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  Roger Mainwood - The Main Man!

   * Meg and Mog *
        * Metalheads *
            * The Snowman

   Roger Mainwood takes
   tea with The Hound!...

  Meg And Mog
  Metalheads and The Snowman
   The Main Man               The Main Bit  
    Busy Roger Mainwood...        A chat with Roger...


    The Main Man

     Roger Mainwood is a man on a mission to take over tea-time tv here in the
     UK. Well okay, he's not really. But as luck would have it, he's recently been
     working on two top tea-time shows - 'Meg and Mog' and 'Metalheads' - and
     wouldn't you know, they premiered within a week of each other on C-ITV
     and CBBC respectively? Not only that, but Halloween week is 'Meg and Mog'
     week on C-ITV with 10 episodes due to be broadcast between Sunday 26th
     and Friday 31st October. That surely makes Roger the man of the moment...

     'Meg and Mog' is an Absolutely Productions/ Varga Holdings/Happy Life
     co-production. The show is based on the hugely-popular picture books by
     Jan Pienkowski and Helen Nicoll. Jan is an illustrating legend, famous for
     using big blocks of colour in his work. He also created fantastic designs for
     a series of best-selling Pop-Up books. Anywho, the 'Meg and Mog' stories
     center on Meg the friendly witch, her black cat muse Mog and their chum Owl.
     The show features the voice talents of Fay Ripley, Phil Cornwell and Alan
     Bennett and our man Roger has been employed as Series Director,
     shepherding some 52 episodes through the production process. This bright
     little show is deceptively simple in design. The colour palette has been
     very carefully constructed (when you're using such great blocks of colour
     it's easy to clash shades and irritate the viewer!). It's also surprising how
     to see how much life has been breathed into the characters. Watch it
     closely and you'll see lots of busy background bits and pieces too.

       Meg and Mog - Halloween stars!

     'Metalheads', meanwhile, is a Telemagination and TV Loonland co-production
     concerning much medieval madness in a school for young knights. Or Knight
     School, indeed. Roger's been contributing character designs for that one.

     Roger's a most versatile fellow, you know. Take a spin down his career
     credits and you'll find he started out with Halas and Batchelor, where
     amongst many things, he directed the famous 'Autobahn' film for German
     electronic group Kraftwerk. Our 'main man' then moved on to a protracted
     stint with John Coates' TVC. Roger animated and directed sequences for
     - deep breathe - 'The Snowman', 'Father Christmas', 'Granpa', 'The Bear',
     TVC's 'Wind In The Willows' and several of their 'World of Beatrix Potter'
     half-hours including 'The Tale of Two Bad Mice and Johnny Town Mouse'.
     Now throw in to the mix credits on 'When The Wind Blows', 'Faeries',
     'War Game' and 'Stressed Eric' (coincidentally an Absolutely production),
     and - well - he likes to keep busy, does Roger.

     It's Roger who animated those magical opening scenes at the beginning
     of 'The Snowman', when James gambols in the garden and builds his
     new snowy friend. He helped 'Father Christmas' decide where to go for
     his holidays and then animated him getting in to bed at the end of his
     adventures. For 'Granpa', Roger drew those sad, sad scenes when Emily
     arrives to play with her favourite grandfather only to find his greenhouse
     empty and silent...

      Evenin' all - It's Roger on Crimewatch!   'Have you seen this Snowman?'

     Not too long ago, Roger returned to TVC to put together material for their
     anniversary release of 'The Snowman'. And it's that same film that brought
     him on to our screens in person last month, talking on 'Crimewatch'
     about the despicable theft of several Snowman cels from the TVC offices
     (see: TheHound).

     Gosh, from 'Meg and Mog' and 'Metalheads' to 'Crimewatch' - there's no
     keeping this main man down, is there?


     Owl  Taking tea with Roger Mainwood...

     In which Roger Mainwood talks about 'Meg and Mog', 'Metalheads' and his
     extensive animation CV. As always, TheHound's questions are
in bold.     


   'Meg and Mog’ seems an odd directing choice for you; a world
   away design-wise from films like ‘The Snowman’, 'Wind In The Willows',
   ‘Beatrix Potter’, ‘War Game’ etc. So what drew you to the project?

   Well, it was the very distinctive designs by Jan Pienkowski and the quirky
   storylines by Helen Nicoll which attracted me. There is such a lot of energy and
   movement in each page that it was just crying out to be animated. In fact it is funny
   how a number of people have said that they thought it had been on TV before as an
   animated TV series. I can assure them that this really is the debut TV appearance
   for 'Meg and Mog', even though the dynamic drawings in the book make it feel as
   if it has already been animated.

   On a similar line, did you bring the series to Absolutely, or did they
   come to you - they knew you from ‘Stressed Eric’, didn’t they?

   Absolutely Productions got the 'Meg and Mog' commission from ITV, and yes,
   they approached me to be series director as a result of our earlier collaboration
   on 'Stressed Eric' . Carl Gorham, who was the creator, writer and producer of
   'Stressed Eric' is also the writer and producer on 'Meg and Mog', and we
   worked closely together on this project, together with Moray Hunter who
   was the co-author on many of the scripts.

   The show was a three-way production, how did this work. Were
   you flitting between London, Stockholm and Budapest, and what
   animation system did you use?

   We've done a few trips to Stockholm and Budapest but not as many as I
   thought might be required. We used an FTP internet site to upload all the
   designs, storyboards, animatics, line tests and colour rushes. I was really
   concerned at the outset that editing animatics in particular would be a problem,
   and although nothing can be quite as good as sitting next to an editor and
   viewing changes as you go along, we worked out a way of making comments
   and receiving alterations that in the end worked out very well.

   Did you work closely with Jan Pienkowski?

   Yes, Jan has been a huge help with the series, and has been very
   encouraging and enthusiastic about the results. He has been particularly
   useful when giving advice on colour, which is such a big part of the appeal
   of the books. Although it looks simple (there are only nine basic colours that
   are used) it can easily end up a mess unless you know how to combine
   these colours effectively. The "less is more" adage really came into play
   with all aspects of this project.

   How long did the series take to make?

   The production period itself took a year , but of course as is commonplace
   with complex co-productions like this one, there was a considerable length
   of time prior to that where the financial deal was being put in place.


   Also debuting this month is Telemagination’s 'Metalheads'. How did
   you get involved. Were you working on those character designs at the
   same time as 'Meg and Mog'?

   Oh no - that would be impossible to do (and contractually inappropriate!)
   The 'Metalheads' character designs were done just before I moved onto
   'Meg and Mog'. The main characters had already been designed by leading
   US cartoonist Steve Moore, but I had to come up with all the many incidental
   character designs. Medieval period costumes are always great fun to do and
   I think I must have used every costume cliché from the period that there is.

   Looking at your credits, you've spent much of your career adapting
   other folks' designs and artwork into animated form. Your a master of
   adaptation, in fact. Do you prefer this kind of work?

   I'm not sure about preferring it. It is just that that is the way a lot of the work
   has come in. But at the same time there is a great satisfaction in transferring
   to screen something that has only appeared in print form before. I've been
   lucky in that I have been around when some of the best loved children's books
   in English Literature have became available for adaptation, and when you get
   the author's approval of the end result, as we have had with Jan Pienkowski,
   then that is a very satisfying feeling. With such well known characters as
   'Meg and Mog' and those in the Beatrix Potter stories you doe feel a big
   responsibility not to disappoint people who have grown up with the books
   and hold them very dear.

   You started your career with Halas & Batchelor, I believe, did you
   go there straight from the RCA?

   Yes. John Halas, who helped so many people in the animation industry
   get a foot in the door, was looking for someone to design and animate a
   12 minute video for the German group Kraftwerk . He saw some examples
   of my work from college and took me on to do 'Autobahn'. I decided to
   leave the Royal College earlier than I had anticipated as there was no better
   way of learning the craft than working in an actual studio.

   ‘Autobahn’ is a classic short...

    'Autobahn', made in 1979, must be a bit of a curiosity now, but it still gets
    the odd showing here and there. The most recent was this month in
    London at the Wild Walls Film and Architecture Festival .

    And then you moved from one great studio to another, in the form
    of TVC. Was ‘The Snowman’ your first film for them?

    It was. I showed the director, the late and very wonderful Dianne Jackson,
    a film I had made for John Halas about childbirth and child development which
    I had done as crayon drawings on paper. I think it was the movement and
    style of that film that got me the 'Snowman' job, and they gave me the whole
    of the opening sequence to do where the boy wakes up, discovers it is
    snowing and then builds the Snowman.

   Of course, you’ve gone back to TVC of late with the anniversary
   of ‘The Snowman’. That must have been an interesting experience..

   It was, in that we returned to using exactly the same technique that we
   used 20 years ago. Using cels, painting on the back of them, and using
   wax crayons on the front of the cell. We then shot them on one of the very
   few remaining rostrum cameras in commercial use. This was at Peter Jones'
   studio, which has all the latest computer inputting technology as well, but
   which keeps the rostrum going as it still has its uses for certain jobs.

   So what’s next for you, have you any of your own projects you’re
   looking to put together?

   Not sure what is next on the horizon. We still have quite a few of the
   52 episodes of 'Meg and Mog' to complete. It would be nice to do
   something entirely original again but I would equally be happy with a
   re-commission of 'Meg and Mog'. It has been a very enjoyable

    And talking to Roger was most enjoyable too!

   You've read about them, so now make sure you tune in to these two top toons:

   'Meg and Mog' is screened on Wednesdays, 3.20pm on C-ITV.
   'Metalheads' screens Mondays and Tuesdays at 4.10pm on CBBC.

    Well, those are the general times at least, but there are regular additions
    to the schedules - like the 'Meg and Mog' Halloween run - you should
    keep your eyes open.

    C-ITV are screening 'Meg and Mog' through till Christmas. There is also a
    Christmas special which will be shown sometime during the festive season.
    'Meg and Mog' have their own mini web-site too. The series is being distributed
    by Target Entertainment.

    As for Roger, well, you can read more about him over at his web site.

     - Till next time!
      Pooch again!   

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