Happy birthday, old bean! (30.07.03)
Hearty congratulations today to the evergreen,
and ever-popular Beano Comic
which has just reached the grand old age
The Beano was born on the 30th July 1938,
was present through the war,
through the cultural revolutions of the
sixties and seventies and on, surviving
the demise of the weekly fun comics in to
the new millennium. It has walked
a delicate tightrope over the decades, attempting
to balance current trends and
fashions with the old comic favourites.
Nowadays The Bash Street Kids have
the latest PC's and Gameboys, but their
teachers still don bow-ties and
olde worlde mortar boards. The publishers have
always drifted towards slightly
safer, conservative waters but actually, that's
helped ensure the comic's
survival because it means The Beano - and
The Dandy, too - never alienate
their audience, and there's something to
appeal and appease both older
and younger generations of readers....
Indeed, The Beano comic operates on the
same lines as the BBC - In the
same way their Saturday Morning shows, or
CBBC output will never be quite
as 'trendy' as their rivals, but where they
follow they'll always introduce an extra
helping of quality. And boy, what quality!
We all can relate to the comic in relation
to a particular era. Yours Truly
grew up with The Beano in the 1970's, when Biffo
The Bear was a cover star,
and Dennis & Gnasher, Roger The Dodger,
Billy Whizz, Minnie The Minx and
The Bash Street Kids rubbed shoulders with Lord
Snooty, Little Plum, The Three
Bears, The McTickles, Baby-Face Finlayson,
Grandpa, The Nibblers and Billy
The Cat & Katie. Looking back at those comics,
and the annuals and specials,
what's remarkable is the technical
quality of those strips. The draughtsmanship
was, and is still, extraordinary; wonderful full-bodied
figures, three-colour stories
told with absoloute clarity and precision.
Today's Beano is still strong, but strip styles
have moved on with the times.
Now we have full-colour art, close-up panels,
and looser energetic strip-work
like Nick Brennan's tube-limbed figures,
or Hunt Emerson's scratched, relaxed
panels - alongside those classic 'toons'
of Barry Appleby and Barry Glenard.
and Dave Eastbury. And then, of course,
there's the extraordinary individual
madness of Tom Paterson...
Whilst other comics have come and gone around
it, The Beano still stands
strong. And it will probably still be with
us for it's 70th and 80th birthday,
And even though it may have abandoned its
print form and shifted on to
disc, or on to the web or grid, it will
still be familiar and appreciated by us
all - be we young or old. The anniversary
edition is in newsagents now, and
features a reunion between the original
and present day stars of the comic.
The BBC has a splendid online natter with
Barry Appleby, whilst TheGuardian
have talked with the cartoon genius of Leo Baxendale...
More: Beanotown BBC
CGI Avon calling (24.07.03)
Remember that cardboard and stickyback plastic
sci-fi series 'Blake's 7'?
Well, many of you will know it's coming
back to our screens, courtesy of
Andrew Mark Sewell and B7 Enterprises who
is currently up to his eyes
developing the new-look tv series. But many
of you may not know that there
are plans to bring it back in animated form alongside
its live-action return.
Andrew talked about his plans for the series
over at the splendid
news site C21media.
The animated 'Blake's 7' will be a CGI affair, based
upon the original scripts by Terry Nation.
26x26min episodes are planned,
and a deal with a 'high-end CGI studio'
is in the pipeline. There's even talk
of original star Paul Darrow returning to
News of an animated 'Blake's 7' comes hot
on the heels of the recent
BBCi / 'Dr Who' toon heralded last week.
Richard E Grant will be voicing
the Time Lord for the new run, which is
being animated by the always-busy
The live-action-to-toon sci-fi translation
is an interesting development,
tried before of course. 'Star Trek' and
'Planet Of The Apes' spring to the
mind first; the former is still well-regarded
in fan circles too. The advances
in CG technology of the last decade are
immense and have blurred the
line between live-action and animation.
Witness 'Final Fantasy', 'The
Animatrix' etc. It will be intriguing to
see how Blake and The Dr.
Hallways and forever (21.07.03)
Last Thursday (17th July) staff and friends
of Cosgrove Hall Films celebrated
and applauded the end of an extraordinary
era in British animation history with
the official retirement of true blue
Toon God Mark Hall. Mr Hall is of course,
the long-time animation partner of
the equally-legendary Brian Cosgrove
Over the last three decades these two toon
stars have built up an animation
studio and team of world renown. Cosgrove
Hall have produced umpteen
top-quality toons and films,
blending techniques, developing new talent and
facilities up there in Chorlton-cum-Hardy,
and consistently pushing at the envelope
of tv animation. Their creations have travelled
the length and breadth of the globe,
winning them shelf-loads of animation
awards and - more importantly - winning
the hearts and minds of many a toon
fan en route With 'Chortlon &
and the rest, Cosgrove Hall reinvented 'children's animation
making it just-as appealing to adults
and enriching our worlds with bucketloads
of fun and nonsense. Films like 'The
Pied Piper Of Hamelin' and 'The Fool Of
The World' have amazed us with their
studious technique. And over the last
decade they have perfected the children's
TV package, producing a stream of
superbly realised and presented toons
which manage to walk the corporate
tightrope, tickling our toon buds
without ever feeling 'homogenised' or overtly
formulaic. By 'eck they've done well,
And now Mark is deservedly taking
his feet off the company pedals and on
to a comfy footstool alongside those
of Brian Cosgrove, who stepped off the
machine himself a year-or-two ago.
But never fear, because the studio these
two founded together with John Hambley
is flushed with success right now.
& Ben', 'Andy Pandy', 'Engie Benjy', 'Little Robots' and the
multi-award winning 'Albie'. Coming
soon is 'Postman Pat' for Entertainment
Rights. Then there's the just-announced
animated 'Dr Who' for BBCi
(with Richard E Grant) and the company's
very first foray into adult animated
territory 'The Inbreds'. Certainly,
Mark Hall's retirement marks the end of an
extraordinary era. But truly, the
company's future looks as rosy as ever...
Monkeying around (22.07.03)
Are you sitting comfortably? - You
won't be for much longer. At least, you
won't be if you tune into 'Monkey
Dust' on BBC2 this week. 'Monkey Dust'
is an anarchic animated sketch
show originally commissioned for BBC3,
where it caused much furore for it's loud
and lewd content. Indeed, The Beeb
are said to have gotten so cold footed
over the production when it first launched
that they prevented any preview tapes
from being sent out and ordered that the
show's web site be taken down (according
to The Sunday Times, anyway).
That's normally the best way to get
your show noticed. But alas, this was BBC3
which a large chunk of the UK still can't
tune in to, and the rest can't be bothered
to view anyway. Hence the switch to BBC2...
'Monkey Dust' is produced and co-written
by Harry Thompson, whose credits
include 'Have I Got News For You' and 'The
11 O'Clock Show'. It's a mad and
bloody cocktail of political and celebrity
jibes, japes and jeers - a halfway house
between '2DTV' and 'Aaagh!
- It's The Mr Hell Show'. The Beeb begin re-screening
the entire first series on BBC2 from Thursday
July 24th at 11.20pm (after 'Newsnight')
and it will be intriguing to see if they
stick to this script, given the way they gave
Mr Hell the runaround...
Water film! (15.07.03)
Animator, director and all-round toon star
Graham Ralph got in touch with
The Hound the other day to talk about his
flippin' fabulous feature 'Water Warriors'.
Graham is the director of Silver
Fox films, and he's the creative force behind
such hit series and films as 'Spider',
'The Forgotten Toys', 'Angelmouse',
'The Second Star To The Left' and 'The
First Snow Of Winter' which has just
been added to the Mini Movie Guide. Plus
he and Silver Fox make up one
third of the 'Bounty
Hamster' co-production, of which this site has expounded
'Water Warriors' is being touted as 'Braveheart
with frogs'. It's a CGI feature
film focusing on the amphibious inhabitants of
a small pond, and in particular,
young Dudley the smallest frog in the pond. Here's
'When aliens crash land in
their pond, they enslave the pond creatures
to help raise their spaceship
and then plot to remove all the world's water!
Dudley and a group of
motley outcasts are the only ones left to thwart their
Sounds like fun, doesn't it? - And looks like
it too, judging by the pre-production
sketches on the Silver
Fox page, and that highly-desirable Dudley poster image.
Graham tells us that pre-production is going
splendidly well. The film is being
produced with Jim Henson's Creature Shop - who
are no strangers to frogs
of course - and the project is backed by the
British Film Council. Henson have
developed a new digital system that enables performance-controlled
Schedules and contracts permitting Jeremy Irons,
Stephen Fry, Cathy Burke,
and Geoffrey Palmer are just some of the voice
talents being lined up for
Graham has been working up the project for some
time now, and he tells us
that they're on schedule to be in full production
early next year. The film looks
like being a splendid mix of action, silliness,
and very cute amphibians. And the
whole pond environment-thing surely lends itself
to some beautiful CGI scenery,
doesn't it? - Gosh, The Hound can hardly wait..
Stay tooned for more soon!
Grand title change, Gromit! (16.07.03)
What's this? - It seems that Nick Park
and Aardman Animation's long-awaited
Wallace & Gromit feature film could be up
for a title change, if you believe the
folks at 'Entertainment Weekly'. According
to the latest edition, what was once
'Wallace & Gromit in The Great Vegetable
Plot' has now apparently become
'Wallace & Gromit in The Were-Rabbit', which
frankly, doesn't sound half as
good as that original title...
...But what is extra exciting about
this 'change' is the plot twist it reveals at last.
You see, Nick Park has previously only referred
to the movie as being 'a vegetarian
horror film', and there have been no plot revelations
thus far. What great plot was
afoot, exactly? Now we know, there'll be
ghostly goings-on with a rampant rabbit
raiding Wallace's prize allotment, or something
similar (and no doubt, the finger of
suspicion will fall on young Gromit once more:
'Have you been a bit peckish, lad?'). Gosh,
a rabbit with pointy teeth, straight out of Monty Python, stalking our
dynamic duo by moonlight. How exciting!
And this is where I receive a dozen emails,
telling me I'm wrong. Hmm. I guess
we'll just have to wait and see, won't we,
Cracking auctions, Gromit! (04.07.03)
Trousers at the ready! - It's Friday July
4th here in the UK, which means it's
time for the inaugural official Wrong Trousers
Day, sponsored by that cracking
duo Wallace & Gromit....
As reported back
in May, the Grand
Appeal has been around a while now,
helping to raise £12million for Bristol's
Hospital For Sick Children. But as of
this year the organisation has gone UK-wide,
taking the idea of folks paying
£1 to wear 'wrong trousers' for charity
to the length and breadth of the country,
and a bunch of celebrities have taken up
the challenge to ensure the
hopefully-annual event starts with a bang.
Now better yet, to tie in with the Uk-wide
launch those extra-generous folks
at Aardman Animation have donated some incredible
items to a series of
auctions being held online. And when The Hound says 'incredible',
he means stuff that will really get animation
fans salivating and - ideally -
their wallets out and ready to spend until
their desires are satiated...
Oh yeah, like what?
Well how about an original model of Morph,
or Rex The Runt, or Nick Park
signed art, or a Chicken Run chicken pie prop?
- Yep, this stuff is an Aardman
fan's dream, guaranteed to get you spending.
So what are still doing here?
check the auctions!...
...And when you're done there, you can stop
by the Aardmarket at Aardman's
site. Why? Well, Bristol's finest are also offering to make donations
grand cause on a selection of online purchases,
like special Grand Appeal mugs,
and a nifty Wrong Trousers mini-clock. Think
I might get one of these for
a better site...
You know, this site construction
lark is a time-consuming thing. Over the
last four years Toonhound has grown from a single
page of cartoon links, in
to this 550+ page behemoth. And it's still expanding,
new toons are indexed, gaps are filled and content
is added. What's more,
The Hound has to update, upgrade and maintain
it all on his lonesome,
and for free. It sure eats up a lot of time.
That's why I have to apologise for the delay in
completing some of the upgrades
that were promised last month. As you must surely be
aware, the site is
currently perched midway into a substantial upgrading
of pages. The new
look site does away with some of the 'fussier'
layout, like the old rollover
buttons, in the hope of speeding up load times and
clearing file space for
more toon content. Now, last month I promised
not only to introduce the
brand new Toon Movie Guide, but also to complete
the upgrading of the
TV Toons section.
But alas, neither were completed on schedule because
as it happens, too many 'other things' intervened...
Now hold on, this wasn't a bad thing. You see,
two of those 'other things'
have now arrived on the site. The first was a splendid
email exchange with
Edward Oliver - he being the former Fleetway employee who
brought us Cliff Hanger, Master Mind, The Champ
and more. JEO's Fresco
is a darned cute creation, worth bumping an update-or-two
for I'd say.
And then? - Why, then there was Rick
Cassman, the musical maestro
who co-wrote the music for 'Bounty Hamster'; a
true Toonhound favourite.
When Rick dangled the very tempting carrot of
a BH theme for exclusive
inclusion on the site, well, who could resist...?
So you see, though there may be times when The
Hound appears to let
you down there's invariably a jolly good reason behind
the change of plan.
This month The Hound promises faithfully to at
least complete that much
requested and oft-promised TV Toons upgrade.
Unless, of course, temptation
comes a-calling once more...
As always, stay tooned!