Here's a handy way to catch up with some of the
best short films, adverts,
video clips and all-round animated brilliance produced
in the UK over the
last few years, coursey of the BAA. They've put
together a series of
compilation DVDs entitled "The Best of the
British Animation Awards",
which you can purchse direct
from their web site. And mighty-fine discs
they are too, as they feature a host of award-winning
together with tidbits, teasers, adverts and
snippets - many of which
you'd otherwise struggle to find, or indeed, won't find
The Hound has just been spinning through Volume
6, which includes
Matthew Walker's jolly space walk "Astronauts",
and Run Wrake's
alarmingly fabulous "Rabbit" - which hopped
away with this year's
Best Short Film award. All six volumes thus far
released have one
or two classic works you're keen to see again, a
couple more you've
never heard of and others you'd forgotten or overlooked
that you can reppraise a few years on. They make
for great viewing.
"The Best of the British Animation Awards"
DVDs are available now.
And if you're serious about animation, these are
must-haves for your
Many folks have been in touch with me over
the last week to talk about
the death of John Read. John is/was a legend
in the UK's closeknit
puppeteering community, and something of a
cult figure to Gerry Anderson
fans, having worked on so many of those seminal
series. He was a producer,
D.O.P. and inventor who developed much of the unique
incorporated into those extraordinary puppets
in "Stingray", "Thunderbirds",
and the rest. He later became one half of
the Mary Turner/John Read
production partnership who brought us those uniquely
"The Adventures of Rupert Bear", "Mumfie",
"The Munch Bunch" and
The Hound's personal all-time favourite series
Sadly - terribly - John died on April 13th
from injuries sustained
in a car crash . He was 85 years young.
Worbey has passed on a lovely obituary, written with the
support of Mary Turner. Mary has also provided
the photo of John.
Here it is then, in full:
Read – The quiet man of film (1920 - 2006) Producer,
Director Of Photography, Inventor
sad passing of John Read will undoubtedly leave a void in
many of his family, close friends and colleagues
lives. Whilst his
name may not be familiar, with many of the puppeteer
his dedicated work and influences in television
and film puppet
productions amounted to a career that spanned over 4
and he will always be fondly remembered by us for
generosity, innovation and expertise.
During the late fifties John co founded a new film
company - AP Films - together with some fellow industry
Reg Hill, Sylvia Thamm, Arthur Provis and Gerry
Anderson. Their first
television commission was a low budget children’s series
"The Adventures of Twizzle".
Together the young, dynamic team were quickly to
strong driving force in the new area of children’s
did they realise at the time that their joint creative
the next ten years would in fact lead to international
and a huge fan base that continues to this day.
John was principally AP’s lead cameraman and director
photography– and it was he who initially discovered
solve the many technical problems associated with
marionette puppets on film. As the company, renamed Century
undertook more puppet series commissions so the figures
more advanced and it was he who developed "Automated
a revolutionary system at the time utilising solenoids
puppet’s glass fibre heads, once activated the system
accurate mouth movement which has since paved way to
sophisticated systems used today in animatronic puppets
Between 1959 – 1969 a total of 10 major puppet series
feature films were produced including "Four Feather
Falls", Fireball XL5,
and "Joe 90". John’s role within the company
him evolving into associate producer.
After Century 21 ceased making puppet programmes
John, together with ex head puppet co-coordinator
AP colleague Mary Turner formed the company Cinemation.
Combining their joint skills as key experts in puppet
and design they were now set to create and produce what
to become an impressive volume of independent work, and
employed a key team of established puppet builders and
whilst frequently nurturing new talent.
Over the remaining decade at Cinemation’s base in
church hall in Southwark over 4 major television series
and filmed for Lew Grade's Company ITC. Their first commission
of Rupert Bear saw for the very first time Mary
Toutel’s iconic character translated into three dimensional
form, together with his pals from Nutwood forest, in
152 episodes .
With a cast of beautifully crafted puppets supervised
by Mary, and shot against large-scale settings the series
major success for ITC and generated a highly successful
franchise worldwide. The popularity of the Rupert series
with Here Comes Mumfie.
The success of these series then saw
Cinemation devise and create their own format Cloppa
Once again all the key Turner/Read elements were apparent
every single element was meticulously produced to the
of 52 episodes.
Further success followed with the television series “The
Bunch”. Amongst other works during this period were a
series “Tree Top Tale" for Canadian television,
figures for a Swiss
museum of Ventriloquism and life sized marionettes for
adult drama “The Magic Toyshop”
As the eighties drew to a close Cinemation relocated
picturesque village of Thames Ditton, Surrey where John
with Mary to mechanise and develop limited edition autonoma
private clients and collectors...
Hip! Hip! - Yahzaa! (13.04.06)
Let's have a big "Yahzaa!" this
week, for those Amazing Adrenalini
who've just pulled off their biggest feat
yet. Rendoosia's finest and fittest trio
have been cavorting across CiTV screens recently
in their all-new riproaring
series (78 x 7mins), and one episode "Cape
of Majesty" has just run off
with a coverted Pulcinella for "Best
TV Series for All Ages" at this year's
Cartoons on the Bay animation festival, in Italy.
The winning episode
features an animated version of Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth and it has
yet to be broadcast in the UK. But there's a particular reason
It's being unveiled as royal birthday present!
Yep, "Cape of Majesty" premieres
on ITV1 at 3.35pm on Friday, 21st April,
the day of the Queen’s 80th birthday. And
it's such a special event that
programme-makers Pesky are also marking with the
release of a special
makeover game also starring the Queen.
So let's hear it for our Rendoosian heroes, Xan,
Adi and Enk.
Now performing by royal appointment!
Anyone who's seen this is left with the biggest,
brightest smile on
their face. And anyone who hasn't needs to drop
by Studio AKA,
What am I talking about? - The latest advert
for the National Lottery
that's playing across the UK. "The Big
Win" is simply a beautiful ad.
Though it's anything but simple in design
Studio AKA were given an open brief: "
A man is given a bag of smiles
and he hands them out to everyone he meets ".
And that's precisely
what happens. Only the "man" is
now a pointy-nosed man-creature,
and the folks he meets in his higgledy-piggeldy
town are just as weird
and wonderful. It's a beguiling cross between
Seussville and the
Moomins, accompanied by a nursery-rhyme sing-a-long
and it will surely collect a bag-full of big
smiley awards this year.
Mind you, director Marc Craste is no stranger
to awards. His film
"JoJo in the Stars" won a 2004 BAFTA
for Best Animated Short,
alongside several others. You can buy JoJo
on DVD direct from
AKA web site. Plus you can watch "The Big Win"
advert again and again, until you're all smiled-out...
This week the trade press and fan
sites have been buzzing with
the news that Laika Entertainment have won
the race to option
Alan Snow's book "Here Be Monsters" as
a stop-motion feature
for Henry Sellick (Nightmare Before Christmas)
to direct. But although
many have raved and salivated over Mr Sellick
and his talented team,
Mr. Snow has been left a little out in the
So leave it to The Hound to wave a flag for
a) His book is a blast and b) he also happens
to be a rather talented
animator/designer in his own right, which makes
this little deal with
Laika Animation even sweeter. Indeed, it could
be the perfect match.
Alan has written and illustrated more than
160 books in his busy career,
Be Monsters is
his first novel. It's the first of the Ratbridge
Chronicles and its busy plot is full of boxtrolls, cabbage-heads,
pirates. The book is illustrated with, literally,
hundreds of pen and ink
illustrations - it's a phantasmogorical feast for
If you stop by Alan's
web site, you'll find a link to some intriguing test
animation that he put together with Aardman
Animation, prior to the
film deal. You'll see a boxtroll and mean
old Snatcher come to life before
your very eyes. This is brilliant, off-the-wall
stuff. Rather creepy too,
with some music by the Insects who, possibly,
are the same folks
who brought so much atmosphere to Tom
Thumb. And boy, it doesn't
half whet your appetite for the film!...
Do you know that the
Mr Men are now 35 years old? - Well they are,
and it's their birthday this month. Or rather,
it's Mr Tickle's birthday,
because he was the first in print, and created
after Roger Hargreaves'
son Adam asked what a tickle looked like -
which you do know,
of course, because the legend has been repeated
so many times...
So here we are, 35 years on, with Adam Hargreaves
now in charge of
these fabulous characters, who just keep growing
in popularity and
adding more new Misters to the gang on a regular
such a milestone birrthday now upon us, Adam
has created two more
characters to celebrate. They're called Mr Birthday and
Birthday, the former simply loves parties, whilst
the other is keen
on birthday presents. Well, aren't we all?
And therein lies the enduring appeal of these
bright geometric characters.
There's a Mr Man or a Little Miss in all of us,
isn't there? And so long as
our human foibles, feelings and characters
traits keep growing, so the
possibilities for new Misters and Misses will be
I've always had a soft spot for the fellows. I
got copies of those first
Mr Men books - "Mr Tickle", "Mr
Bump", "Mr Greedy" - for my own
milestone 5th birthday, way back in 1973
(alongside an Orinoco glove
puppet, as I recall). I was instantly smitten,
and begged and pleaded
with Mum and Dad to get the rest of the set.
They were such a simple idea,
I was confident enough to start drawing my
own new Mr Men based
on my family. One of my brothers was Mr Stinky,
another was Mr Bogey.
Well, you get the picture...
I've still got those books today. They're
a bit worn and frayed around
the edges, but I love them (or is that my
Bagpuss collection?). Anyway,
I'm jolly glad I've kept them because in the midst
of my collection is
a first copy of "Mr Silly". And
it's in its original form. You see, Mr Silly
is the only Mister to have had a page changed
later in its print run.
That's because originally, he's seen smoking
a big fat cigar in one
of his pictures - an act that is now considered
very silly indeed.
Times change then, but those dear old Mr Men
will probably be
with us forever. They're currently the subject
of a very noisy bidding
war, with various licensing comglomerates
battling it out in the
business pages for their property rights.
It might sound silly,
but those little Misters and Misses are worth
More:The Mr Men
Mirrors and Mills (22.03.06)
As you probably know, The Hound is currently mid-way
through an extensive
overhaul of the site, cleaning up the design,
removing dead links and expanding
the indexes. That means I'm catching up with a
whole heap of productions
old and new like those fabulous early films
from Cosgrove Hall. "Cinderella"
and "The Pied Piper" are extraordinary
creations, from an extraordinary
team - so meticulous, and crafted for art's
sake, rather than for any
over-riding commerciality. If you haven't seen
these before, or have
forgotten their brilliance, Clear
DVDs will reawaken your
imagination. The Pied
Piper, particularly, is still as potent and as
haunting as the day it first aired, over twenty-five
But what do we have like this nowadays? -
There's lots of very fine
commercial fare, but it doesn't feel so spontaneous.
Every film and
series seems to exist for a reason. They're packaged
on a plate for the market to consume. That's
not to say today's films
and series are poorer quality - goodness, no -
there are any number of
animated marvels out there to drool over.
But sometimes you find
yourself yearning for something that truly
...Which is probably why I've been so susceptible
to the delights of Mirrormask,
the new film from David McKean and Neil Gaiman that mixes
its live-action stars with some very odd animated
puppets and CG additions,
courtesy of Jim Henson. The folks at
Tartan Films sent me a preview disc
the other day, and I'm jolly glad they did,
because it's a very brave production.
The film unspools like an arthouse Muppet
movie, and whilst it doesn't
always work - the line between Helena's dream-life
and her real-life is perhaps
too blurred - there are a great many pleasures
to be had from its acute
otherworldliness. "Mirrormask" stands
out like a sore thumb from the
current buffet of spin-off specials,
extended episodes and classic
adaptations. Mind you, I don't really know how
to class it for Toonhound.
Is it live-action with animated segemnts,
or animated with live-action
inserts? - The dilemma's a pleasant one, regardless...
Mill is utterely unique too. The BBC's decision to give it a
repeat run as a stand-alone show is very exciting news
is that rarest gem; a series that was born
outside of the boardroom,
in a sunny, suit-free world. Dan, Fluffa and their
happy valley are just
waiting to be discovered by the masses. Indeed,
this is just the kind
of series that Nostalgia Heads will be reminiscing
over, twenty years