Hall is a storyboard artist, animation designer, animator and director
professional CV that spans three decades. His credits include
a whole stack
of shows for Cosgrove Hall, including Noddy, Rocky
and the Dodos, Animal
Shelf, Rotten Ralph and Victor
and Hugo, alongside the likes of Philbert
King of the Jumble, Hamilton Mattress,
Zot the Dog
and Tiny Planets, and more. He's currently
Kid, a busy production triumverate based in Manchester who
recently produced a series of supremely looney short films
the vampire chicken, for Nickelodeon UK (you can view
them here). Freakish
Kid worked on the CBBC series of Muddle
Earth, when it was still under
development. There's a new Arabic series on the table for them,
an adaptation of 2000AD/Rebellion's Rogue Trooper character
production they're circling and hoping will come to fruition
But whilst we wait that gem, there's also Mick
Inkpen's Wibbly Pig. Jez
recently snorted over to Wish
Films to direct 52 episodes of this oinkingly
lovable new preschool series...
Have you seen Wibbly Pig's series yet? - It's
based upon the phenomenally
popular picture books from Mick Inkpen (he also brought us
Kipper and friends).
There have been 1.7million Wibbly book sales in the UK
alone. The TV series
is produced by Wish Films and 9
Story, and it's got bags of preschool charm.
It's been airing on CBBC, but if you've missed it, the
first Wibbly DVD is
Meanwhile, if you're a Toonhound regular, you'll know
that The Hound has
a great ribbeting softspot for Philbert Frog and his Noggit
Wood pals. The
series was produced by Fat City Films in 1993, and Jez
was the storyboard
artist. It's just hopping daft fun, and it's equally daft
that only one series of
thirteen episodes were ever made. Jez clearly thinks it's
daft, too, because
he launched a Philbert
Facebook page in celebration that everyone needs
to sign up to, at once!
Now, let's interrupt proceedings with a confession. This
interview is late.
Very late. The Hound actually spoke to Jez back in the Summer,
much has happened over the intervening weeks - work committments,
technical issues with the site, and whole bunch of offline
The Hound's life. Well,
suffice it to say, this has been pushed back.
But when we spoke, Jez had just completed that marathon
Wibbly Pig and that Arabic show.
And what started off as a brief email
exchange snowballed into a big fat run of questions
that start right back
at the beginning of hi's career, when he was working for
the UK comics
The Hound talks to Jez Hall... (18.07.10)
you wear a hundred different production caps. You're a storyboard
artist, animator and director. But right back at
the beginning of your
career, you were working in comics. What kind of
things were you doing?
After College I went to Marvel UK. I tried out for lots
of things - Transformers,
GI Joe... My first real work was inking on Ghostbusters... Really
These fantastic drawings in front of me. I knew nothing
about inking, I just had
a brush and ink and that was it. I just had a bash, really.
They were nice fellas
there. Great. They let kids like me have a go, and had
faith in them. It went
My main ambition was to draw for 2000AD. To draw
Judge Dredd. My hero was
Mike McMahon. I used to copy his stuff all the time when
I was a kid. I never
did get to work for 2000AD. Later in life, though,
when I was in animation, I took
over the Count Duckula strip in Sunday Magazine for the
News of the World.
There were some great guys that used to do that: Vin
James and Malcolm
McGookin who passed it on to me. Malc actually gave me
my first dip pen.
And nibs and paper. Top man. It was a great little job.
I think I did that for
a few years.
So how did you move into animation, and what was your
I did comics and freelance illustration for a while.
Then I applied to Cosgrove Hall
after an add in Creative Review. I sent them lots of
comic book samples and
character drawings and stuff, and I got a job as a storyboard
Vince James. But I was snaffled by someone else,
soon as I got there, which
wasn't any fun, really, and kind of put me off the whole
thing. But Vince rescued
me and I had a whole lot more fun after that.
It was a great education for any young lad, being stuck
in a studio with all these
amazing artists. You kind of learn fast. You have to,
really, otherwise it can be
very hard. I once came into the office one morning and
Vince had blown up
some of my clean-up and put it up on the pin board with
"what the ****s this!"
written on it. It was a terrible drawing, though. But
it was great working under
Vin, he taught me so much. I owe him a lot. So I was
a storyboard assistant
at Cosgrove Hall. I think it still says that on my union
Everyone has their cartoon heroes, who are yours?
I didn't really have any cartoon heros early on really.
My art heroes were a
mixed bag... Mike McMahon and Cam Kennedy from 2000AD...
exchanged a few emails with Mike last year. Hes a really
nice bloke. Others
were Frazzetta, Sid Mead, Brad Holland, Searle,
Lucian Frued, Alex Toth,
Edward Hopper, Paul Cezanne, Albert Uderzo, Saul
Bass, Henry Moore,
Picasso, Layendecker, Rockwell, John Buscema, Tracy Emin...
them, if I think about it. I'm joking about Tracy
Animation heroes came later. As a kid it was Chuck Jones
and Tex Avery.
But now there's just too many to mention. Oscar Grillo
would be there.
I've got to ask this, you've got Disney's Gargoyles
series on your list of
credits. That was a great, dark series that was ahead
of its time, I
thought. What did you do on that, and how did the work
I got to work on Gargoyles through a friend of mine.
It's strange when you are freelance, no matter how long
you do it, every time
you start a new gig it's like you've never done it before.
When I did the Gargoyles thing it was a long long time
ago and I was a kid,
really. I was quite rubbish at storyboards, looking back
on it. I wasn't really
ready for it. But I did a couple of shows. No idea now
which ones. But they
used to split them up between a couple of guys. They
sent some samples
through of what the other guys had been doing - Amazing
Well... I tried my best, let's put it that way. I only
did two shows but like
I say, I was a young guy and still learning. It was great
experience for me.
As you know, I'm a great green Philbert freak. Can you
us a bit about his hopping history. Where did he come
I think most people that watched Philbert loved it. The
history of it really is
it's Vince James' baby. Its him all over. I think he
used to draw it when he
was a young lad. It was something that had been
with him a long time,
For the show we had some fab scripts by Phil Jackson
- a top man!
And the amazing voice talent of Rob Rackstraw. Then of
course, Mark Mason's
animation. Yes, he did do a show a week (see Toonhound's
He's a very clever fellow. Great draftsmen, very charming
drawings. I've worked
with him a few times since.
Given that you've started a Philbert Facebook group,
I'd say you quite
liked the fellow. Was a second series ever planned -
maybe he could
be revived somehow?
I dont think they'll be any more Philbert. I dont even
know who owns
Can we get into your storyboarding head for a bit. I'm
the thought process involved, and the instinct that
enables you to
translate an idea from script to screen.... The angle
Knowing what works best...
I think I get what you mean. I think its experience that
lets you know
what does and doesn't work. There are very solid film
making rules obviously,
but when you've drawn a lot of story boards that knowledge
is locked in there.
It's hard to define your thinking process really, you
just know, you just do it.
Thumbnailing the board, for me, is the best bit. Its
the most immediate part.
You don't worry about drawing nice. You just blast through
Sometimes you have to pull up and work out some difficulty,
but for the
most part you get through it in one sitting, if you can.
I think that's how
you get good pacing. Doing it more instinctively like
that. My first thoughts
are usually the best. I've drawn so many damn boards!
The show we're working on now is an Arabic show and it's
quite a lot different.
We have very tight deadlines. We have to turn them around
very quickly. The
characters can take a while to say something. The English
translation can be
pretty small, so you throw in a pose for that, but the
actual audio could be
200 frames, so when you cut the animatic you have to
break it down a bit
For me, I like to cut the animatic as well. Im a big
fan of doing the whole thing.
I can't see how somebody who hasn't drawn the board can
cut the animatic.
I always think, too, that directors should always try
and do their own boards
or, as we did on Wibbly Pig, provide fairly comprehensive
the board artists.
I have to say, on Wibbly we had Alessandra Sorrentino
and Alfredo Cassano
as the two main board artists on the show. We had some
other guys out in
Africa who did some great stuff as well. But the boards
Ale and Alf produced
were the best boards I've ever had. Great couple.
Is it different storyboarding for stop-motion. I imagine
have far less freedom to roam, so to speak?
Stop motion is a different thing, yes. You obviously
are dealing with a physical
set, with camera set ups. So you'd often have a camera
guide from the director
to stick too. I always drew too many poses, which the
animators usually ignored.
I think, at the time, boards by 2D guys were a
new thing to a lot of stop-mo
animators. Before, they'd just have stick man things
with notes from the director.
I'm sure they brought people like me onboard to please
broadcasters. Give them some pictures to look at.
I've done quite a lot of stop motion boards, predominantly
for Cosgrove Hall,
but the big job was Hamilton Mattress with Barry Purves.
Fantastic fellow, and
obviously the boss of stop-motion. I don't think Barry
also had too much need
for detailed storyboards. Again, I think it was more
for investors maybe. I dont
know, he seemed to get by fine with his own boards. Obviously
it was all
in him and he could translate that to his animators.
I think producers often
get twitchy on a more commercial project, like Hamilton,
and they like to
know what they're getting. The last thing they want is
an artist doing his thing.
That can cost money. I used to sit with Barry and he'd
act things out. I'd draw.
A very different way of working for me. Great fun though.
mountains of drawings. A lot of it ended up in the bin
as things changed
and got hacked around. It was a great thing to work on.
My desk was on
the Chicken Run set at one point later in production
- coolest desk ever!
Another great puppet thing was a film with the late Paul
Berry. I did a lot of
work on that, but the film was never made. A great loss,
losing Paul. I was
talking to a friend the other day who said Paul's film
the Sandman was the
reason they got into animation. It had a big impact on
Okay, so let's jump right back to the present day. How
did you and
Wish Films come together for Wibbly Pig. Were you there
beginning, or did you join up once the funding was in
I got together with Wish through a fantastic producer,
Karina Stanford Smith.
A good friend. All down to her really. She obviously
said good things about me.
Said I could do it. I had no idea if I could do it. I
may have been a crap director.
Only one way to find out. I think I did a pretty good
job. Not every show was
great but I was very pleased with Wibbly, on the whole.
It's a great thing making a show, you know. You're
making these things,
directing or art directing, doing boards. It's a lot
of time and effort. Really long
hours. A lot of guys dismiss things from the sidelines
that don't seem up to
scratch, but anyone that gets something made and on screen
has done okay.
They've worked hard.
That's a sentiment I've taken very much to heart,
here at Toonhound.
I don't have time for all those partypooper critics
who deride every new
film or series that comes their way. If you can
haul yourself out of that
development pool and into production, with all those
eventually on to our screens - well - that in itself
is something to
celebrate. But I'm interupting here, so let's get back
Well, when I got on board I think funding as pretty
much in place. We had no
pilot so we had to kind of move quickly and get the show
and workflow sorted
out fast. The animation team at 9 Story in Canada did
an amazing job.
They nailed the look.
Having those kids voice the series, was that something
that was built
in from the start, or did you toy with more traditional
The voices were all Will and Ian the producers,
they handled the auditions.
They are both exceptions in the producing world. In my
Very clever, talented men. Strong ideas about things,
but very appreciative
of your own talent and keen to let you do your thing.
Protective of me and
the show when called for, also. They let me do my job.
I also had Sandra
Foran, Rachel Perry and Will Jordan looking after me.
Great people at Wish,
they really know their stuff.
52 episodes must have felt like a mountain to climb.
How long does it take to turnaround each tale?
52 episodes were a mountain, yes. Like I said before,
its an enormous
undertaking. No idea how the Canadian team got the animation
done on time.
Especially with me bugging them. I think it was two teams
overlapping with a
two week turnover for each show, for animation. It's
like that through the whole
production. Multiple overlapping team. Poor Will
(Jordan) was always juggling
the shedule around...
Mick Inkpen is such a big name in the preschool world,
did he have
much input on the series?
Mick Inkpen really liked the show. Very happy with it.
He gave me a signed
book with a nice little note, anyway. Wibbly was animated
in Flash. The book
had a strong look which we had to get and Wib himself
was tough to nail.
An illustration can differ greatly through a book. We
put together a bible of
the best most Wibbly Wibblys and tried to work
out a turnaround of him.
It was very tricky, the front view was nailed as was
the side, but they were
very different, proportionally. In the end we cheated.
If in doubt cheat. The
rendering looked very like the book images, thanks again
to the Canadian
folks. But, yes, Wibbly was a great experience.
Will tells me Wib is doing well internationally. Its
on in 17 countries now and
so hopefully some merchandise will come out soon and
I can get some
So now there's the triumvirate that is Freakish Kid,
how did the
three of you come together?
Greykid (as they were) were looking for someone to do
So I dropped a line to Stu Gamble and he liked what I
did, so I started working
with them on Cluckie (The Vampire Chicken!). I totally
dived in to it, interfered
in any aspect I could. It was a great first thing to
work together on. So often
in the past I'd go full steam on a project, produce lots
of images, trying to cover
every aspect of the show - pose it out, time it, paint
colour keys, etc. Then
I'd be shut out from that point on, and the final
thing was (nine times out of ten)
rubbish. My efforts had been misunderstood, badly carried
out, or ignored.
Obviously this happens, being freelance. If I was directing
these things you
make sure you were understood, but working on something
for a short time
frustrated. The bad part was, I was starting to do less.
I was a bit jaded, I think.
The great thing about Freakish Kid is they make the show
understand what you're doing. The team are amazing. Stu
Gambles' the man!
And with the fantastic Dan Ballam (ex creative head of
Cartoon network) involved..
why wouldn't I want to be part of it? Its a good feeling.
We've many things
happening, its very exciting.
I loved what you did with Muddle Earth (you can view
their work here).
How come you didn't get to do the series?
We kind of thought we were going to get the series. It
turns out a few others
thought they were also. You live and learn, though.
Cluckie is FK's first standalone production. And it's
fab. There's a really
hungry feeling about those films, like this is your first
Freaky baby and
you really want to go the extra mile to show what you
Clucky was a great job. I think there is a hungry feeling
about them, yes.
I think we are. I know we wanted to flex out muscles
a bit. As ever, the budgets
weren't great but we thought it was worthwhile to go
overboard with them.
The scripts were always over length, so it was a real
job to cram everything in.
It was good because it meant there was no fat in there.
Any scene that doesn't
progress the story went. Which is the way it should be,
but the way it generally
isn't on most TV shows. They are full of fat.
Maybe it's just me, but, I can see a kind of screwball
underpins a lot of the projects you've worked on. And
it's certainly to
the fore in Cluckie...
Screwball? Never really thought about it like that, its
just the work I've been
lucky enough to have. I think I've been freelance for
so long its been hard to
develop my own thing. I've got better at my job. But
personal work or style
is always in the back seat. My sketchbooks are often
nothing like my work.
A lot darker. But doing your own thing and exploring
other things feeds your
brain and always bleeds into your real work. But I do
naturally go toward
funny stuff, yes. I find it naturally easier to draw...
Which can become dull.
I'm not sure if that makes sense. But it can be
extremely easy to repeat
yourself. But Cluckie, I think, is Stu and myself. I
think in humour and style
it's a good example of where our tastes cross. Anyway,
with the computer
as my crutch I can draw better now. So I do sometimes
like to go down less
screwball routes. Maybe I could draw Gargoyles now. But
I love drawing in ink,
with rags and sticks and spray cans - anything that gets
me away from
Needless to say, we want more Cluckie. Have Nickelodeon
talked about more?
Sadly, I think that's it for Clucky. I'd love to do more
executives move in mysterious ways.
So what's up with Rogue Trooper. Your test
footage is spot on.
Where is that at, right now?
I'd always loved the character. I'd spoken with
Stu about approaching 2000AD,
little knowing that lots of other studios had been trying
the same things for years.
And I found out that Jon Doyle and Steve Maher of Firestep
were working on
something, so I called Jon and had a chat. We did a test,
animating a Dave
Gibbons cover - just a cycle animated by our lead animator
Zoli. I think the
whole thing took about 4 days. Because of that they decided
was going to be one of the projects.
I'm not sure what I can say other than that. As far as
I know, funding is still
being sort. Jon keeps in touch, but you have to forget
about it until it happens.
Most things don't, for one reason or another, come off.
But I'm hopeful. They
asked me to direct, so I really, really hope it does.
That would be a dream
project for me. I know the character inside out, the
old version anyway.
There's a new more extreme version now. Great artwork
but definitely more
bloody than when I used to read it. I say "read",
but I just used to drool over
the amazing art of Cam Kennedy. Me and a friend of mine
met up with
him once in London. My friend did the talking. I was
totally star struck.
Do you have a favorite show that you've worked on,
you are most proud of?
God, I must've worked on nearly 50 shows! I can't say
I'm proud of many
of them. Jack and Marcel. Directed by my mate Marc Gordon.
a fantastic show. I did around 50 boards for that. They
were only shorts.
Thats was one of my earliest experiences of being given
some freedom to
have fun. I did a few shows with no script, which was
Philbert Frog, obviously. Great fun. Mostly for the experience
and sharing all the cigarettes with my friend Vince James.
I was passively
on maybe 20 a day, I think - Cheers Vin! - Also Aileen
Rastrick and Michelle
Grainey. They had the girl room (tidy, plants) and we
had the boy room
(pig sty). Fat City FIlms was a great place. Lots of
great people passed
through its doors. I think the fun of the place shows
Clucky the Vampire Chicken. Because of the fantastically
It's one of the nicest things I've worked on so far.
The closest we've come I think.
And we'll end with the obvious question. What's next
Finishing this Arabic show and then a holiday. It's
a great show, but we're
all extremely tired. It's been a tough project for everyone
of budget and time is, as ever, the enemy. Still, we
are nearly there. I gather
there's a lot of buzz about it. Even though I understand
zero Arabic it has
some real laugh out loud moments. Mostly due to the comedy
And it looks great thanks to the animation team at Man
and Ink and the
CG team at Flix, in Manchester. Both working extremely
Hats off to them. We're hopeful of a second season of
There's also lots of other cool projects lining up. 3d
stuff, other peoples shows,
our own ideas, obviously. A new studio in Manchester
also. Which is where
I'm based. Some of the work is done there now actually
but as more projects
start we can really set down there and build a major
animation studio. I'm very
excited about that. I've lots to look forward to, and
lots I want to do, after the
so endeth our little interview that took such a long time to arrive
Once again, I can only apologise to Jez for the delay
and thank him profusely
a) for his patience, and b) for his generosity in
agreeing to talk at such length
about his work.
Oh, and we really must thank Jez again for the fantastic
screen grabs he's let us use to illustrate his Q&A.
You can keep abreast
of all of Jez's latest projects and employment via his
blog, and that fab
Kid web site, where you really must catch up with those
cluckingly-good Cluckie shorts, Rogue Trooper clips,
Till next time!
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