Oh dear. Channel4's "100 Greatest Cartoons"
finally aired last weekend,
but sadly failed on nearly every level. The final
rundown made no sense
what so ever (individual Looney Tunes stars were
listed, as well as the
Looney Tunes toons themselves?), industry figures were
thin on the ground,
there were factual errors left, right and center,
and - the cardinal sin - the
end result was simply dull, dull, dull...
Of course, no one settles into these rundowns
expecting detail and
depth. These are glib, throwaway evenings meant
to entertain. But even so,
the toon rundown was flimsy indeed. On the Brit
front we had Brian Cosgrove
and Mark Hall, Peter Lord, Richard Taylor, Vivien
Halas, Bob Godfrey,
Giles Pilbrow, Bobbie Spargo, Oliver Postgate
and Peter Firmin, but
most - if not all - were included simply to describe
what their particular
show was about. Additional facts were almost non-present.
of the show time was given over to a batch of
no-name talking heads we'd
never heard of, searching for any possible innuendo
or glibness they could
get their hands on. Unlike the "100 Greatest
Kids Shows" there were
absoloutely no nuggets or gems to unearth.
Best let this one just fade away, like some Monday
Scarlet is FAB (26.02.05)
FAB, isn't it? - The all-new "Captain Scarlet"
has defied its unfortunate
scheduling and presentation to bring us a splendid
new series of CGI
adventures. In the UK, Scarlet airs as part of the
CiTV's anarchic Saturday
show "Ministry of Mayhem" (MOM), where initially
it was sliced into two
parts and separated by far too many minutes of
in-your-face japes and
ad-breaks. After its two-part origin story
in previous weeks, this
weekend (25th Feb), we finally settled in to the
series proper with
a confirmed time slot (10.50am-ish) and restricted
That meant we could savour "Swarm",
a story featuring an infestation
of Mysteron nanobots on board Skybase. And it
fast-paced, with some splendid "Aliens" style
action, and intelligent
character development. Gosh, we've missed this
kind of series
in recent years...
The new "Captain Scarlet" is an all-CGI
production. The premise is
unchanged, with Colonel White and his Spectrum team
world from the malevolence of the alien Mysterons.
But the characters,
the machines and approach have all been suitably
modern-day viewers. Now we're faced with atmospheric action
destruction, emotional fallout, death, and the ebb
and flow of inter-agent
conflict and romance. There's a lot going on in these
So are there any negatives? - Yes, indeed. The
opening "titles" are
appalling. Instead of moody Mysteron stylings
and a dynamic
electronic fanfare we're presented with a lazy edit
of scenes and a
dribbly orchestral theme. It completely fails
to set the mood and
actually undermines your expectations for the
show. If there's one
thing we'd normally expect from an Anderson series
it's an inspiring
introduction - and the
original Scarlet series had one of the best,
with its gritty alleyway encounter and narration.
What a missed
Best ignore the titles, then, and allow yourself
to be succumbed by
the visuals, and the involved storytelling. The
new Scarlet is dark.
Captain Blue isn't so accommodating now, and Captain
changed sex. Scarlet has a thing for Destiny Angel,
who also had
something going with the ill-fated Captain Black.
This is great stuff:
little additions and tweaks which ratchet up the
hindering the action. It'll be interesting to
see how things develop.
The visuals have also been improving each episode.
Parts of the
pilot felt like cut-scenes from a computer game.
however, it all gelled perfectly.
Let's hope the high standard can be maintained.
And let's hope
Scarlet can find its audience in all the surrounding
we appear to have a bona fide hit here - if the
drop the ball...
The big 100 (25.02.05)
Don't forget folks, Channel4 are broadcasting their
rundown of "The 100 Greatest
Cartoons" this Sunday. Yes, yes, we all know that
these kind of shows kick up a
shed-load of controversy in their wake. But you know,
there are always a few
diamonds lurking in the rough of these broadcasts which
essential viewing (see November's
Here's a reminder of the Brits involved:
Ivor the Engine
in the Willows
Jamie and the Magic Torch
The Magic Roundabout 2DTV
Mary, Mungo and Midge
So who will win? - Who knows. Who cares. The outcome
is irrelevant. It's getting
there that's fun. The rundown commences this Sunday,
26th at 8.00pm. And the
results will be posted online
here for our continued perusal, digestion and
discussion after the show.
This fab release features all 40 episodes of the
claymation classic from
Charles Mills, Terry Brain and Steve Box and snuggles
up beautifully next
to the previously-released Stoppit
& Tidyup - another CMTB gem which
escaped on to disc last year with little fanfare...
Dare you open it?
- I'm already re-watching mine...
Settle down and buckle up for espionage and adventure
this weekend, because
the all-new, all-CGI "Captain Scarlet"
finally starts broadcasting on CiTV.
Mind you, it's been a long wait. The series has
spent almost five years
Surely everyone knows about the
indestructible captain and his and Spectrum's
ongoing battle against Captain Black and the alien
Mysterons? - Well here we
have the mixture exactly as before, sans strings.
And that's enabled Gerry
Anderson and his team to let the action and adventure
flow. At least, that's
what the publicity tells us. But we'll finally
be able to judge for ourselves
from Saturday 12th February, when the new show starts
it's run. Get the
popcorn ready for 10.30am when the first part
of "Instrument of Destruction"
"Captain Scarlet" has always been a
particular favourite, and in the current
climate of fear and misinformation, its themes
seem particularly apt. The official
site promises us a more complex captain, with an equally complex
love life and a new array of fantastic machinery
and equipment with which
to do battle. Anderson's team have been slaving
away tirelessly at their
facilities in Pinewood Studios and the results
look very promising indeed...
Great news for Astley
Baker Davies fans this week, with the arrival of
"Peppa Pig" on DVD. Peppa's been "hogging"
the limelight on Five over
the last year and "Peppa Pig: Muddy Puddles"
is her first release on disc,
courtesy of Contender. The DVD features 10 tales,
plus two bonus episodes,
giving fans a
whole hour of piggin' brilliance in which to wallow...
Peppa's arrival on disc is way overdue for some.
The Hound resides
in the wilds of north-east Scotland where thedelights
of Channel Five are
often out of reach of terrestrial tv, and all but snowed
under, even with a
Freeview box. It'll be great to see her flicker
Floating film (08.02.05)
For many, Roger Dean's fantasy art landscapes
are iconic creations of
the seventies and early eighties. These incredible
alien images graced the
LP covers of prog rock stars Yes, and later, Asia.
They spawned a mini
industry of poster prints, and via Roger's publishing
firm Paper Tiger, they
graced a million or more coffee tables in a series
of mega-popular art books.
So fans of the era will no doubt be thrilled to
hear that Roger is now
planning to make a computer animated film based
on his works...
"Floating Islands" reveals a secret story
connecting all of those incredible
Yes covers. It tells of a boy called Loki, his
search for a missing space
ark, and his quest to rescue the pieces of a fragmenting
According to Roger's
web site, $500K of developent money needs to be
raised to take the film to the next level of production.
And that's where
we, the fans, come in to play. Roger has produced
a series of highly
desirable serigraph, digital and etched prints
which folks can buy, with
the proceeds going towards the production accounts.
They're not cheap,
but artwork of this nature never is. But if you have
the money to hand,
you'll be buying yourself some glorious art to hang
proudly on your wall,
and contributing to an ambitious artistic concept
Of course, Roger's not the only fantasy artist with
film plans on the table. Patrick
Woodroffe has his own bizarre works in development. Patrick's
mind-bending creations have to be seen to be believed.
layers of creative detail and texture that fascinates
and beguiles and
confounds in equal measure. Personally, I think he's
Now here's an interesting move from Channel4.
They've just announced the
imminent debut of a production billed as the world's
first interactive animation
series. "Empire Square" is a very crude
and rude creation focusing on life in
an inner-city community. Think "South Park"
meets "The Sims", if you will.
The series and concept have been devised by the drummer
from Blurr - Dave
Rowntree - and writer Matt Morgan, and there are
currently three streetwise
lowlifes at the heart of the show. Rabbit is a geek
who dresses in a pink
bunny costume, Hooks is a savvy lass with attitude,
and Richie is a
street-tuff idiot. 12 x 3mins episodes have thus
far been animated and
will be aired on Channel4 later this month...
You can already view some of the episodes online
at the Empire Square web
site, but be warned, they're certainly not for kiddies, with
slang and swearing to the fore. Indeed, they're destined
to divide audiences
with their explicit references and storylines about
bestiality, necrophilia and
more. But looking beyond any controversy, the
important thing here is that
"Empire Square" is attempting
to be much more than just an animated series,
rather, it's setting itself up as a growing online
community of shops and
buildings and people in which we the public are invited
It's this combination of a tv series with an online
world that makes "Empire
Square" a "first", and it will be intriguing
to see if the concept strikes a chord,
and if it does, to watch the community grow and
develop over time. And looking
further forward, who knows what might follow in
"Empire Square" premieres on Channel4
on February 18th.
Toy Fair is the UK's premier event for toys and
games. It's held every January
in London's Expo building and attracts
all the major players in the industry,
who set up their stalls and showcase their forthcoming
wares. And those
wares include numerous character-based creations
- of great interest to
me, and most likely, most of you too (and let's
face it, if you're not here
to read up about toons in all their forms, what
are you here for?).
Now TheHound and his so-called "London Media
Buddies" have been making a
round trip to this special event
for the last four years. We participate under
the banner of ToonsToGo,
which means we are present as a legitimate
business concern, on the lookout for new products
to stock at the store,
as well as seeking info on other things pertinent
to Toonhound. The Toy
Fair promotion and publicity identify the arena
as being an exciting place
to roam and discover all that's new on the UK
But you know what? - Toy Fair stinks. Every year,
we're met with pokerfaced
staff on the major brand stalls who appear to
do their utmost to treat me and
mine with disdain. We either can't get on the stands
at all, plead ridiculously
until some sourpuss breaks, or we have to come
back for a shambling guided
"tour" two, three or more hours later.
It's hugely frustrating and more-than-a-little
humiliating. Whilst I can understand that firms
want to "present" their new
lines in a certain way and maximize sales,
the chilly atmosphere that
pervades is downright disheartening. I'm sure if we
were reps for a High
Street chain the welcome would be altogether different...
Now, I could swallow all of this, if when you
finally get on to a stall there was
something to impress; some superb and informed
presentation and display.
But there invariably isn't. And worse, when it comes
to character licenses,
outside of the Preschool arena, the majority - if not
all - the major UK brand
players don't appear to have a clue about the
creation they've just licensed.
Oh sure, they can recite the demographics involved,
the key markets they
think you should be selling to. But they rarely
appear to know the shows,
the films, the people who made them and - more importantly
they're actually any good in the first place.
And worse yet - and this the
cardinal sin - we've lost track of the times we've
encountered shoddy licensed
character figures and apparel: Talking toys which
don't employ the original
voice artiste, or cheap flimsy action figures which
have zero appeal to a
collector and zero playability for the kids. Or
indeed, that other common
sin; lots of different versions of a TV/film
hero, but precious little featuring
There is an exception here, though, and it's that
arena. This is an area in which we thrive. It's
taken a while, but the brand
leaders have realised that quality sells. And
why? - Because it's the adults
who buy the toys for their kids. And what's more,
there's no creative effort
required because "Postman Pat" doesn't fight
any bad guys or adopt any
magic powers on his round.
This whole sorry state of affairs happens because
the UK toy scene is simply
about Suits. It's about dull, middle-aged men and women trading
over a glass and either talking down to, or over the
heads of their market
altogether. And it's why you find great gluts of trashy
"Ninja Turtles" and
"Spiderman" figures gathering dust on
the shelves at Woolworth's. I'm
reminded here of that classic scene in "Big"
where Tom Hanks queries the
reasoning behind a bunch of new toys. When was
the last time these people
played with, or collected, anything?
And this all contrasts so completely with
the American approach. In the
USA, February's Toy Fair is an "Event".
It's all about razzmatazz, sparkle
and the enjoyment of toys. Every year a few hardened American
squeeze their stalls in to Expo alongside the Brits.
And every year their
licensed products simply blow the UK opposition away in
terms of design,
build, presentation and - and this is the cruncher
- sheer enthusiasm for
the creation they've licensed. They're so far ahead
of the UK crowd, it's
So will we be going to Toy Fair next year? Probably.
And we'll be clutching
some slim hope that attitudes have changed since
the year before - same
as we've done for the last four years.