Productions are putting the finishing touches to their hot new
cartoon series, 'Aaagh! - It's The Mr Hell Show!', a
co-production with Sextant
Entertainment for the BBC.
At the helm are David Freedman and Alan Gilbey,
an American and a Brit,
two former comedians-come-writers-come-animation
fanatics who first met
six years ago whilst touring on the Comedy Circuit.
Legend has it they were
introduced by Lee Hirst - he of 'They Think It's
All Over' fame - who brought
them together with the immortal words: 'You’re both
weird and obsessed with
cartoons. Work together or I’ll nut ya’!'
Thus was born a bountiful writing partnership. Together
they've worked on
'Rex The Runt',
and those Bafta-winning 'Foxbusters',
they've co-written with
Tony Collingwood on the second series of 'Dennis
& Gnasher' and script
consulted on Snowden Fine's 'Bob
& Margaret'. With the launch of Mr Hell,
however, the partnership has mushroomed into
a fairy ring of fungis (and gals).
They've poached Jeff Marsh from 'The Simpsons', Nik
'Family Guy' and Barry Baker of Speedy Films fame...
You'll find all the gory details at their very-flash
In which Alan reveals how Peafur got their name,
how he often feels like
Harry H.Corbett and how he'd like to get his paws
on the Greatest Super
Agent In The World.
Being something of a newcomer to this interviewing
lark, I thought I'd be
gracious and start by plugging my own work.
The Hound's questions are in bold
Before I begin can I just say a big ‘thank you’ for letting me put
these questions to you? Toonhound started off
as a little piece of
fluff on the web but it really does seem to be shifting
up a gear...
It’s a great site and very well written – we
loved the way you imagined
Ronald Searle twiddling his moustache with glee as
(See Toon Gods )
Mr Hell looks like fun, judging by those
clips on the official site.
And hip, in a kind of horned Johnny Bravo way.
it's got pace. It zips along - Why, it’s almost
it's got dangly bits!)...
Many thanks for saying that! Timing is a bit of an
issue for me and Dave
(who IS American, including his dangly bits!) and
we worked hard to get
the pacing where we wanted it....
Okay, let’s start with an obvious question - You’ve
asked this one a thousand times, right? Why
the name ‘Peafur’?
Well, all the impressive names like Universal and
were already taken...
One day Dave was walking his dog on Clapham
Common, pondering the
name problem, when he met a man with another dog
and asked what it
was called. " Deefur." said the man. "Why Deefur?"
asked Dave. "D fer Dog."
Said the cockney, like he was stating the obvious
to a complete cretin –
and so P fer Productions was born.
So there you are on the Comedy Circuit, realizing
you and David
share a passion for cartoons. How did you make
that leap into the
animation pool? What was the break?
I’d love to tell you a tale of a long, hard struggle,
but really it was pretty
jammy. Because Dave had been working in advertising
- and a lot of the
adverts he worked on were cartoons – he already knew
One of them was Richard Goleszowski at Aardman –
who was looking
for some help developing his character 'Rex The Runt'
into a series. We
got the gig, and co-wrote (with Golly) the original
thirteen scripts that
got the show commissioned.
Do you work as an 'Odd Couple' or are you and
actually 'Birds Of A Feather'?
We’re more like ‘Steptoe and Son’ and have developed
a fine art!
So when you're writing, do you share things down
or does one of you lean towards dialogue, and
the other towards
Every time it seems to be a little different, but
generally I lean towards dialogue,
because of my theatre and radio background,
and Dave thinks filmic, because
of his art directing experience. We both share a
cartoon sensibility, but learnt
narrative structure together. We used to spend hours
sitting in the coffee shop
in Borders in Oxford Street arguing loudly over the
motivation of chickens!
Have you had
any difficult births? Which production has
caused you most grief?
The Mr Hell Show was the very first thing we worked
on together, six years
ago, and we quickly sold an option on it to Universal
Pictures… who then
tried to turn it into a live action sitcom about
a lovable demon sharing a flat
with some guy!
Producers came. Producers went. Mr Hell sat
on a shelf and got dusty.
Then we got the rights back. Then someone else in
the States said they’d
make it – if we renamed him 'Mr Heck' and made him
Years passed. Stars went supernova. Producers
kept telling us they loved
the show – but could we change it completely
so it wouldn’t offend anybody?
And then last year, just as we were finally giving
up on it, some people came
along who were prepared to make what we’d actually
So who inspires you? Who are your main influences?
On 'The Mr Hell Show' it’s 'Rocky and Bullwinkle'
meets 'Monty Python'
– so it’s partly vaudeville and partly surreal
– an appropriately Anglo-American
blend, inspired by two shows we grew up with.
In animation generally we buzz
about all kinds of things - lots of classic
work by Chuck Jones, Bob Clampet
and Tex Avery of course, many episodes of 'The
Simpsons', some episodes
of 'Dexters Lab', 'Powerpuff Girls', 'Duckman'
and 'Rocko’s Modern Life' - plus
lots of comics, newspaper strips, the cartoon
arts in general (most of the
people in your ‘Gods’ section actually!) and
the Marx Brothers. This week
we’ve both in love with ‘The Rhapsody in Blue’
segment of Fantasia 2000,
but not the rest of it (except the flamingos).
Could you fill me in on the origin of Mr
Hell. The show credits
Hugh MacLeod as having created the character.
And how did it end up in your hands?
Hugh was another friend of Dave’s from his
advertising days, and had a series
of greetings cards published, featuring a devil
called Mr Hell. Unfortunately the
extreme cruelty ( or was it honesty? ) of the
things Mr Hell said on the cards
limited their sales to people who hated the
people they were going to send
them to! Still, Dave thought there was a good
character there, so….
Bob Monkhouse was an inspired choice. Who
to voice the lead?
Bob was suggested by Jon Plowman, head
of comedy entertainment at the
BBC, after a long search for the right voice.
It’s a perfect match, and working
with him was a genuinely great experience.
'So I’m a slimy, insincere devil?'
he said at the first recording 'Typecast
Trivia note- one of Bob’s first jobs
was as an animator. In the late 1940’s
he worked on David Hand’s Animaland cartoons,
before moving on
I can’t believe Bob didn’t have a hand in
those scripts -
Did he give good ad-lib?
Yes, but we couldn’t use much of it! Because
of the nature of co-production
the scripts have to go through several drafts
and an approval process before
recording – so that makes deviating from the
final script problematic. But the
BBC version of the show will probably
have Mr Hell monologues over the end
credits, and some of these are pure ad-lib.
Has the finished show changed much
from the original conception?
In the beginning 'The Mr Hell Show' was about
Mr Hell and Mr Hell only.
He was going to go off and have long adventures…and
probably run out
of steam pretty quickly! Luckily, all those
years in development hell allowed
us to refine the concept- until he became the
host of a review show full of
equally jaundiced characters.
Judging by the online clips it seems
to touch upon some ‘delicate’
subject matter. Did you run into any opposition
from your broadcast
partners? - Indeed, has it raised eyebrows
at any of the American
The current broadcast partners have been wonderfully
cool about almost
everything, but the gratuitous use of firearms seems
to be posing a bit of
a problem in the States (but only in cartoons!)
We’re still looking for a US
sale at the moment, but there’s interest.
And now it’s done and dusted, do you have
a favourite character
in the show, and/or an episode you’re particularly
All the dust isn’t actually dusted yet,
but episode five – 'Animation Special’
- is the current studio favourite. It features
Kokey The Kat (a justifiably forgotten
cartoon character from the 1920’s), lots of
stuff for animation fans, plus
‘The Photocopy Of Dorian Grey’s Arse.’ Also,
watch out for regular
appearances of ‘Serge The Seal Of Death’, who
seems to be stealing
the show in Canada.
So where does it go next? - Have you been
for the second season?
Currently we’re still working on series
one – reviewing story boards and
music, and making last minute changes. It’s
been a long year and it ain’t
over yet, whatever the calendar says!
Then we plan a nervous breakdown.
Peafur is marching boldly on with umpteen
new projects which
you've detailed on your website.
Which one is next, is it
'Bounty Hamster'? If it is, can you reveal
what it’s about?
Hamster' is a co-production with Silver-Fox Films, planned for
CITV in 2002. It’s ‘True Grit’ in space, only
the John Wayne character is
hamster! We’re aiming for a fast moving mix of wise-ass comedy and
solid SF stories, something I’ve wanted
to do for a long time. We’re also
developing a second project for BBC2, and want
Peafur to become known
as a company that really understands cartoons
Are the 'Foxbusters' coming back?
Sadly it appears not. Although the series won
a Bafta and a British
Animation Award, today’s pop kids were more
interested in the adventures
of a jerkily animated Japanese boy and his
pointy yellow rat!
But I miss them.
Is there any existing series you would like
A revival of DangerMouse!
And further down the line, do you plan to
move into features?
We have in fact already written one that
hasn’t yet made it into production,
but we’d love to see it happen one day. I think
we’d bring a very different
approach to a feature. So if anyone out there
has about ten million
Alan, it's been a pleasure. Good luck with
This was the very first Toonhound Q&A, conducted
back in January 2001.
At the time 'Aaagh! - It's The Mr Hell
Show!' was receiving plaudits and applause
courtesy of its Canadian broadcast and the show
was scheduled to appear over
here come Spring, late-nights on BBC2. But The
Beeb being The Beeb, the
broadcast date was pushed back - way-y-y back - eventually
to late October...
Peafur have pushed on since 'Mr Hell' and 'Bounty
Hamster' hit our screens
in 2002. It's another fast-moving, funked-up
feast of humour and action...
Toonhound has also broadened its relationship
with David and Alan, and
as a consequence we've been able to get
our paws on some fantastic
original Mr Hell production material over at
our web store, ToonsToGo.
'Like what?' says you. Well, how about original
development art? - Yep, now you're tempted,