the trumpets! - Bang the drums! - The big toon news from Cannes
this year was the announcement of an
all-new, big-budget cgi feature winging
its way to the uk. Now there's a headline
we've been waiting to post!
Valiant is to be a $40m animated
production from newly-launched sales
outfit Odyssey Entertainment. Am I right
in thinking this will be the first
such film made over here? - Wow! - There's
been lots of talk about such a
thing, and several big projects are on
the cusp of production, but this one
seems to have scraped past the post
ahead of them...
Apparently, Valiant tells the tale
of a 'lowly wood pigeon who aspires to
the prestigious position of a messenger
homing pigeon in the Royal Air
Force in WW2'. The movie is to be
directed by Rob Letterman (Los Cringos)
from a script by George Webster. John
Williams, the US producer of Shrek
and Jackie Chan film The Tuxedo, is producing
Valiant with Barnaby Thompson,
co-head of Fragile Films, one of the
owners of Ealing Studios. The project is
actually reuniting Williams with Odyssey's
MD Ralph Kamp. The duo were
previously entwined on Spiceworld, An
Ideal Husband and Kevin And Perry
I must say, It all sounds very exciting, and The Hound here is keen
champion each and every animated British
feature going into production, but
there is just a teeny-tiny niggle here
with this one. I mean, try as I might, I just
can't shift the taste of chicken from
my tongue. Chicken Run, that is, with
Fowler, Hut 17 and all that 'back
in my RAF days...' banter. Oh, and there's
the Aardman pigeon in the current
...But what am I thinking? I'm sure
the talent involved in Valiant are all-too
aware of that fact and have distanced
their project from any such similar
scenarios. Actually, the whole RAF/dogfighting/war
business lends itself
to some fabulous designs and concepts
- there could be a real edge to
proceedings here. I wonder what level
they're pitching at with this? - It'll be
fascinating to see quite what is intended...
Whatever the similarities or differences
or whatever, this is a grand
announcement, made all the more grander
by the fact that the film is to
be made at a brand new animation/digital
facility being constructed at
that olde stalwart Ealing Studios.
And it's on the fast track, too, with
production expected to start this Summer,
ready for a Summer 2004
delivery. Valiant does indeed sound like
a Valiant production, and you
can bet there'll be plenty more news
on this one here at Toonhound
right the way through production...
Speaking of animated features, The
Hound was spinning through the
regular weekly round-up of movie
toon news from Oliver Moreaux's excellent
Movies, when he spied an interesting change in schedules.
According to Dreamworks' latest release
plan, Aardman Animation's
hiccuping Tortoise And The Hare
film (or Tortoise Vs Hare, depending on
where you read about it) has officially
slipped back a year to a 2005 release
date. A real shame, then, but no surprise
really, when one recalls the script
problems which put the production into
hiatus for a wee while. Let's hope
it bounces back bigger and better
...In the mean time, let's put a
positive spin on things. What has been
overlooked is the fact that this schedule
now confirms, officially, that the
next Aardman feature we'll see on
the big screen will be unequivocally,
absoloutely that grand-spanking Wallace
& Gromit movie we've all been
so desperate for. That's right, Wallace &
Gromit: The Great Vegetable Plot
is scheduled for a release in November
2004. Okay, okay, so that's still two
whole years away, but it's pretty darned
exciting nonetheless. Or maybe
I'm just too keen for my own good - *sigh*
- Still, Tortoise or Vegetable
either one will get The Hound's
whistle well and truly whetted...
Stay tooned to all things Aardman-esque
at their official site:
movie toons to toon movies now, with some most interesting news
about the live-action Modesty Blaise film,
as featured in our last edition.
Modesty's creator Peter O'Donnell has recently
been in touch with a
Modesty chatgroup reporting on the feature.
It seems that rights owners
Miramax have rushed through the production
of My Name Is Modesty.
And when I say 'rushed', I mean 'rushed'. Director
Scott Spiegel apparently
shot the thing in Bucharest in just over
three weeks - Yikes, now
that's a mighty-fast turnaround!
Apparently, the film is intended as an
'introduction' to the Modesty character,
and stars British actress Alexandra Staden.
Now Peter is very careful not
to slate or, indeed, even properly comment
on the project, he just passes
on the facts of the case for visitors
to digest. But it doesn't sound
terribly good, does it? Indeed, as others
have mentioned, it sounds awfully
familiar to the Roger Corman/Fantastic Four
fiasco a while back. In that
particular instance Mr Corman hastily shot
and canned a low budget
adaptation of FF so as to fulfill contractual
obligations. And now here's
the mighty Miramax, coming to the end
of their period of ownership of
a potentially hot property, seemingly
struggling to pin down the creation -
so they shoehorn a 'film' through the production
mill, maybe to maintain
control, maybe just to rough-up the playing
field for anyone following on.
Who knows? - Maybe this could be a low-shooting
hit, scoring off a hip
and happening audience. Just like Peter,
I'll leave you to ponder and
pontificate that one for yourself...
Check out more on Modesty's world over
on the Toonhound
And here's the Yahoo! Group address -
the first place to go to catch
up with Blaise talkback, chatter and discussion:
Back to Bristol we go, and here's more
very exciting news from Aardman - just
breaking as this page was posted. Apparently
ITV1 have commissioned a
brand-new series of Nick Park's Academy
Award winning Creature Comforts.
The new £3m series will consist
of 13 x 10min episodes shot in the same
fashion as the fabulous original - taking
vox pops on the street and editing
them to work with animated animals in domestic
situations. The feeling
from both Mr Park and ITV was that there
was was still plenty of territory
to explore with the concept. And I guess
you'd have to agree with that...
Gosh, it just shows you the longevity
of this fine creation, and it's another
bold step into animated territories by
the folk at ITV, coming on the back of
Bean - The Animated Series and 2DTV. Interesting, though, that in
spite of the 'boldness' on display again
- a big commission from a
broadcaster not usually connected to the
genre - it's still a very 'safe' move.
There must be umpteen animation studios
out there with a yearning to
see their wholly original projects getting
a break, only to be silenced by
what is, in reality, a very bankable,
risk-free commission again....
Still, I'll be glued to my screen when
this one arrives, and I'm sure you
will be too. And that absolutely justifies
the commission doesn't it?
Nick Park's page in the Toon Gods section
is screaming out for
an update, but
here it is anyway...
Comic artist Mark Bennington got in touch
with site recently. Mark is a
former Fleetway artist, employed during
the 'latter years' of the Fleetway
fun comics, from 1985 onwards.
His creative talents brought us Blub The
Sub, The Savers, Lucy Lastic, Stupid Street,
Judge Dudd, Captain Crucial
and most famously, Whizzer And Chips star Memory Banks.
He also wrote
scripts for Buster, X-Ray Specs, Chalky and
more. That's quite a CV, eh?
- Well, there's a Toonhound Q&A page with
Mark coming very soon. But in
the mean time, he's been tipping me off about
a very 'lucky' gig he's just got,
working on a brand new Fleetway-style comic for
Lucky Bag Comic is due out late June -
around the 29th. According to
Mark it's a 32-page monthly in the Buster
vein, and comes as a complete
package with those Lucky Bags of sweets
and goodies you see in
Woolworths. You know the ones - big A4-size
bags of sugar-filled delights.
So, okay, this one is aimed primarily
at younger kids, but it's an interesting
tie-in, none the less, and it will be
intriguing to see how much room the
artists are given to manouevre and how
much of 'corporate' thing the comic
actually is. Certainly, I'll be buying
the first few issues (I've got a famous
Of course, comics fans are desperate for a
return to the Fleetway heyday
of several weekly titles filled with glorious
original strips but the world has just
evolved too far for this to ever be a reality
again. It boils down to two words:
expense and perception. The former refers to
the cost of commissioning
original strip art nowadays. It's bloody expensive.
As for the latter, well, the
perception of the market has changed enormously,
at least in investors'
eyes anyway. The perception is that today's
kids are only interested
in 'lifestyle' magazines, or tie-in publications.
Of course, the counter
argument is that if you don't give them
the choice they won't know any
better. Personally, I think backers are
maybe being too cautious. If
someone was to invest properly in the
genre, who knows, the gamble
could reap big rewards. That's why Lucky
Bags Comic could prove very
interesting. It could nudge the doors of speculation
open a wee bit, or it
could bolt them closed once and for all for
another generation. We'll find
out at the end of June, won't we...?
In the mean time, you can revel in the
delights of the past
over on Fleetway
Meanwhile, over in the potting shed
much 'flobbadobbing' is afoot with the
& Ben. The new Cosgrove Hall version of Bill & Ben has been
cracking; faithful to its source
material, but fresh and fun for a new young
audience. And the Beeb obviously think
so too, because, following in the
steel-toed bootsteps of Bob The Builder,
The Tweenies and the Lampies,
the Flowerpot Men are set to release
their first single this month.
'Flobbadance' is out very soon, with
talk of an album to follow. Although
one would have thought all that
'flobbadobbing' will have worn a bit thin
after one track, let along a dozen
more. Anyway, Bill & Ben's chart drive
is just the tip of a wave of new
merchandise hitting stores this Summer,
building on last year's successes.
We've stocked up with 'talking' Bill
& Ben toys over at ToonsToGo
and - shameless plugs aside - I have to
say they're cracking collectibles, full
of gabble and chatter...
'And it came to pass that a petition
will be signed by numerous individuals,
and that which we know as the broadcasting
authorities will heed its words....'
Remember that online Mr Hell petition
I mentioned last edition? - You know,
the one begging broadcasters in
the UK to bring back Mr Hell and screen
the first series properly... Well would
you believe it but over 400 people have
signed the thing now, and I'll be darned
if someone in authority hasn't read
it and rescinded. That's right folks,
Mr Hell is back on our screens...
...In Australia! - God-darn it,
at least someone's listened. I'm very happy
for our boomerang buddies, I truly
am. It seems broadcasters do listen
sometimes. But only Southern Hemisphere
ones - *sigh*
Keep those signatures coming folks:
Erm, actually, whilst we're plugging
a terrific little horny show, can we
sound off just one more time? -
You see, we've got a bit of a scoop
going on courtesy of Mr Hell and
ToonsToGo. Not only are we the first online
store to stock those fab Animated
Mr Bean Teddy toys, we're also lining
up the hottest - nay, hell-est -
collectibles this side of the Underworld.
I mean, how does an original piece
of Aaagh! - It's The Mr Hell Show artwork
That's right, yours truly has entered
into a devilish pact with Mr Hell's
producers Peafur Productions and
Sextant Entertainment. We'll soon
be stocking one-off pieces of 100% red-hot
original series artwork, from
the pen of designer Barry Baker - Buy
a dozen! - Get 'em framed! -
Wow your friends! - And you can 'wow'
folk even more when we reveal
the knockdown price of these originals:
Not £200, not £100, nay - not
even £50. These highly desirable
babies are being put up for sale for
a cool £19.90 each!
- It's The Mr Hell Show is of course, a computer-based production.
But even a computer needs feeding original
art once in a while. And that's
where the likes of Mr Baker step in. Hundreds
- nay - thousands, even, of his
drawings were eaten by the animation machines
during production of the show.
These babies are plain pencil sketches on animation
pre-colouring, pre-everything - the raw
food for the whirring, munching,
animation machines to sup upon. Naked
art, ready to frame for your wall
or line your litter tray. But hey, think
about it. £19.90 buys you a flaming-hot
collectible piece of animation history to cherish
- who says we don't look
after you here...?
If you're interested in purchasing one
of these delectable collectibles,
us a line. And if you're not. Hell, we'll send Serge The Seal Of
round to 'encourage' you...
Oh my, I've been naughty recently haven't I?
- Firstly, this little toon news
section sort of 'skipped' a month, didn't it.
That's simply down to time, and
a lack of it. I've been buried with work both
here and on ToonsToGo. That
also accounts for the fact that my promised
pages on Wallace & Gromit
for the Movie Toon Guide also didn't materialize
- but they are on their
Some of you may recall the two oft-promised
interviews with Peter Maddocks
and Colin Whittock, also supposed to be coming
your way soon. So where
are these two dynamic Q&As? - Erm, on their
way, like I said. At least,
I've been promised that they are. The thing
is, I never push when it comes
to these things. Interviewees can take as long
as they want to reply, so they
can slot me in around their vastly more-important
schedules. Heck, the
last thing I want to be is an irritant. The
consequence of that approach is
that things can take time to come together.
But - hey - that really isn't a
problem. The wait is invariably worth it's -
um - 'weight' in gold. I'm just
thrilled to have been granted a window of discussion
with these people.
And judging by the feedback, so are you. So
like I say, they're coming,
maybe, possibly, soon - 'ish'...
But the Q&A with artist Mark Bennington
is completed, sealed, finished
and ready to post on the site. In fact, it's
the next thing for me to do.
So why am I sitting here typing this drivel?
- Hmm - I'll sign off now...
Till next time!