broadcasting
and their Hector' adverts
for the Inland Revenue all-but played
out on tv . So were Alison and
David sitting in a darkened studio, all
The Hound's questions are in bold.
your website tells us you're taking time out, does the
company keep going, though? Have you staff
on commercials work, or is it all mothballed
until the next project?
We have been working from home for quite
a while writing and reviewing
'Bob & Margaret' material which is faxed
or emailed. We also had a child
while making 'Bob & Margaret', which was
no mean feat by the way, but
being at home was nicer for that reason too.
We don’t plan on reopening
our studio or working in that way. Commercial
work is not our
priority right now.
How many people make up the Snowden Fine ‘team’?
have a hard-core of regulars you always employ?
Right now, the whole, big fat crew is just
the two of us!
When we did commercial work we hired in people
I see Hector is back on our screens again.
Are you still producing
work for the Inland Revenue? - The demise of
Alec Guinness must
have changed things...
Sir Alec hasn’t actually done the voice
for some time, so his demise
didn’t change anything, although the campaign
is now over. We did
work on all the ads, but only as consultants
on the latter ones which
we passed on to another animation company.
On the creative side, are you 'peas in
a pod', or 'chalk and cheese'?
We’re ‘peas in the cheese’. We fight
over stuff, but our sensibilities
are very similar most of the time. We are also
insecure so feed off of
each others encouragement and support.
First and foremost you are both animators
and film makers. So
what about your other role as Company Directors.
slotted neatly into that, or is it a continually
painful place to be?
We’re not really company directors. We
just do our work, but we have
to keep track of receipts and junk like that
and pay VAT.
It's an old chestnut, but who inspires
you? - Do you kneel before
a particular Toon God?
Gosh, over the years there have
been so many. Our contemporaries from
film school (Nick Park, Mark Baker) and other
independent film makers
from the National Film Board of Canada like
Richard Condie and Caroline
Leaf. Also live action film makers like Jim
Jarmusch because of the
way he plays scenes and the style of comedy.
And of course,
'The Simpsons' is a great influence because
it made the mould for
new adult sit com animation.
'Bob & Margaret'
was the first series you’ve produced. How did
you find the experience?
Thrilling and crazy and frustrating
all at the same time.
And very hard work.
I believe you had crews working on 3 continents
- did it all run
smoothly - who did what, and where?
I can’t say it was totally smooth. We
had a lot of very talented people
working on the show, but it wasn’t easy for
us all to figure out how to
work with each other. The production company,
Nelvana, had never
experienced creators who were going to have
direct, hands on
involvement in most all aspects of the show
and we had never done
a series, so there was learning on both sides.
The writing and voice work was done in London
and we reviewed
material from home. The layout and post was
done in Toronto and
the animation was done in the Philippines.
Did you both animate on the show, or
did you find yourselves
confined to your roles as producers? - If so,
did you have
trouble ‘letting go’?
We didn’t animate anything. We wrote
scripts and reviewed tons of
material - storyboards, designs, edits, etc.…
and worked very closely
with the directors and designers at Nelvana.
The second season featured other writers.
What was the setup?
Did you have a writers pool, or did you farm
out your storylines
to chosen writers?
It wasn’t the most efficient organization
in that we didn’t have a full time
dedicated team. The writers we worked with
were busy, so we had to get
them when we could. We felt very privileged
to work with such talented
people. Sometimes we worked on the storyline
for a writer, but usually
most of our work was on the script after it
was handed in.
Was there much interference from your broadcast
were you left to your own devices?
Amazingly, no interference to speak
of. They really liked what we were
doing and just supported it, for the most part.
Although the Canadian
broadcaster kept asking if we could throw in
Canadian references. We
didn’t feel right doing that kind of thing,
but we did devote a whole episode
to Bob’s Canadian cousin’s visiting. Apparently
the depiction of Canadians
as obnoxious oafs offended some Canadians.
Others found it funny though!
Now it’s all done and dusted, have
you a favourite episode?
There are favourite episodes for
various reasons but it’s hard to choose
just one. We are happy with certain episodes
for different reasons.
our favourites would be 'Holiday', 'Trick or Treat', 'Friends For
Dinner', 'No Trouble', 'Going Dutch' -
Oh, we’re naming too many!
And have you, Alison, received many voice-over
offers since the
show first aired? - I could imagine that being
a lucrative sideline
No, I haven’t pursued that. Although
I did previously do the voice of a
chicken in a frozen food ad.
The show's become popular on the web, hasn't
it? - You've sent
out something of a clarion call to 'ordinary'
Has it? That’s nice. Yes, ordinary people
seem to connect with
the show. And ordinary dogs.
There's a third series on the way now,
isn't there? - Nelvana are
making it in Canada - How is that
going to work?
There is a third and fourth series
in production, but Bob and Margaret move
to Canada as the show is mostly Canadian funded
and for that to work they
needed to actually be based in Canada and it
be a Canadian production.
We are much less involved now although Alison
still does the voice
And are there plans for a DVD release?
(Yes please - With 'extras' too!)
If it was up to us, yes, but it isn’t
up to us. We are not aware of it.
next, a short film to revitalize yourselves, or are you
going straight in to another series?
We’ve turned down some job offers
because we needed some time out,
but recently we’ve been working on various
ideas and are just completing
a proposal for a new animated sit com.
'Bob's Birthday' and the 'Bob & Margaret'
series have been
brilliant, painful, naval-gazing life
studies. Are we likely to see
a change of direction with your follow-up work,
or do you feel
you've found a niche you're comfortable with?
thanks for saying that. No, that navel gazing is our thing so we would
tend to infuse whatever we do with that kind
of attitude. It will be different,
but not a million miles different.
Your character design lends itself particularly
well to children’s
concepts, I think. Is that an area you've thought
especially now that you're parents yourselves?
We’ve thought about it, but adult stuff
is more inspiring for us to do. We
wouldn’t rule it out though. It is fascinating
to see what our daughter enjoys
though. Some really good stuff, but also some
stuff which we would find
horrible to watch otherwise. Mostly, she has
pretty good taste and it’s
interesting to see what works strictly from
a child’s point of view.
And how about that Big Step into features.
Is that something
you’ve toyed with?
Yes, that was one of the jobs we
turned down, though. We would love
to do a feature at some point.
And finally... Sorry, but I just have to
ask this: Where do you
keep that Oscar?
We got one each. One is on a shelf in David’s
office and the
other is on Alison’s table in her office...
there you have it, our Snowden Fine Q&A. Some interesting nuggets
there, don't you think? I still think Alison and
David could add an intelligent
twist to a children's show,They could
take a Rugrats-like concept and really
run with it...
Anyways, I must pass on a BIG thank you to Alison
and David for taking
the time to respond to my emails and questions...
- Getting there!