Snow joke (31.08.03)
Some sad news from TVC's London office over
the weekend, as
news breaks regarding the theft of a batch of
'Snowman' cels. At least
18 original cels worth somewhere in the region
of £20,000 have been
stolen from John Coates' production headquarters.
And what's more,
police suspect the artwork was 'stolen to order'.
'The Snowman' was of course, TVC's classic award-winning
of the Raymond Briggs
picture book. Over the years the fondness for this
feature has flourished around the globe and there are
'Snowman' collectors out there. The thing is,
in recent years there hasn't
been much original artwork for these folks to
actually collect - most of the
cels have either been sold or they've simply perished
away. Indeed, the
cels that were stolen over the weekend were due
to be exhibited in Japan
and Australia later this year.
What's particularly worrying about this incident is
the fact that it wasn't
just some opportune theft. It's worrying that would-be
art thieves might be
planning a rash of similar robberies targeting
other high profile studios.
Maybe it was the work of some unscrupulous dealer
looking to filter the
artwork out to an unsuspecting purchaser. Maybe it
was a fanatical
collector operating on his or her own. So many
maybes, and none of
Apparently, the animation art has been placed
on a register of stolen art
so there's a chance some honest dealer or gallery
might spot them and report back to the authorities.
But it's unlikely.
One suspects these cels have simply been spirited
away to the
North Pole or beyond by now, never to be seen
A million BOOM-BOOMS (28.08.03)
Well, hello! - Here's some news that will get
you brush in a spin. It seems
that 'foxtastic' of fellows Mr
Basil Brush has recently joined a most exclusive
Celebrity Insurance Club by having his famous tail
insured to the tune
of - get this - £1million...
Rights are said to have had a BasilSafe policy drawn up
with Stoke Insurance Brokers. For a £1,000 annual
premium, they've agreed
to pay up £1m if Basil suffers permanent
and total damage to his tail.
The policy was put together on the back of Basil's
His tour begins in October and is due to take
him to venues in Newcastle,
Southampton, Sheffield, Manchester and Birmingham to
new 'Foxed' single, DVD and album. Apparently
Basil is identified on the
policy as being a 'Foxtastic Gentleman', and the bountiful
him in line with other mega-insured celebrities like
Jennifer Lopez and
As Entertainment mention in their publicity, there
really is only one
Basil and no price is too high to ensure his well-being!...
Striker scores! (24.08.03)
Never mind Beckham's move to Real, the most
exciting transfer deal
this Summer has been Nick Jarvis' shift
from the pages of 'The Sun' to
those of his very own weekly comic!
For those not in the know, Nick Jarvis is the
star player in the long-running
football strip 'Striker' which has been published
in Britain's top tabloid newspaper
for the best part of 18 years. Created by Peter
Nash, the strip is a modern-day
'Roy Of The Rovers' charting the life and
times of the fictional football club
Warbury FC. In recent years the presentation
has shifted in to a high-tech
3D format, with a full page presentation on Saturdays
- very glossy and
very popular with readers - and plans to
expand the strip beyond the confines
of the paper have been on the cards for a wee
while now. Last year, Nash
served notice to 'The Sun' of his intention
to withdraw the strip this year.
Then the 'Sunday Mirror' sports editor
Steve McKenlay quit his post back
in April to head the new 'Striker 3D'
Apparently a late bid to tie the strip to
the newspaper realm was made by
Richard Desmond. He wanted to move the strip
to 'The Star' and 'The Express'
and to publish the stand-alone comic on
behalf of the 3D team. But the
terms were likely to hamstring the creative
freedom of Nash and his crew.
So now we have a very exciting wholly independent
new comic on our hands.
'Striker: The Magazine' will launch on August
28th in newsagents through-out
the UK. The title will run to 32 pages each
week, and will retail for a modest
£1.00. Many news sites have reported that
this will be the first stand-alone
UK comic title to launch in nigh-on 25years.
But of course, we all know
better than that: What about 'Jackpot',
'School Fun', 'WOW!' and the rest.
Anyway, what is true and notable is that
this will indeed join a most
exclusive crop of stand-alone titles currently
published in the UK
because only 'The Beano', 'The Dandy' and
'2000ad' are still with us.
All the other titles out there are corporate
creations or tie-ins, aren't they?
Stay tooned for a review here soon. And
let's hope 'Striker' scores
with the comics-buying public, eh?
Creature feature (17.08.03)
Some fab Aardman news this month, as the
studio begins the big media
tour for their new 'Creature Comforts' tv series.
As announced back in June 2002,
13 x10min shows have been produced at the Bristol studio
under the watchful
eye of director Richard 'Golly' Goleszowski ('Rex
The Runt'). The series is a
follow-on from Nick Park's Oscar-winning
original in which plasticene animals
in a zoo talk about their lives and livelihoods
in a series of candid interviews.
It centred on the brilliantly simply device
of having real voices from ordinary
people emerging from each plasticene character.
When coupled with those
trademark exaggerated mouth movements the
results were beguiling, charming,
disarming and brilliant. The film later
spawned an equally-successful series
of Heat Electric adverts, continuing the concept
and starring animals at home
in their 'cosy' heated environments.
Talking with Brian Appleyard of The Sunday Times
newspaper, Park explains
how he had ideas for more animal interviews
floating around in his head for some
time. That's why we now have talking
walruses on an iceberg, a cow on a trapeze,
a lolly-waving Octopus with a Brummie accent
discussing his love of holidays,
a family of sea anemones theorising on evolution,
two slugs giving us their theory
on alien morphology, a greyhound explaining
racing strategy, plankton speculating
the cosmos, a posh horse praising English
food, and even two aliens admiring
the British weather!
But topping all of that was a most intriguing
photo on the cover of the supplement
in which the interview was published. As
you can see, it depicts another
character from the series, a bird-come-pigeon
creation with WW1 flying
goggles. Could this be a timely 'raspberry'
to that high-profile toon 'Valiant',
currently getting up to speed down at Ealing
Fab stuff, eh? - It looks like the Aardman
gang have really thought outside
of the box here. The 'Creature Comforts' concept
was a winner back in 1990,
and it looks like it's hitting the mark once
again. Stay tooned for this new £3m
series launching on ITV-1 this Autumn. Word is
it's destined for an ideally-
positioned Sunday evening slot too...
Were-voices are cracking (17.08.03)
Just a little extra titbit from the Sunday
Times interview with Nick Park.
The Wallace & Gromit movie title change
revealed last month is, as the
world and his wife knows now, seemingly
confirmed and in stone.
Personally, The Hound doesn't much care
for the new title - 'Wallace
and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit'
- It's clunky, overlong
and simply not as subtle or as clever as
the titles of their previous films.
Indeed, it smells of meddling marketing
hands. The original title 'The Great
Vegetable Plot' sounded far more in keeping
with the W&G spirit...
But, anyhow, disgruntlement aside, the tasty
news is that according to
that interview top thespians Helena Bonham
Carter and Ralph Fiennes are
adding their vocal talents to the toon,
although there's no word yet on the
characters they'll be playing. The film
itself starts shooting in Bristol this
October and, as many on the Aardman mailing
lists will know, the company
are still seeking experienced personnel
in some key departments. So if you're
a top animation specialist lounging around
on some carefree sabbatical
wake up and get your backside down to Bristol
Sooty swept aside (17.08.03)
Brian Swann, the enthusiastic founder of
Brand New Sooty Heights
today steers us toward news from The
Guardian concerning that yellow
fellow Sooty. Sadly, Sooty's probably feeling
rather green right now that
he's been offloaded by his right owners
- poor chap...
Sooty, Sweep and the gang have been around
for half a century. They're part
of the fabric of British life now, like
Basil Brush, Andy Pandy and
Bill & Ben.
But according to the latest city news, rights-holders
HIT Entertainment feel that
the creation has limited international appeal
and, more importantly, limited
licensing potential. Most countries already
have their own favoured glove puppet,
it seems. The little bear therefore
doesn't fit in to the bright new global world of
'Bob The Builder', 'Thomas The Tank Engine' and
friends. That's why they're
putting the fellow up for sale.
Now that's an interesting turn of events
because surely, with a little imagination,
some clever chappie could easily turn the
character's fortunes around. Why
couldn't Sooty be rolled out internationally,
with a new 'Corbett' style human
pal or pals for each new TV territory? Or how
about turning back the clock
a little and reworking the old TvTown Sooty
concept. A new animated Sooty
series could be created, along the same lines
as Noddy and Toytown, or
Larry The Lamb and Toytown, harking back
to those comic strips and picture
books from the 1960s - Cosgrove Hall have
worked their animated magic
on Andy Pandy and Bill & Ben and reinvigorated
them for today's young
audiences. An animated Sooty show seems
to make sense to The Hound,
Of course Sooty still has potential. But
this slice of corporate decision-making
isn't about potential, it's all about attainment
on a massive scale. HIT Entertainment
is a now a huge global rights machines,
operating on an unprecedented level.
And that machine requires High-Grade fuel.
Middle-performing creations and
concepts simply won't satisfy the demands of
the mechanism. And that's not
to run down HIT in any way - rather it's
a mark of their phenomenal success in
the licensing world. The decision to drop
Sooty doesn't mean the end for him, or
Sweep or Soo. Rather, it's a golden oppurtunity
for someone else to step in
and - izzy-wizzy - get busy with the character...
Mr GlaxoSmithKline (12.08.03)
Poor old Mr Sneeze. Not only is he forever
battling his year-round sniffles
in Coldland, he's now under investigation
by a Government Watchdog who
want to scrutinise his association with
multinational pharmaceutical firm
The rumpus centres on a recent promotional
Mr Men book written and
illustrated by Adam Hargreaves and titled 'Mr
Sneeze And His Allergies'.
According to The
BBC it was funded by GSK and shows us how, with some
help from Little Miss Sunshine, Mr Sneeze
is urged to take action against
a suspected dose of hayfever. But alas,
their good work is undone by the
arrival of Mr Silly and his pet chicken,
called Rover (!). After the story
there are four pages of allergy information
from Allergy UK and - this
is the problem area - two pages promoting
the use of GSK products.
50,000 copies of the book have been printed
so far this year and
distributed to Tesco Clubcard holders, allergy
road shows, allergy
clinics and doctors surgeries. The book
was approved by The Proprietary
Association of Great Britain, which is responsible
for checking marketing
material from pharmaceutical companies. And what's
more, they're standing
by their decision to back the project, citing
its confident public health
message. But the Medicines and Healthcare Products
aren't so convinced, because The Medicines Act
of 1994 prohibits the
promotion of medicines to children. Of course,
GSK rebuke such
This one might want to run, and run. But
really, we hope it doesn't!
BBC The Mr Men
Super news! (11.08.03)
What's that in the sky? - Why, it's a Welsh
crime-fighting superstar, returning
to rescue us all from the perils of Texas
Pete and his gang!
That's right, folks, C21media
report today that 'SuperTed'
is indeed coming
back to our tv screens, 14 years after his last
appearance. The new show
will be a co-production between Abbey Home
Media and Mike Young
Productions - Mike being the former business
partner of Dave Edwards
and Robin Lyons who together made up Siriol
was the first extraordinary Siriol production
scoring super success both
here and abroad. The show was one of the
first to air on then newly-launched
S4C, it collected a BAFTA in 1987, and was
the first external toon to be
acquired by the Disney Channel. Three seasons
were produced by
Siriol. Then, in 1989 an all-new 'adventures
of 'SuperTed' series went in
to syndication in the States, courtesy of
Hanna-Barbera. SuperTed still
holds affection in many folks' hearts and
indeed, there are numerous
fan sites alongside the official site out
there on the Great WWW.
That's because the original was so well
crafted, a quality teatime
series that still sparkles...
So what of this new show? - Well, 26x30mins
are being planned, and the
production will feature a new-look Ted, enhanced
by some CGI magic.
The show itself will be skewed towards a slightly
younger demographic than
before too, because today's kids
are wee bit more sophisticated than they
were back in the 80s. The budget appears
to be coming in at $3 - $4m per
episode. Which all sounds like jolly fun
news, but what we still don't know
is whether the entire gang will be returning.
Will Spotty be there, alongside
his pal? And what of Bulk and Skeleton? In the
years since 'SuperTed' first
aired we've lost the talents of both Jon Pertwee
and Roy Kinnear. It will be
intriguing to see who, if anyone, is brought
in to replace these lost stars.
And indeed, if any of the other original voice
stars return to the show.
But questions like that won't be answered
for some time yet. The new
series is still early in development, with
scripts and storylines being
produced in time for MIPCOM in October,
and MIP-tv next year with the
aim of securing broadcasters and licenses
for the project. But let's be
honest here, this one will fly out of the
sales rooms and away around
the globe of its own volition, such is the
brand awareness. Altogether
C21media SuperTed Mike
Mysteron Mayhem (05.08.03)
Misc! Mayhem, the comics publishers behind
the recent 'SuperCar', 'UFO'
and 'Fireball XL5' releases/forthcoming
publications are all set to continue
their affair with Gerry Anderson now that
they've announced plans for an all-new
'Captain Scarlet' comic. The news was broken
at the recent San Diego Comics
Con and followed up on the regular Yahoo!
Misc! Mayhem plan to delve into the dark
side of Scarlet, exploring the
psyche of a damaged hero who must repeatedly
die an agonising death
in order to be reborn as 'indestructible'.
This intriguing notion was pitched
to the publishers by John Petty, and is
certainly in keeping with the
themes of the original series.
There's no word yet on a publication schedule,
and indeed, no mention
of any connection with the new CGI Scarlet
series, currently underway at
Pinewood Studios with Gerry himself at the
helm. Stay tooned for more
on this one in the the near-future...
Pope 'poon poo-pooed (04.08.03)
'Popetown' is a forthcoming toon from BBC3
and Channel X, and true to its name
it stars that infallible fellow The Pope
and the rest of the Vatican in a satirical
send-up of life, the universe, and the Catholic
faithful. The star is Father Nicholas,
a canny fellow constantly battling the helpless
bureaucracy of this fictional
town, in which The Pope is said to be depicted
as a childish septuagenarian
whose every fickle whim must be indulged and
fulfilled. Amongst the star voices
of this 10-part sitcom are Ruby Wax, Jerry Hall,
Morwenna Banks, Kevin Eldon,
Mackenzie Crook from 'The Office' and 'George
Doors With The Scores' aka
Matt Lucas from 'Shooting Stars'.
Now this here lampooning toon isn't actually
due to launch until early next year,
but the production has been courting adverse
publicity since it was announced
back at the start of 2003, and what was
a mumble of discontent back then is
now becoming a clamour from certain circles
to put the kibosh on this most
unholy of projects. Indeed, according to
this week's Sunday Times more than
2,000 disgruntled Catholics have now put their
names to a petition urging the
BBC not to screen the series. They cite
the fact that the BBC is a publically-funded
body that has no business making such an
irreverent and gratuitous attack on their
faith. And the clarion call to arms is beginning
to spread through churches all
around the UK. Such is the concern that a meeting
between the BBC and senior
church figures has been scheduled later
Gosh, that thrusting young tv channel BBC3
enjoys courting animated controversy,
doesn't it? - 'Monkey Dust' has already
had politically sensitive nerves jangling
with its portrayal of pedophiles and psychos.
It seems to be part of the brief.
Now many folks without particular Catholic
leanings would be sitting on the fence
as they read about 'Popetown', wondering
what all the fuss is about. After all,
'Life Of Brian' was bathed in controversy, but
that film never hurt anyone.
Similarly 'The Last Temptation Of Christ'. And
hells-bells, what about the
continued anarchic brilliance of 'South
Park' or indeed, 'Father Ted'?
What makes 'Popetown' different is its unfortunate
timing. Imagine if you'd
pitched a similar toon project ridiculing Islamic
or Muslim faith. There's no way
it would have been commissioned. In the current
climate, it's quite amazing to see
'Popetown' getting the thumbs-up at all. And
although the channel's 'daring'
commission should be applauded, it's put
the BBC smack bang in the middle
of an unholy pickle jar.
If you're going to deliberately woo controversy
you've got to be very clever.
Let's hope 'Popetown' is cleverer than Stephen
Hawking at his cleverest. Or
at least brilliantly funny, then this will
simply be a storm in a Nun's teacup...
hot to toon...
Good grief. It's 100degrees
out there and Yours Truly is embedded in his
Elgin attic compiling information for this site.
Now that's dedication for you!
The success of the new-look site has been most
encouraging so far, and my
spirits have been lifted by a rather jolly site
review on BBC News24 at
the start of July. It's given me something to
focus on as I mop the sweat
from my keyboard, turn up the fan, and struggle
to update once more
via a desperately sluggish BT connection. I'd
love to say all the updates
will be finished by the end of August, but alas,
it ain't goona happen.
There's too much planned and my fingers simply
can not type fast
enough right now!...
Stay tooned for the new Puppets
section and first new pages, coming your
way over the next few weeks, and another airbrushed
addition to those
Interviews in the form of a Q&A with artist Steve Maher. Indeed,
stay tooned for more of everything coming your way,
including news of some
hot new projects that are guaranteed to get your
temeperature soaring -
regardless of the season...
Till next time!