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Toonhound presents...






       June 2006
 Extra! Extra! - Read all the Toon News!
      Perishin' news

  Farewell, The Perishers...  

      More trouble, Petunia
   Joe and Petunia are back...  

      Oh no, it's Emu!
  Rod Hull's puppet returns...

    Funky news, beastly news
 New deals for Honeycomb Animation...  

    RIP Kids TV
 Is the axe about to fall?...  

    Ice to see you
 Chorlton & the Iceworld on DVD...  

   A cracking award

 Aardman co-founders collect a CBE...  
   Lights! Camera! Info!
   Toonhound keeps on growing...   more »

      news archive »     interviews »      giveaways »

   Funky news, beastly news  (28.06.06)

    Honeycomb Animation have been in touch this week. They want
    to let folks know that a second series of "Funky Valley" has just been
    commissioned by Five. That's their jolly show about a bunch of
    mismatched farm animals who are "passed their sell-by date, surplus
    to requirements or are just too eccentric to fit in anywhere else!"
    It's a fun series, for sure. Look out for season two on Five next year,
    where it will sit funk-tastically alongside its spin-off Funky Town...

    Honeycomb are also putting together a beastly new toon project
    with Andy Wyatt, the director of Aardman Animation's "Planet Sketch".
    "Beastly Behaviour" is a series of - erm - naturalistic toon films
    looking at the birds and the bees of the animal kingdom. That is to
    say, how the birds and the bees make the birds and the bees - if you
    know what I mean!

    From whales, to fireflies, cockroaches and earthworms - no reproductive
    stone is left unturned in this exploratory toon show. And what's more,
    thanks to mobile content specialists Mobile Streams, you can even get
    to watch these beastly films via The Comedy Channel on Vodafone Live
    in the UK.

    Yep, you got. Phone sex. Just for you!

    "Beastly Behaviour" follows in the clay-steps of Morph, in the walk
    from tv to phone. A short while ago, Aardman struck licensing deals
    with Orange, Vodafone, T-Mobile, O2 and several international operators
    to secure the return of their clay star, including 35 re-edited shorts from
    the original Morph shows specially designed for mobile phones.

    No doubt, these will be just the first of many such deals as the various
    media conglomerates move to merge TV, movies, phone and Internet
    content across all platforms...

Honeycomb Animation


   RIP Kids TV  (26.06.06)

 Okay, so it's not dead yet, but judging by the slew of depressing
    developments and news reports that have emerged from ITV and the
    BBC in the last few months, childrens programming is very much
    on the block...

    A couple of months back, ITV have requested and received permission to
    reduce the amount of kids tv they broadcast on week day afternoons.
    They have since dropped their big Saturday morning shows in favour
    of a cookery series poached from the BBC. And as the World Cup football
    bounced on to our screens in June, they used its arrival to drop those
    afternoon shows altogether and instead direct folks to the CiTV channel.
    Last week, they announced that they were closing down their in-house
    kids production outfit. And since then, rumours have circulated around
    the media, suggesting that they would prefer to do away with their
    tea-time commitments permanently, and indeed, wind down the
    CiTV channel, just a few scant months after it was launched.

    The reasons behind ITV's Big Decisions are complex. It's all to do with
    falling advertising revenues, the seemingly-imminent junk food advertising
    ban, the dissipation of audiences through digital TV and satellite channels,
    and a tumbling share price on the Stock Exchange.

    Some of those problems affect the BBC too. Though they are not
    reducing their commitment to a regular tea-time schedule for kids, they
    are changing its make-up dramatically. They recently announced that
    their CBBC output would hereby concentrate solely on the preschool
    market, to the exclusion of anything aimed at teenagers or young adults.

    Thus in a series of short fell swoops, these two terrestrial channels
    have sought to undermine a schedule that has developed and flourished
    over the last 40 years, to the envy of the rest of the television world.
    And there seems to be little we can do to prevent it from the
    guillotine from falling...

    Imagine, no more kids shows on ITV, and the BBC - publicly funded,
    we should remind ourselves - concentrating solely on those cookie
    cutter series produced by their pals in the rights industry. You know,
    those companies who have been snapping up the rights to classic
    characters to use as bargaining chips on the Stock Exchange.
    How come none of us get a say in this very big decision?

    Everyone knows the days when we all sat down to watch "The Magic
    Roundabout", "Roobarb" and "Willo the Wisp" together are long gone.
    Those shows were picking up eight, nine or ten+ million viewers
    each day, whereas today's schedulers would be ecstatic to reach
    that kind of audience at the peak of a Saturday night.

    Everyone knows that today's kids play on their gamestations,
    they surf the web, text their friends or bury themselves in the drone
    from their iPods in a seemingly singular experience, whilst Mum or
    Dad or both slog their way home from the office or Call Centre.

    But the terrestrial stations surely have a duty to keep providing young
    viewers with stimulating television they can view, digest, and then explore
    further through other channels and media. This isn't a commercial
    decision. It's a necessity. It's akin to dropping education from our
    society because too many kids bunk off.

    For four decades, ITV and the BBC have masterminded a supremely
    balanced schedule, mixing weird and wonderful homegrown series and
    American imports that reached out to everyone, young or old, big or
    small. Some worked, some didn't, some were aimed at tiny tots, others
    grasped out to spotty teenagers who didn't give a hoot. But it was there,
    waiting to be chanced upon, waiting to be discovered, in a rock solid
    slot, at its peak, 3.30pm to 5.30pm every week day. You turned it on,
    you gave it a look. And some of us lapped it up. They even went on
    to build web sites dedicated to spreading the word...

    But if you think this is curtains for the audience, these Big Decisions
    may well sound the death toll for the creative folks out there. It was that
    same jamboree of programming that chanced upon Dave Sproxton and
    Peter Lord, Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, Brian Cosgrove and Mark
    Hall. It allowed Gordon Murray, Michael Cole, Ivor Wood, Gerry Anderson,
    Mary Turner and John Read and so very many others to experiment,
    to expand and to flourish. Some of their small series were spectacular
    successes, whilst others slipped beneath the radar. But at least they
    had the chance to tinker and toy, and to think outside the box.

    Are we to have a future where every new show is simply poured into
    a pre-fashioned mould; where 52 episodes are "acquired" from a
    corporate partner, with a star character who can be retooled and
    dressed for every new show, and each concocted to the same
    formula - one dash of "fun", two dashes of "education", a tablespoon
    of "toy licence", et voila!

    Kids TV is dead - Love live Kids TV!


   Ice to see you  (20.06.06)

    By 'eck, this is summat' to shout about. Fremantle Home Entertainment
    have just re-released "Chorlton and the Wheelies" on DVD, only this time,
    the three series are being presented in one handsome slipcase. And
    they're packaged up with a fourth disc, now containing Chorlton's
    chortling Christmas Special, Chorlton and the Iceworld.

      Chorlton & The Wheelies box-set from Fremantle Media...

    That's a reet grand little film, is that one. Fenella's Doomsday Special
    goes awry and conjures up a gaggle of creepy Snow Men, under the
    control of the dreaded Snow King. The film's been out on VHS before,
    but this the first time it's slipped on to disc

    Like last month's timely release of Wind in the Willows, Chorlton has
    been spruced up as part of Cosgrove Hall's 30th anniversary celebrations.
    That there Happiness Dragon was the first character to get his own
    series when the company was founded, back in 1976. And as most
    folks know, he took his name from Chorlton-cum-Hardy, where the duo
    based their fledgling studio.

    Of course, before Chorlton, Brian and Mark were Stop-Frame Productions,
    and they gave us the Magic Ball, and Sally & Jake, and The Hound is still
    holding out for these to appear on DVD some way, some how, some time.

    He's also holding out for his very own Happiness Dragon. Seriously.
    How is it that three decades have gone by, with Chorlton and his 
    Wheelieworld pals sitting atop the Big Tree of Cult TV Shows, and
    yet no one has thought to produce any Chorlton figures, statues or
    plush toys? - There must be folks out there just as keen to get their
    hands on a Chorlton maquette, or a talking figure, or just a plain old
    heaknocker-come-wobbler. In the States, Funko have been producing
    a fantastic range of Hanna-Barbera Wacky Wobblers and ltd edition
    "Wacky Races" figures (available from Lollipop Animation). How about
    someone doing something similar, here in the UK with Cosgrove Hall's
    back catalogue?

    By 'eck, we can all dream, can't we?

Chorlton and the Iceworld


   A cracking award  (19.06.06)

    Aardman co-founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton picked up a
    rather handsome, and thoroughly deserved, CBE over the weekend.
    The duo were included in this year's special Birthday Honour's list,
    celebrating the Queen's 80th birthday, and were duly invited to
    Buckingham Palace to collect their award.

    Lord and Sproxton began working together back in 1972, when they
    introduced their Aardman character to the world. And the chap gave
    his name to their new enterprising production company, instigated in
    1976. That makes the company 30 years young this year - Gawd
    bless 'em.


    Aardman's first job was to create the character of Morph, for the BBC's
    "Take Hart". And my, what a revelation he turned out to be. He roamed
    around that desk and studio, and interacted so obstreperously with his
    human host. His antics were an inspiration for budding animators

    And that's the thing about the Aardman studio, name and brand. They're
    inspirational. Over the ensuing three decades they've wowed us with that
    amazing "Sledgehammer" video, they've opened our eyes wide with
    those "Conversation Pieces". And then - why - then they teamed up with
    Nick Park, and hit that big ball of plasticene brilliance right out of
    the park...
Aardman Animation

   Perishin' news  (13.06.06)

    Well it was probably inevitable, but just six short months since
    we lost Maurice Dodd, his masterful newspaper strip "The Perishers"
has come to an end.

    Wellington, Maisie, Marlon and the rest have been a feature in
    "The Daily Mirror" since 1957, and in their first few decades, the gang
    scuffed, scuffled and debated their way through a series of inspired strips. 
    These tearaways were Britain's repost to the Peanuts brigade. They were
    rougher round the edges, with dirty knees, and they fueled their antics
    and debacles with great mouthfuls of tomato ketchup sandwiches.
    In the 1970s, the gang made the leap from print to screen, in
    a fondly-recalled tv series from FilmFair...

    Admittedly, the strips had lost their edge in recent years. And perhaps
    they were being retained more for nostalgia's sake. Nevertheless
    the demise of this classic creation is a shock.

    The final strip was published in "The Mirror", 10th June.  And disappointingly,
    the gang were given just a cursory "farewell" from the paper - perhaps
    highlighting the strip's decline. But you would have thought that a 
    49-year tenancy might have earned the gang a better send off?

  Farewell, you perishin' kids!

    Goodness this was a tip-top strip. There was such a sense of place.
    Wellington and company passed through abandoned back-alleys
    and overgrown patches of scrubland. There were panels looking out
    from under the viaduct, with the kids in silhouette - oh - they were
    So that's it. No more discussions about the logistics of carting.
    No more moon-gazing. No more eyeballs in the sky, or fisiticuffing
    beetles. No more musing dogs, no more h'eloquent debates. 
    And no more inch-thick ketchup sandwiches...

    Farewell, indeed, you perishin' kids!

                                               More: The Aunthentic Perishers

   More trouble, Petunia  (08.06.06)

    If you're currently wallowing around in your 30s, or you're older, you'll
    remember the days when the tv channels were awash with Public
    Information films. Many were animated, and top of the memroable list
    were those extraordinary Charley films, with the mewling cat, which
    spawned a 90s revival, a DVD and a hit song.

    But running Charley a close second were a series of films starring Joe and
    Petunia, a postcard couple who taught us all about the Country Code, the
    dangers of driving on worn tyres, and how to save water. Most famously,
    they went to the beach and watched a sailing boat sink as they learnt
    how and when to contact the Coastguard.

    The characters were animated by Nick Spargo, of Willo the Wisp fame.
    and their fabulous Carry-on lines delivered by Peter Hawkins and Wendy

     Joe & Petunia

    ...And now they're back, with a 21st century makeover. The Coastguard
    film has been spruced up and re-edited, ready to broadcast again - in
    time for Summer.

    In the original, Joe rushes to telephone box to make his call. For the
    new film, he now fishes out a mobile phone! But everything stays the
    same: Joe has the self-same knotted hankie on his head: Petunia still
    sports those fantastic sunglasses. And yes, they're still watching a
    "dinge-y" through their binoculars!

    The BBC compare the two version on their news site. But if you care
    to stop by the National Archive you can also view Joe and Petunia's
    Country Code film, as well as those Charley films, Tufty the Squirrel,
    the film about kids learning to swim, and more.

    Noawadays there are fewer Public Information films around, but if you
    look closely, you'll still find a few memorable treats shoehorned into the
    schedules. Studio AKA's hedgehogs teaching us how to cross the road,
    to the accompniment of a Proclaimers tune - that's one you'll still see.
    And no doubt, there'll be folks reminiscing about those prickly
    stars 30 years from now...

                                         More: National Archive  BBC news story


   Oh no, it's Emu!  (08.06.06)

    Yes indeed, that scourge of 70s and 80s tv, the blue-feathered anarchist
    known as Emu is preparing to star in an all-new, 26-part comedy series!

    We all remember Emu, don't we? - He attached himself to Rod Hull's
    right arm back in the early 70s, and steered them both to stardom.
    Together they terrorised the public and presenters alike, most notably
    upstaging Michael Parkinson on his chat show. In the 80s, Emu careened
    through a series of hugely-popular TV shows. "Emu's World", "Emu's Pink
    Windmill Show" and "Emu's Broadcasting Company" also introduced
    us to the delights of the grumbling green witch Grotbags.

    Sadly, Rod Hull died in 1999 and many thought his big blue bird had
    departed with him. But not so, because his son Toby Hull has reclaimed
    Emu from that Great Aviary in the Sky, and he's working with Initial TV
    on this brand new show. Apparently, Emu will communicate with
    viewers a little more - he'll make sounds and noises, rather than "talk".
    Most importantly of all, he'll now be operated independently of a
    human arm (That's right, he'll be a free-range bird!)
    Emu is to ITV what Basil Brush has always been to the Beeb. At their
    peak those Emu series were reaching 11 million viewers. There's great
    potential to tap into here. When The Hound was a lad, he begged his
    parents for his very own Emu puppet and had hours of "fun" marauding
    house guests and relatives (sometimes, he even wore the puppet).
    He was also given - and kept - this fabulous Emu game:

    "Rod Hull's Emu Game" by Denys Fischer

    If the new series crackles and pops like Foxed, we're in for a treat.
    Although there is still one piece missing from Emu's imminent resurrection.
    Grotbags doesn't get a mention anywhere in the press blurbs. Has the
    witch gone missing in action?

   Lights! Camera! Info!  

    Over the years, Toonhound has grown substantially. It was originally
    a simple cartoon hub, a place for links and site reviews on the web
    in a pre-Google era. Then the index pages expanded. New indexes
    developed, and a clutch of mini-sites appeared and sprawled out
    over one hundred, two hundred, three hundred pages and beyond...

    Nowadays, the emphasis has shifted from links to information. Pages
    have grown to encompass more credits, extra background info, criss
    crossing information and DVD links. And a good many folks tell me
    they are using the site as a cartoon database, in much the same way
    as they use the IMDB, or the BCDB. Which explains why we now
    have the latest addition: Broadcast info. Yep, your truly is currently
    updating all those TvToon pages to include details of series premieres
    and air dates, where ever I have them. It's an anal addition, I know,
    but it's something you folks have specifically requested. Seriously,
    it's been a regular feature in my Inbox, alongside requests for
    multi-region DVD links, where applicable (which is another
    request I'm currently fulfilling for you).

    But - and it's a big "but", I know - the expansion and development of
    the TvToons section is coming at a price, because the comics section
    of the site has been woefully neglected of late. Sadly for comics fans
    (and to a lesser extent, puppet fans) those animated series simply have
    to dominate the site right now. They've always received the bulk of
    Toonhound's traffic, and generated the biggest feedback. But I
    promise, I promise, I promise to start attacking the comics section
    with a vengeance just as soon as I've cleared the bulk of the
    TvToons pages.

    All I can say is "keep the faith". I have a dream in my mind's eye.
    One day, every index here will be as encompassing as the TvToons
    and Movietoons sections. And every page will be as up-to-date and
    informative as the current crop of pages. But it's a hell of a lot of work
    for one hound, tapping away on a lonely keyboard, whilst juggling a
    mortgage, wife, two young Springer Spaniels and a misfiring
    creative career!
    Till next time... 

        Pooch says 'Stay tooned!'

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