Animation have been in touch this week. They want
to let folks know that a second series of
"Funky Valley" has just been
commissioned by Five. That's their jolly show
about a bunch of
mismatched farm animals who are "passed
their sell-by date, surplus
to requirements or are just too eccentric to fit
in anywhere else!"
It's a fun series, for sure. Look out for
season two on Five next year,
where it will sit funk-tastically alongside
its spin-off Funky Town...
Honeycomb are also putting together a beastly
new toon project
with Andy Wyatt, the director of Aardman Animation's
"Beastly Behaviour" is a series
of - erm - naturalistic toon films
looking at the birds and the bees of the animal
kingdom. That is to
say, how the birds and the bees make
the birds and the bees - if you
know what I mean!
From whales, to fireflies, cockroaches and
earthworms - no reproductive
stone is left unturned in this exploratory
toon show. And what's more,
thanks to mobile content specialists Mobile
Streams, you can even get
to watch these beastly films via The Comedy
Channel on Vodafone Live
in the UK.
Yep, you got. Phone sex. Just for you!
"Beastly Behaviour" follows in the
clay-steps of Morph, in the walk
from tv to phone. A short while ago, Aardman
struck licensing deals
with Orange, Vodafone, T-Mobile, O2 and several
to secure the return of their clay star, including
35 re-edited shorts from
the original Morph shows specially designed for
No doubt, these will be just the first of
many such deals as the various
media conglomerates move to merge TV, movies,
phone and Internet
content across all platforms...
RIP Kids TV (26.06.06)
Okay, so it's not dead yet, but judging
by the slew of depressing
developments and news reports that have emerged
from ITV and the
BBC in the last few months, childrens programming
is very much
on the block...
A couple of months back, ITV have requested and
received permission to
reduce the amount of kids tv they broadcast
on week day afternoons.
They have since dropped their big Saturday
morning shows in favour
of a cookery series poached from the BBC.
And as the World Cup football
bounced on to our screens in June, they used its
arrival to drop those
afternoon shows altogether and instead direct folks
to the CiTV channel. Last
week, they announced that they were closing down their in-house
kids production outfit. And since then, rumours
have circulated around
the media, suggesting that they would prefer to
do away with their
tea-time commitments permanently,
and indeed, wind down the
CiTV channel, just a few scant months after it
The reasons behind ITV's Big Decisions are
complex. It's all to do with
falling advertising revenues, the seemingly-imminent
junk food advertising
ban, the dissipation of audiences through
digital TV and satellite channels,
and a tumbling share price on the Stock Exchange.
Some of those problems affect the BBC too.
Though they are not
reducing their commitment to a regular tea-time
schedule for kids, they
are changing its make-up dramatically. They
recently announced that
their CBBC output would hereby concentrate solely
on the preschool
market, to the exclusion of anything aimed at teenagers
or young adults.
Thus in a series of short fell swoops, these two
have sought to undermine a schedule that has
developed and flourished
over the last 40 years, to the envy of the
rest of the television world.
And there seems to be little we can do to
prevent it from the
guillotine from falling...
Imagine, no more kids shows on ITV, and the
BBC - publicly funded,
we should remind ourselves - concentrating
solely on those cookie
cutter series produced by their pals in the
rights industry. You know,
those companies who have been snapping up
the rights to classic
characters to use as bargaining chips on the Stock
How come none of us get a say in this very
Everyone knows the days when we all sat down
to watch "The Magic
Roundabout", "Roobarb" and "Willo
the Wisp" together are long gone.
Those shows were picking up eight, nine or
ten+ million viewers
each day, whereas today's schedulers would
be ecstatic to reach
that kind of audience at the peak of a Saturday
Everyone knows that today's kids play on their
they surf the web, text their friends or bury
themselves in the drone
from their iPods in a seemingly singular experience,
whilst Mum or
Dad or both slog their way home from the office
or Call Centre.
But the terrestrial stations surely have a
duty to keep providing young
viewers with stimulating television they can view,
digest, and then explore
further through other channels and media. This
isn't a commercial
decision. It's a necessity. It's akin to dropping
education from our
society because too many kids bunk off.
For four decades, ITV and the BBC have masterminded
balanced schedule, mixing weird and wonderful
homegrown series and
American imports that reached out to everyone,
young or old, big or
small. Some worked, some didn't, some were aimed
at tiny tots, others
grasped out to spotty teenagers who didn't
give a hoot. But it was there,
waiting to be chanced upon, waiting to be discovered,
in a rock solid
slot, at its peak, 3.30pm to 5.30pm every
week day. You turned it on,
you gave it a look. And some of us lapped
it up. They even went on
to build web sites dedicated to spreading the word...
But if you think this is curtains for the
audience, these Big Decisions
may well sound the death toll for the creative
folks out there. It was that
same jamboree of programming that chanced
upon Dave Sproxton and
Peter Lord, Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin,
Brian Cosgrove and Mark
Hall. It allowed Gordon Murray, Michael Cole,
Ivor Wood, Gerry Anderson,
Mary Turner and John Read and so very many others
to expand and to flourish. Some of their small
series were spectacular
successes, whilst others slipped beneath the
radar. But at least they
had the chance to tinker and toy, and to think
outside the box.
Are we to have a future where every new show
is simply poured into
a pre-fashioned mould; where 52 episodes are
"acquired" from a
corporate partner, with a star character who
can be retooled and
dressed for every new show, and each concocted
to the same
formula - one dash of "fun", two
dashes of "education", a tablespoon
of "toy licence", et voila!
Kids TV is dead - Love live Kids TV!
Ice to see you (20.06.06)
By 'eck, this is summat' to shout about. Fremantle
have just re-released "Chorlton and the
Wheelies" on DVD, only this time,
the three series are being presented in one
handsome slipcase. And
they're packaged up with a fourth disc, now
chortling Christmas Special, Chorlton
and the Iceworld.
That's a reet grand little film, is that one.
Fenella's Doomsday Special
goes awry and conjures up a gaggle of creepy Snow
Men, under the
control of the dreaded Snow King. The film's
been out on VHS before,
but this the
first time it's slipped on to disc
Like last month's timely release of Wind
in the Willows, Chorlton has
been spruced up as part of Cosgrove Hall's
30th anniversary celebrations.
That there Happiness Dragon was the first
character to get his own
series when the company was founded, back
in 1976. And as most
folks know, he took his name from Chorlton-cum-Hardy,
where the duo
based their fledgling studio.
Of course, before Chorlton, Brian and Mark
were Stop-Frame Productions,
and they gave us the Magic
Ball, and Sally & Jake,
and The Hound is still
holding out for these to appear on DVD some way, some
how, some time.
He's also holding out for his very own Happiness
How is it that three decades have gone by,
with Chorlton and his
Wheelieworld pals sitting atop the Big Tree of
Cult TV Shows, and
yet no one has thought to produce any Chorlton
figures, statues or
plush toys?- There must be folks out
there just as keen to get their
hands on a Chorlton maquette, or a talking
figure, or just a plain old
heaknocker-come-wobbler. In the States, Funko
have been producing
a fantastic range of Hanna-Barbera Wacky
Wobblers and ltd edition
"Wacky Races" figures (available from Lollipop
Animation). How about
someone doing something similar, here in the
UK with Cosgrove Hall's
Aardman co-founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton
picked up a
rather handsome, and thoroughly deserved,
CBE over the weekend.
The duo were included in this year's special
Birthday Honour's list,
celebrating the Queen's 80th birthday, and
were duly invited to
Buckingham Palace to collect their award.
Lord and Sproxton began working together back
in 1972, when they
introduced their Aardman character to the world.
And the chap gave
his name to their new enterprising production company,
1976. That makes the company 30 years young this
year - Gawd
Aardman's first job was to create the character
of Morph, for the BBC's
"Take Hart". And my, what a revelation
he turned out to be. He roamed
around that desk and studio, and interacted
so obstreperously with his
human host. His antics were an inspiration for
And that's the thing about the Aardman studio,
name and brand. They're
inspirational. Over the ensuing three decades
they've wowed us with that
amazing "Sledgehammer" video, they've
opened our eyes wide with
those "Conversation Pieces". And then
- why - then they teamed up with
Nick Park, and hit that big ball of plasticene
brilliance right out of
Well it was probably inevitable, but just
six short months since we lost
Maurice Dodd, his masterful newspaper strip "The Perishers" has come to an end.
Wellington, Maisie, Marlon and the rest have
been a feature in
"TheDaily Mirror" since 1957,
and in their first few decades, the gang
scuffed, scuffled and debated their way through
a series of inspired strips.
These tearaways were Britain's repost to the Peanuts
brigade. They were
rougher round the edges, with dirty knees, and
they fueled their antics
and debacles with great mouthfuls of tomato ketchup
In the 1970s, the gang made the leap from print
to screen, in a
fondly-recalled tv series from FilmFair...
Admittedly, the strips had lost their edge
in recent years. And perhaps
they were being retained more for nostalgia's sake.
the demise of this classic
creation is a shock.
The final strip was published in "The
Mirror", 10th June. And disappointingly,
the gang were given just a cursory "farewell" from
the paper - perhaps
highlighting the strip's decline. But you would
have thought that a
49-year tenancy might have earned the gang a better
Goodness this was a tip-top strip. There was
such a sense of place.
Wellington and company passed through abandoned
and overgrown patches of scrubland. There
were panels looking out
from under the viaduct, with the kids in silhouette
- oh - they were
So that's it. No more discussions about the
logistics of carting.
No more moon-gazing. No more eyeballs in the
sky, or fisiticuffing
beetles. No more musing dogs, no more h'eloquent
And no more inch-thick ketchup sandwiches...
If you're currently wallowing around in your
30s, or you're older, you'll
remember the days when the tv channels were awash
Information films. Many were animated, and top
of the memroable list
were those extraordinary Charley films, with the
mewling cat, which
spawned a 90s revival, a DVD and a hit song.
But running Charley a close second were a
series of films starring Joe and
Petunia, a postcard couple who taught us all about
the Country Code, the
dangers of driving on worn tyres, and how
to save water. Most famously,
they went to the beach and watched a sailing
boat sink as they learnt
how and when to contact the Coastguard.
The characters were animated by Nick Spargo,
of Willo the Wisp fame.
and their fabulous Carry-on lines delivered
by Peter Hawkins and Wendy
...And now they're back, with a 21st century
makeover. The Coastguard
film has been spruced up and re-edited, ready
to broadcast again - in
time for Summer.
In the original, Joe rushes to telephone box
to make his call. For the
new film, he now fishes out a mobile phone!
But everything stays the
same: Joe has the self-same knotted hankie
on his head: Petunia still
sports those fantastic sunglasses. And
yes, they're still watching a
"dinge-y" through their binoculars!
BBC compare the two version on their news site. But if you care
to stop by the National
Archive you can also view Joe and Petunia's
Country Code film, as well as those Charley
films, Tufty the Squirrel,
the film about kids learning to swim, and
Noawadays there are fewer Public Information films
around, but if you
look closely, you'll still find a few memorable
treats shoehorned into the
AKA's hedgehogs teaching us how to cross the road,
to the accompniment of a Proclaimers tune
- that's one you'll still see.
And no doubt, there'll be folks reminiscing
about those prickly
stars 30 years from now...
Yes indeed, that scourge of 70s and 80s tv,
the blue-feathered anarchist
known as Emu is preparing to star in an all-new,
26-part comedy series!
We all remember Emu, don't we? - He attached
himself to Rod Hull's
right arm back in the early 70s, and steered
them both to stardom.
Together they terrorised the public and presenters
alike, most notably
upstaging Michael Parkinson on his chat show.
In the 80s, Emu careened
through a series of hugely-popular TV shows.
"Emu's World", "Emu's Pink
Windmill Show" and "Emu's Broadcasting
Company" also introduced
us to the delights of the grumbling green
Sadly, Rod Hull died in 1999 and many thought
his big blue bird had
departed with him. But not so, because his
son Toby Hull has reclaimed
Emu from that Great Aviary in the Sky, and
he's working with Initial TV
on this brand new show. Apparently, Emu will
viewers a little more - he'll make sounds
and noises, rather than "talk".
Most importantly of all, he'll now be operated
independently of a
human arm (That's right, he'll be a free-range
Emu is to ITV what Basil Brush has always
been to the Beeb. At their
peak those Emu series were reaching 11 million
viewers. There's great
potential to tap into here. When The Hound
was a lad, he begged his
parents for his very own Emu puppet and had hours
of "fun" marauding
house guests and relatives (sometimes, he
even wore the puppet).
He was also given - and kept - this fabulous Emu
If the new series crackles and pops like
Foxed, we're in for a treat.
Although there is still one piece missing
from Emu's imminent resurrection.
Grotbags doesn't get a mention anywhere in
the press blurbs. Has the
witch gone missing in action?
Camera! Info! (13.05.06)
Over the years, Toonhound has grown substantially. It
a simple cartoon hub, a place for links and
site reviews on the web
in a pre-Google era. Then the index pages
expanded. New indexes
developed, and a clutch of mini-sites appeared
and sprawled out
over one hundred, two hundred, three hundred
pages and beyond...
Nowadays, the emphasis has shifted from links
to information. Pages
have grown to encompass more credits, extra
background info, criss
crossing information and DVD links. And a
good many folks tell me
they are using the site as a cartoon database,
in much the same way
as they use the IMDB, or
the BCDB. Which explains
why we now
have the latest addition: Broadcast info.
Yep, your truly is currently
updating all those TvToon
pages to include details of series premieres
and air dates, where ever I have them. It's
an anal addition, I know,
but it's something you folks have specifically
it's been a regular feature in my Inbox, alongside
multi-region DVD links, where applicable (which
request I'm currently fulfilling for you).
But - and it's a big "but", I know
- the expansion and development of
the TvToons section is coming at a price,
because the comics section
of the site has been woefully neglected of
late. Sadly for comics fans
(and to a lesser extent, puppet fans) those animated
series simply have
to dominate the site right now. They've always
received the bulk of
Toonhound's traffic, and generated the biggest
feedback. But I
promise, I promise, I promise to start
attacking the comics section
with a vengeance just as soon as I've cleared the
bulk of the
All I can say is "keep the faith". I
have a dream in my mind's eye.
One day, every index here will be as encompassing as
and Movietoons sections. And every page will be
as up-to-date and
informative as the current crop of pages. But it's
a hell of a lot of work
for one hound, tapping away on a lonely keyboard,
whilst juggling a
mortgage, wife, two young Springer Spaniels and