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        September - 2001

Hmm, did we skip a month? - Sorry about that!

   Diana Wynne Jones is spirited away...
   Studio Ghibli snaps up British author...
   How was it for you, Professor?
   Those 100 kids shows - a lot of yaffle?
Ug! - It's Mr Briggs
3 new projects
from Raymond Briggs...
     Building more hits...
   Bob's rockin' back up the charts...
Christmas in Toronto
Brit flick premieres
in Canada...
   Hare come the cavalry...
   Aardman's messy Hare untangled...
Sites For Sore Eyes
What's this I see?
Another Q&A!
   A site The Guardian likes...
   Actually, they like Toonhound...



    Like some derring Grand Master at the chess board, Japan's Studio
    Ghibli have made a bold move for the rights to British author Diana
    Wynne Jones' classic kids' novel 'Howl's Moving Castle'...

    Ghibli, of course, are riding high on the phenomenal theatrical
    success of their latest animated feature 'Spirited Away' which
    is still breaking records in Japan. And 'Spirited', of course, follows
    in the footsteps of 'Princess Mononoke' which held all those records

    Interesting that the director of 'Howl' is not to be Miyazaki or Takahata,
    the two master animators and Studio Ghibli co-founders, but Mamoru
    Hosoda, a veteran with rival Toei Animation. Hosoda's credits
    include the popular Digimon franchise. That's because 'Spirited'
    is Miyazaki's last ever feature; he's now announced his
    retirement from feature animation...

    The Ghibli Studio has an ongoing distribution deal in the west
    with Disney, but theatrical prospects for 'Spirited' look bleak after
    the debacle over 'Mononoke'. Disney had the movie dubbed into
    english using some prominent Holywood talent (Gilllian Aderson,
    Billy Crudup...) but failed to construct the right kind of promotional
    support for the release. As a consequence, the most successful
    theatrical feature ever to come from Japan barely even scractched
    the surface of the US box office. Right now, there are no plans
    to release 'Spirited Away' in american cinemas - incredible, eh?
    Wynne Jones has been picking up a barrow-load of new sales for
    her classic titles on the back of 'Harry Potter'. Her titles have been
    spledidly repackaged with bold, colourful covers and prominent
    positioning in the major bookstores. 'Howl's Moving Castle' tells
    of a cursed girl called Sophie who must go to Wizard Howl's
    abode for help to remove the spell. There she meets Calcifer,
    Howl's fire demon who may be able to assist her, only he has
    a contract with Howl. If Sophie can break the contract, Calcifer
    can take away Sophie's curse. The book also has a sequel,
    'Castle In The Air'...

    So what's the Big Deal about this aquisition? - Well, think about
    it. Ghibli's films have been woefully mis-treated in western cinemas.
    Now they've picked up such a high-profile western author America
    and Britain and the rest of the world will have to sit up and take
    notice. And maybe, even, Disney will have to re-think their plans
    for 'Spirited Away'...
   You can get the lowdown on 'Spiried Away' here:



     Channel 4's Top 100 Kids' Shows night hit our screens Bank
     Holiday Monday, 27th August and stirred up an awful lot of
     feedback and discussion, as one would expect...

     Apparently some 200,000 people voted in all. It was no surprise
     to find that 'The Simpsons' came out on top, with 'DangerMouse' the
     highest-rated Brit show. But how about a borderline kids' show like
     'Dr Who' coming in at number eight, and the fact that classic
     series like 'Stingray', 'Ivor The Engine' and 'Henry's Cat' didn't
     even make the list at all?

     The evening followed the pattern of previous Top 100's. There
     were a stack of clips cobbled together with mocking links,
     the same glib talking heads and, somewhere in the middle, a few
     golden nuggets for true enthusiasts to savour. Like Peter Firmin
     on camera for the first time in eons, with the original Bagpuss
     figures and set. Like Nick Park enthusing for Noggin The Nog
     and the whole Smallfilms oeuvre. And that fabulous revelation
     about Fenella's anti-Semitic spellbook in Chorlton And The

     And the rest of it? - Well, Jamie Theakston was an odd choice
     for presenter and somehow the thing never quite clicked in the
     way that the Graham Norton 100's did. It lacked that camp, kitsch
     enthusiasm. Much was passed-over (We had just 5 seconds from
     Roobarb) and yet again their were just too many c-list celebrities
     talking about material they knew precious little about - like Ricky
     Gervais recalling the olde Pugwash double entendres, again...

     The exception was Jill from the Tv Lounge website. She was
     brought on camera to expound her sociopolitcial theories on
     Bagpuss and such, and she projected herself very well I thought.
     Encouraging to see how you can get noticed with these here
     website thingys after all...

     But now to the bad side, and one sequence really did 'stand out'.
     Why oh why did they include that bathtime scene with Sooty and
     Sweep? The offending piece involved Sooty, Sweep in a hot tub
     with a third bear head whilst Mr Theakston purred about the
     subliminal naughtiness apparent in many kids tv programmes.
     Frankly, I'm amazed and apalled that this was allowed to happen -
     seriously, Sooty is an ongong children's creation still as popular
     with 5-10 year olds today as he ever was. What on earth would
     you say to a child who had stayed up late to watch their favourite
     bear on tv? - Don't get me wrong, I love stuff that offends the morale
     majority, but this was just plain crass...

     Actually, this highlights what is becoming an increasing
     problem with this new wave of retro-nostalgia for kids shows and
     cartoons. Bringing back your tea-time favourites is all well and
     good, but do we have to degrade them into sloppy, mocking
     copies of their former selves? - Take the new-look Pinky & Perky.
     The brief clip from what looked like their oft-heralded new show
     appeared to be aimed at knowing, goofy adults but was really
     just plain naff. Talk about wasting the potential for these
     classic characters. Why can't they be re-conceived and
     given back to a new generation of kids?

     The Beeb have got things right with their fantastic reinventions
     of 'Noddy' and 'Bill And Ben', courtesy of Cosgrove Hall and some
     careful decision-making. 'Andy Pandy' looks like it might be adapted
     with equal success. Those shows will run and run for as long as the      originals. Please guys, think about the creation, put something new
     into the concept, don't just milk the poor things dry - you're disfiguring
     a magical piece of our childhood - *sigh*

     C4 have posted the full 100 here:

     And don't forget Jill and Stephen's excellent Tv Lounge:

 But enough of all this yaffle. Let's move on to some real
     news, eh?



      Flags at the ready, and all that. Winchester Films' new animated
      adaptation 'Christmas Carol: The Movie' gets its World Premiere,
      15th September at the Toronto Film Festival...

      Promotional posters tell us that this one's 'for everyone who loved
      The Snowman', and moves the spotlight away from the familiar
      image of Scrooge by focusing in on Tiny Tim and the two mice
      who lead us through from the live-action into the animated tale...

      The film and the tie-in single from Kate Winslett (detailed last time)
      are launched in the uk at the end of November. Meanwhile, you
      can pick up all the info on this Brit flick here:



      Blimey, it looks like Bob's spending all his time making records
      instead of actually building anything. Not content with two #1
      hits our jolly fixer is trying to make it a safety-hat trick with
      another Christmas release this year. He's just recorded a new
      version of 'Crocodile Rock' , with Mr Rocketman himself,
      Elton John...

      'Crocodile' is being produced for the Xmas special, currently
      being animated as you read this. Apparently Elton steps in
      to fill the shoes of Chris Evans' character Lenny Lazenby
      after he loses his voice just before the big Christmas bash.
      Noddy Holder and Alison Steadman are also being lined up
      as guest voice artistes on the show...

      Bob's first release 'Can We Fix It?' proved to be the biggest
      selling single of last year.
His version of 'Mambo #5' has just
      leapt into the number one slot, outselling boy band Blue, and
      now there are equally high hopes on him rockin' his way to
      a second succesive Christmas #1 too. But he'll have
      a fight on his hands with Kate Winslet's ballad from the
      animated 'Christmas Carol: The Movie' also being tuned for
      a big December push (see The Hound - July edition)

      You can rock with Bob right now at his official site:



     Following the flood of bad publicity about the stoppage on
     Aardman's new feature film, the company have moved swiftly to
     redress the balance by hiring new screenwriters and putting
     the project back online again - Great news, eh?

     As you may recall, 'Tortoise And The Hare' was the second
     film to be produced under the deal with Dreamworks, and
     was being directed by Richard Goleszowski (Rex The Runt),
     with Peter Lord producing and Nick Park a bit further back
     as an exec. on the film. Work was halted in July with the
     finger pointed at script problems and 90 crew members
     were temporaily laid off...

     Now Rob Sprackling and John Smith, 'two of the UK's hottest
     script talents', have been appointed to the project. These
     two wrote Hallmark Entertainment's forthcoming 'Mike Bassett:
     England Manager', for director Steve Barron ('Teenage Mutant
     Ninja Turtles'). Sprackling also directed the 1998 short 'The Green
     Monkey'. Aardman's spokesman David Rose has been enthusing
     about the duo's talents and how the studio has been tracking
     them for quite some time. They'll be taking over script duties from
     Karey Kirkpatrick and Mark Burton - Karey, of course, wrote
     Aardman's abulous first feature 'Chicken Run'.  All-in-all the hiatus
     is expected to last a maximum of 6 months, with the finished film
     on schedule for release in 2003...

     So all looks set to end well. And you know, a hiatus like this is not
     uncommon in animation. Look at 'Emperor's New Groove' for proof
     of that: re-made, re-titled, and re-scored. I feel sorry for the original
     scripters, getting all that bad press, but you know, it probably won't
     have been their fault anyway. Often problems only arise when you
     get to the shooting stage, even though that shooting draft make
     be stunning on paper...

     It's all been handled so professionally by the Studio, who saw
     sense not to fast-track Nick Park's Wallace & Gromit movie,
     in spite of all those wild rumours...



     Most Toonhound regulars know that I've a soft spot for that
     Gentleman Genius author and illustrator Raymond Briggs -
     He of 'Fungus The Bogeyman' and 'The Snowman' fame.
     (Hell's bells, there are links to my mini-site all over the place!)
     Anyway, there I was bemoaning the lack of projects from the
     Great Man of late when - lo and behold - three spanking new
     happenings land in my lap at once. Yes, that's right, three:

     First up is Briggs' 'Ug: Boy Genius Of The Stone Age' a new book
     detailing the life of a Stone Age lad with a curious mind and a head
     for invention, which he uses to modify and improve things around
     the family cave. More than anything Ug wants to re-invent the
     horrible stone trousers he has to wear, but there are a number of
     obstacles in the way of his desired garment goal. It's published
     by Jonathan Cape and in shops now....

     Also imminent is 'The Adventures Of Bert'. This is a
     collaborative effort between Briggs and the equally-fantastic
     children's author Allan Ahlberg ('Peepo!', 'The Jolly Postman').
     Bert is described as being 'a sublimely comic, hapless and
     harmless nincompoop'. Basically he's as mad as a coot and
     turns even the simplest of chores, like putting on a shirt, in to
     a disaster. But somehow Bert's got married to Mrs Bert,
     and somehow they have a Baby Bert. It's aimed at little kids,
     is this one, with simple text and bold illustration. Readers are
     are asked to turn the pages quietly, so as not to wake Baby
     Bert, whilst all the while big Bert somehow turns the most
     innocuous of household happenings into a series of disasters.
     This one's a Viking Children's Book, also out early September...

     Then, in November, we have Briggs' 'Ivor'. He's an invisible giant
     who comes to live with young John and his family. He's a
     mischievous sort, sometimes helpful, often plain childish and
     badly behaved. Finally, John asks his invisible friend to leave.
     And that's when the big man reveals a big secret...
    'Ivor' looks like being a return to those familiar Briggs themes of
    special childhood friendships, with an injection of social commentary,
    particularly similar to 'The Man' perhaps? - Also, interestingly, it's
    a Channel 4 book release which means it may be a tie-in to a
    tv production? If it is, I haven't heard even a peep about it, but
    you can bet I'll be asking around everywhere to find out if it is...

Typical, eh? - You wait ages for a new project, then three come
    along at once. This handsome trio can be ordered online right
    now, via the fine folk at  Amazon...

    I'll keep you posted about 'Ivor', anyway. Meanwhile for all other
    things Briggsian check out my Gentleman Briggs pages ...



    Now I don't like to brag, as you know, but I couldn't resist
    blowing my own wee trumpet over the most recent review
    of this here web site. It comes from The Guardian online
    and their Filmunlimited section, who placed this here
    review on their front page:

    'The depth of information on this regularly updated site devoted
    to the history of British cartoons is incredible. There's information
    about the most important animators, a complete list of British
    animated films, plus all your favourite TV series and comic strips
    too. And if by any chance you can't find what you want here,
    there are lots of links to other great sites as well...'

    What can I say? - A little bit of appreciation once in a while
    works wonders, I tell you. Anyway, The Guardian's film site
    is, of course, stuffed with up-to-date film features and reviews
    each week at:

    And that's quite enough trumpet-blowing for now...



    September sees the welcome return of Claire Hamilton and
    her 80scartoons site after a lengthy hiatus, now with lots more
    toons, pics and pieces very smartly presented. Links will be
    added to relevant index pages in the fullness of time. Claire
    assures me things are more permanent now!

    Ben Clarke's KTVA-UK is also getting better by the month.
    It's a great place for pinning down the serious information on
    your favourite toons. No pics, just good solid detail for those
    who need it - like yours truly...


As for Toonhound, well, stand by for another exclusive Q&A
    coming your way very soon. This time the spotlight is turned
    upon British comics genius and former Fleetway stalwart
    Trevor Metcalfe, the name behind Sweet Tooth, Ghoul Getters
    Ltd, Birdman & Chicken, Ad Lad and a whole host of strip stars
    from Whizzer & Chips, Cor!, Whoopee! and the rest of those
    Fleetway weeklies. Trevor fills in the detail on those Fleetway
    days, and gives us the lowdown on his current projects.
    Sweet stuff, eh?

    Well here's more: I've several new tvtoons ready to index, a
    number of mini-movie toons all prepped and waiting, plus a whole
    heap of scans lined up for the expansion of  Bunty's Booty, and
    - well, I ask you - how many more reasons do you need to
    bookmark this site?

    - Till next time!



- F2001