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.
'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
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...
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
Gosh, from 'Meg and Mog' and 'Metalheads'
to 'Crimewatch' - there's no
keeping this main man down, is there?
which Roger Mainwood talks about 'Meg and Mog', 'Metalheads' and his
extensive animation CV. As always,
TheHound's questions are
'Meg and Mog’ seems an odd directing choice for you; a
away design-wise from films like ‘The Snowman’, 'Wind In
‘Beatrix Potter’, ‘War Game’ etc. So what drew you to the
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
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
you flitting between London, Stockholm and Budapest, and
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
and receiving alterations that in the end worked out very
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
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
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
of time prior to that where the financial deal was being
put in place.
Also debuting this month is Telemagination’s 'Metalheads'.
you get involved. Were you working on those character designs
same time as 'Meg and Mog'?
Oh no - that would be impossible to do (and contractually
The 'Metalheads' character designs were done just before
I moved onto
'Meg and Mog'. The main characters had already been designed
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
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
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
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
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
of ‘The Snowman’. That must have been an interesting
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
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
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
As for Roger, well, you can read more about
him over at his web