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Bob & Margaret & Hector & Oscar!  A chat with Snowden Fine!

   In February 2002 TheHound chatted with Alison Snowden and David
   Fine, just as the second series of 'Bob & Margaret' was beginning
   to air around the globe.
    Snowden Fine on...

       Snowden Fine...     Bob & Margaret...      Future Projects...

    Bob & MargaretInteresting times...

    'Bob & Margaret' focuses on the lives of Bob and Margaret Fish, a very ordinary,
    humdrum, middle-class, suburbuban couple leading a very ordinary, humdrum,
    middle-class, suburban working life. She's a chiropodist and he's a down-in-
    the-mouth dentist and together they face down the good, the bad and the
    ugly of everyday life, like Keeping Up With The Joneses, parenting, sex,
    and bereavement. The show is a spin off from 'Bob's Birthday', Snowden
    Fine's Academy Award winning short film in which Bob manages to
    ostracise each and every member of his family and friends as he mooches
    about his home unaware that they are waiting to give him a surprise
    birthday party. The toecurling observation was fabulous. And it's that same
    observational naval-gazing that makes the 'Bob & Margaret' series a
    winner too. We love to pick through the toenail clippings of life, don't we?

    It's an intriguing period for Alison Snowden and David Fine now. For a decade
    and a half they have toiled upon their exploratory, introverted life studies
    tinged with sardonic humour. 'Second Class Mail', 'George and Rosemary',
    'In and Out' - these short gems have won awards and recognition aplenty
    from within the film community, allowing them to develop their themes from
    film to film as their muse takes them. But that fragile balance between
    artistic fulfillment and commercial need appears to have been unsettled
    by the grand success of 'Bob's Birthday' and, subsequently, 'Bob & Margaret'.
    Now a world of Global Sales Targets, Licensing Deals and Promotions
    appears to have loomed up before them and I think it's set them at odds
    with their endeavours. They surely welcome the attention it's brought and
    the financial benefits which are being wafted under their noses, but they
    must be viewing the potential loss of creative control that comes with it
    with some trepidation. It'll be fascinating to see how things develop...


      Alison Snowden  Toonhound talks to Snowden Fine... David Fine
     At the time we talked, Snowden Fine were 'between projects' with
     'Bob & Margaret'
wrapped and broadcasting and their Hector' adverts
     for the Inland Revenue all-but played out on tv . So were Alison and
     David sitting in a darkened studio, all alone?

     The Hound's questions are in bold.


      I see your website tells us you're taking time out, does the
     company keep going, though? Have you staff beavering away
     on commercials work, or is it all mothballed until the next project?

     We have been working from home for quite a while writing and reviewing
     'Bob & Margaret' material which is faxed or emailed. We also had a child
     while making 'Bob & Margaret', which was no mean feat by the way, but
     being at home was nicer for that reason too. We don’t plan on reopening
     our studio or working in that way. Commercial work is not our
     priority right now.

     How many people make up the Snowden Fine ‘team’? Do you
     have a hard-core of regulars you always employ?

     Right now, the whole, big fat crew is just the two of us!
     When we did commercial work we hired in people as needed.

     I see Hector is back on our screens again. Are you still producing
     work for the Inland Revenue? - The demise of Alec Guinness must
     have changed things...

     Sir Alec hasn’t actually done the voice for some time, so his demise
     didn’t change anything, although the campaign is now over. We did
     work on all the ads, but only as consultants on the latter ones which
     we passed on to another animation company.

     On the creative side, are you 'peas in a pod', or 'chalk and cheese'?

We’re ‘peas in the cheese’. We fight over stuff, but our sensibilities
     are very similar most of the time. We are also insecure so feed off of
     each others encouragement and support.

     First and foremost you are both animators and film makers. So
     what about your other role as Company Directors. Have you
     slotted neatly into that, or is it a continually painful place to be?

     We’re not really company directors. We just do our work, but we have
     to keep track of receipts and junk like that and pay VAT.

     It's an old chestnut, but who inspires you? - Do you kneel before
     a particular Toon God?

     Gosh, over the years there have been so many. Our contemporaries from
     film school (Nick Park, Mark Baker) and other independent film makers
     from the National Film Board of Canada like Richard Condie and Caroline
     Leaf. Also live action film makers like Jim Jarmusch because of the
     way he plays scenes and the style of comedy. And of course,
     'The Simpsons' is a great influence because it made the mould for
     new adult sit com animation.

     'Bob & Margaret' was the first series you’ve produced. How did
      you find the experience?

     Thrilling and crazy and frustrating all at the same time.
     And very hard work.

     I believe you had crews working on 3 continents - did it all run
     smoothly - who did what, and where?

I can’t say it was totally smooth. We had a lot of very talented people
     working on the show, but it wasn’t easy for us all to figure out how to
     work with each other. The production company, Nelvana, had never
     experienced creators who were going to have direct, hands on
     involvement in most all aspects of the show and we had never done
     a series, so there was learning on both sides.

     The writing and voice work was done in London and we reviewed
     material from home. The layout and post was done in Toronto and
     the animation was done in the Philippines.

     Did you both animate on the show, or did you find yourselves
     confined to your roles as producers? - If so, did you have
     trouble ‘letting go’?

We didn’t animate anything. We wrote scripts and reviewed tons of
     material - storyboards, designs, edits, etc.… and worked very closely
     with the directors and designers at Nelvana.

     The second season featured other writers. What was the setup?
     Did you have a writers pool, or did you farm out your storylines
     to chosen writers?

It wasn’t the most efficient organization in that we didn’t have a full time
     dedicated team. The writers we worked with were busy, so we had to get
     them when we could. We felt very privileged to work with such talented
     people. Sometimes we worked on the storyline for a writer, but usually
     most of our work was on the script after it was handed in.

     Was there much interference from your broadcast partners, or
     were you left to your own devices?

     Amazingly, no interference to speak of. They really liked what we were
     doing and just supported it, for the most part. Although the Canadian
     broadcaster kept asking if we could throw in Canadian references. We
     didn’t feel right doing that kind of thing, but we did devote a whole episode
     to Bob’s Canadian cousin’s visiting. Apparently the depiction of Canadians
     as obnoxious oafs offended some Canadians. Others found it funny though!

     Now it’s all done and dusted, have you a favourite episode?

     There are favourite episodes for various reasons but it’s hard to choose
      just one. We are happy with certain episodes for different reasons.
mongst our favourites would be 'Holiday', 'Trick or Treat', 'Friends For
     Dinner', 'No Trouble', 'Going Dutch'  - Oh, we’re naming too many!

     And have you, Alison, received many voice-over offers since the
     show first aired? - I could imagine that being a lucrative sideline
     for you!

     No, I haven’t pursued that. Although I did previously do the voice of a
     chicken in a frozen food ad.

     The show's become popular on the web, hasn't it? - You've sent
     out something of a clarion call to 'ordinary' folk everywhere!

     Has it? That’s nice. Yes, ordinary people seem to connect with
     the show. And ordinary dogs.

     There's a third series on the way now, isn't there? - Nelvana are
     making it in Canada - How is that going to work?

     There is a third and fourth series in production, but Bob and Margaret move
     to Canada as the show is mostly Canadian funded and for that to work they
     needed to actually be based in Canada and it be a Canadian production.
     We are much less involved now although Alison still does the voice
     of Margaret.

     And are there plans for a DVD release?
     (Yes please - With 'extras' too!)

     If it was up to us, yes, but it isn’t up to us. We are not aware of it.

     So what’s next, a short film to revitalize yourselves, or are you
     going straight in to another series?

We’ve turned down some job offers because we needed some time out,
     but recently we’ve been working on various ideas and are just completing
     a proposal for a new animated sit com.

     'Bob's Birthday' and the 'Bob & Margaret' series have been
     brilliant, painful, naval-gazing life studies. Are we likely to see
     a change of direction with your follow-up work, or do you feel
     you've found a niche you're comfortable with?

     Well thanks for saying that. No, that navel gazing is our thing so we would
     tend to infuse whatever we do with that kind of attitude. It will be different,
     but not a million miles different.

     Your character design lends itself particularly well to children’s
     concepts, I think. Is that an area you've thought about exploring,
     especially now that you're parents yourselves?

     We’ve thought about it, but adult stuff is more inspiring for us to do. We
     wouldn’t rule it out though. It is fascinating to see what our daughter enjoys
     though. Some really good stuff, but also some stuff which we would find
     horrible to watch otherwise. Mostly, she has pretty good taste and it’s
     interesting to see what works strictly from a child’s point of view.

     And how about that Big Step into features. Is that something
     you’ve toyed with?

     Yes, that was one of the jobs we turned down, though. We would love
      to do a feature at some point.

     And finally... Sorry, but I just have to ask this: Where do you
     keep that Oscar?

We got one each. One is on a shelf in David’s office and the
     other is on Alison’s table in her office...


    And there you have it, our Snowden Fine Q&A. Some interesting nuggets
    there, don't you think? I still think Alison and David  could add an intelligent
    twist to a children's show,
They could take a Rugrats-like concept and really
    run with it...

    Anyways, I must pass on a BIG thank you to Alison and David for taking
    the time to respond to my emails and questions...

     - Getting there!


© Nelvana Ltd/Snowden Fine /- F2000-2004