Not content with dominating cinemas, and headlines,
have recently been pressing their advantage on the
tv front as well...
For starters, our woolly pal Shaun the Sheep turned
out to be the toast
of this year's MIPCOM tv market. As
you may recall, Shaun is about to star
in his very own BBC series, and Aardman have racked
up some very healthy
broadcast sales for the 40 x 7mins production.
According to the new press blurb, Shaun will encounter
- quote - problems
that threaten his peaceful life, while making some
unlikely friends in the
process - end quote. Which doesn't really tell us much
at all. In fact,
we were given more info last year, when the project
was first announced.
(He'll be synchronised swimming and scarecrow-posing,
I believe). But
who cares? - This one's bound to be a cracker,
indeed, it's set to be a
Christmas one, because it's due for delivery in December
Meanwhile, it's time for us to set our videos
for the imminent return of
those "Creature Comforts". The second
series of this top show begins this
coming Sunday, 30th October on ITV. And once again,
the show is
going out in conjunction with ITV's flagship soap
This time, it's airing just before the soap, at
7.20pm, and judging by the
promos that have been running recently, it's just
as sharp as series one...
Back on the big screen, "Were-Rabbit"
is already hopping past the magic
$100m mark. As of this weekend (21st - 23rd October),
the movie has raked
in $44m Stateside, $29m in the UK and a tasty
$108 worldwide. It's particularly
heartening to see it holding steady at cinemas, with
very little drop-off,
week-on-week - this at a time when exhibitors are examining
takings with a microscope, and postulating as
to the causes. Well, Nick
Park and friends obviously know the answer: They
should make more
cracking films like theirs!...
You know, Simon and Sara Bor and the folks at Honeycomb
must be buzzing right now. This week, their splendid
work on those
"Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids" has
been rewarded with a double
BAFTA nomination, and the news comes hot on the
heels of a
brand-new toon commission.
"Funky Town" follows in the footsteps
- er - make that hooveprints - of "Funky
Valley" which has had a very successful run
as part of Five's "Milkshake!" strand. Voiced by Mark W-W-W-Williams, "Funky
Valley" followed the
everyday lives of several slightly strange farmyard
animals. And "Funky
Town" continues the tales... in a town. Allan
Plenderleith (The Odd Squad, Gordon the
Garden Gnome) is the town writer, with Mark Williams returning
for voice-over duties. Dippy the Cow and Clara
the Hen will be departing
Funky Valley for the joys of city life, together
with a host of new friends,
and we'll be able to view the results next year...
That funky commission joins the previously-announced
news that two
more series of "Grizzly Tales" are also
in the pipeline.
Now as if awards and commissions weren't enough,
this coming week,
Honeycomb will be celebrating the
of their fat cat show Binka.
Target Entertainment are releasing the moggy on
Monday 24th, and their disc
includes 8 original episodes with some new bonus
material to boot.
And on top of all that, there's that thoroughly
modern rhino Randolph,
could soon be charging down a commission
(again, see August's edition).
Which tells us that Honeycomb's little studio
is most definitely a hive
of activity at the moment!...
Ah, yes, the leaves are falling from the trees,
the Autumn floods are upon us,
and any minute now the clocks will spring back
an hour. Which means it's
time for the folks at BAFTA to roll out the
red carpet to a few select series and
specials, in advance of their nail-biting, tux-wearing,
Children's awards ceremony.
This year's event pitts two pairs of cranky twins
against some nasty goblins and
an ickle reindeer in the Best Animation section.
Whilst the Pre-School award
promises to be the closest ever, as a bunch of
pigs, penguins, koalas and
witches familiars slug it out for the trophy...
Here are the relevant nominees:
A GRIZZLY NEW YEAR'S TALE: THE CRYSTAL EYE
Production Team (Grizzly TV/CiTV)
THE CRAMP TWINS
Denise Green, Frank Gresham (Telemagination/Cartoon
Network/Cartoon Network UK/BBC)
THE LITTLE REINDEER Jonathan
Peel, Dave Unwin (Millimages UK/CiTV)
THE TALE OF JACK FROST Neil Graham,
Alastair Swinnerton (Jack Frost Productions/Zoo Films/CBBC)
THE KOALA BROTHERS David Johnson,
Tobias Fouracre (Famous Flying Films/Spellbound Entertainment/CBBC)
Phil Davies, Mark Baker, Neville
Astley (Astley, Baker, Davies/Nickelodeon UK)
MEG AND MOG
Roger Mainwood (Absolutely Productions/CiTV)
Bella Reekie, Kevin Walton (HOT Animation
for HIT Entertainment/CBBC)
See what I mean? - Those four Pre-school
series are inseparable. I'd hate
to be the one deciding between them. Peppa's
snortingly good. Oh, but
Pingu is another HOT hit, and those Koalas
are simply bonzer. Meg and Mog
cast their own little spell upon us viewers too.
The Animation category feels a tad more certain.
The Hound has his money
on little Jack
Frost. It's a very atmospheric film, with some great character
design, a haunting theme song, and - more
specifically - a raft of top toon
talent behind it. Dare I suggest this is Jack's
year? Oh, no doubt I'll be far
wide of the mark. BAFTA will probably zap me
into a mirror and force me to
watch as some other Grizzly folks step up to
the podium (that's the plot
of "The Crystal Eye", in case you weren't
Actually, that Grizzly film might well profit
in another awards section, because
Jamie Rix has been nominated in the Original
Writing category. Certainly,
one of the great charms about the whole
"Grizzly Tales" series has been the
fantastic storytelling, with its witty asides
and twists. An award would be
As for the rest, well, the "pick" of
the other categories surely goes to
Fungus the Bogeyman. The BBC's great green adaptation
of Raymond Briggs'
famous book has been rewarded with nods
for Best Drama and for Best
Adaptation (stand up Mark Haddon).
You'll find a full list of categories and
nominations on the BAFTA web site.
Meanwhile, those nominees have a nervous month
to endure before the
gongs are handed round on November 27th...
The Hound can only add to the chorus of sympathy that's
to the Aardman Animation team today. The
news that their warehouse
of artifacts, props, sets and characters from their films
has been razed to the ground is doubly terrible, given that
we all should
have been celebrating Wallace and Gromit's success at
this last weekend.
The fire has certainly dampened down the good
news that "Curse of the
Were-Rabbit" took a shade over $16m at the US
Friday and Sunday, putting it at number one on
the American movie
charts. "Were-Rabbit's" take wasn't
spectacular, being slightly under
that of "Chicken Run", which eventually
clucked off with $106m over
there, back in 2000. But "Chicken Run" had
a high Summer release,
and "Were-Rabbit" has also launched
midst an all-pervading box-office
malaise in the USA. That number one spot and the
positive reviews will hopefully keep the film
cranking along very nicely
for the next few weeks, regardless...
Meanwhile, Wallace, Gromit, Hutch and friends
burrowed up $5m in paid
previews from the UK, which bodes very well indeed
for this Friday's
nationwide release. Our High Streets are beginning
to overflow with
an allotment's-worth of cracking licensed
products, and our media is
saturated with tie-in tales about Portland
rabbits and their ilk. And now
there's the fire, making headlines for all the wrong
But boy, how humble was Nick Park, who took such
a gracious step
back to remind folks that there's much greater
pain in the world today,
with all the terrible stories emerging from Asia:
"Even though it is a precious and nostalgic collection
valuable to the company, in light of other tragedies,
isn't a big deal..."
Which is probably just how Wallace himself might
No doubt, he'd already be designing some
storage facility to replace the old. But no amount
of gusto can hide
the fact that this is a sad, sad, day for animation
At last, fans of Mr
Benn needn't spend silly amounts of money on eBay,
tracking down secondhand video copies of this classic
show, because it's
just been released on DVD for our delight!
And what a delight it still is. Mr
Benn - The Complete Series
us from Contender, and it does exactly what
it says on the tin - er - cover,
presenting all thirteen original episodes of this splendid
series, as well as the
recent new addition, "Mr Benn - Gladiator",
and a little bonus documentary too. As soon as that diddly-pom xylophone theme
begins, and Ray Brooks' warm
narration starts to flow, folks of a certain age will
be transported (by magic, even)
right back to their childhood, and those week day lunch times
in front of the telly. And they'll be relieved to discover that the
series has lost none of its appeal.
Mr Benn is whisked away from Festive Road to become
a Knight, a Spaceman,
Clown and Cowboy, etc. And in each tale he travels,
observes, and calmly rectifies
wrongs before being whisked back home to the Fancy
Dress Shop, with a
memento in hand.
So just what is it about this show that's just so appealing?
- Is it David McKee's
glorious design, with that flattened perspective
(more pronounced in the story
books, but still present in the series). Is it the
stories, that have such simple,
clever twists in their telling. Or perhaps it's in
that theme of the ordinary man,
escaping his humdrum days for something fantastic and exotic?
Well, of course, it's all those things. But there's
something more here, and it
probably relates to Mr Benn's introspective attitude.
Our bowler-hatted friend
never shouts about his adventures. He doesn't run up
and down Festive Road
like a lunatic, raving about his magical travels. No,
he simply blends back in to
the world. He observes the Mums and Dads, the kids
in the street, from behind
his living room curtains. To everyone else he's just
a regular, pinstriped gentleman.
But Mr Benn has a secret, doesn't he? A very special
secret that's meant only
for him and the viewer. Our secret, then. Something to
share and keep between
usfor always, and for ever. And that really
Blimey-o-riley, October has been an extraordinary month,
and it's all down
to our pals Wallace and Gromit. Anyone who's been
following this site since
its' inception (goodness, is there anyone?) will know
that The Hound has
always been a huge fan of the duo from West Wallaby
they were present in the very
first news page. Anyway,
the point is, since
the arrival of "Were-Rabbit" and its worldwide
box office assault, stats for
this site seem to have gone ballistic. Everyone and
anyone seems to be
dropping by to check out the news, the
movie page, and of course,
Collectibles mini-site. And more importantly,
they're using those pages as a springboard into other
the site and the creations indexed there...
Now what's particularly heartening to see is that
a great many visitors
and emailers seem to be dropping in from places
outside of the UK.
They've come here looking for Wallace and Gromit,
the rest of this place. And that's "cracking"
news indeed, because it means
that this here site is finally achieving its original
goal, of spreading the joys
of Brit animation and its associated realms to
a worldwide audience.
You know, when you're tapping away on your keyboard,
on your lonesome
at 2.00am, you do sometimes wonder if you're simply
preaching to the
converted. Now I know for sure that I'm not, and Wallace
and Gromit and
that carrot-munching, chart-topping Were-Rabbit are
the ones to thank...