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Toonhound presents...






      April 2006
 Extra! Extra! - Read all the Toon News!

     Snow monsters

     Alan Snow and Here Be

     Happy birthday, Mister

     The Mr Men turn 35...

DVDs for ewe

   The best of the BAAs...

   John Read - RIP

   The passing of a legend...

   Hip! Hip! - Yahzaa!

   Adrenalini's get royal approval...

A big smiley advert
   Lottery ad is a winner...

   Rats, Mirrors and Mills
   The Hound wants more magic,
   less management, please...  
more »


      news archive »     interviews »      giveaways »

   DVDs for ewe (25.04.06)

   Here's a handy way to catch up with some of the best short films, adverts,
   video clips and all-round animated brilliance produced in the UK over the
   last few years, coursey of the BAA. They've put together a series of
   compilation DVDs entitled "The Best of the British Animation Awards",
   which you can purchse direct from their web site. And mighty-fine discs
   they are too, as they feature a host of award-winning films, bundled
   together with tidbits, teasers, adverts and snippets - many of which
   you'd otherwise struggle to find, or indeed, won't find anywhere else.

     The Best of the British Animation Awards: Vol. 6 - available now!

   The Hound has just been spinning through Volume 6, which includes
   Matthew Walker's jolly space walk "Astronauts", and Run Wrake's
   alarmingly fabulous "Rabbit" - which hopped away with this year's
   Best Short Film award. All six volumes thus far released have one
   or two classic works you're keen to see again, a couple more you've
   never heard of and others you'd forgotten or overlooked altogether
   that you can reppraise a few years on. They make for great viewing.

   "The Best of the British Animation Awards" DVDs are available now.
   And if you're serious about animation, these are must-haves for your
   reference library...

British Animation Awards

   John Read - RIP  (20.04.06)

    Many folks have been in touch with me over the last week to talk about
    the death of John Read. John is/was a legend in the UK's closeknit
    puppeteering community, and something of a cult figure to Gerry Anderson
    fans, having worked on so many of those seminal series. He was a producer,
    D.O.P. and inventor who developed much of the unique technology
    incorporated into those extraordinary puppets in "Stingray", "Thunderbirds",
    and the rest. He later became one half of the Mary Turner/John Read
    production partnership who brought us those uniquely brilliant series
    "The Adventures of Rupert Bear", "Mumfie", "The Munch Bunch" and
    The Hound's personal all-time favourite series "Cloppa Castle".
    Sadly - terribly - John died on April 13th from injuries sustained
    in a car crash . He was 85 years young.

    Darryl Worbey has passed on a lovely obituary, written with the
    support of Mary Turner. Mary has also provided the photo of John.
    Here it is then, in full:

     John Read (1920 - 2006)

    John Read – The quiet man of film (1920 - 2006)
Producer, Director Of Photography, Inventor

The sad passing of John Read will undoubtedly leave a void in
   many of his family, close friends and colleagues lives. Whilst his
   name may not be familiar, with many of the puppeteer community
   his dedicated work and influences in television and film puppet
   productions amounted to a career that spanned over 4 decades,
   and he will always be fondly remembered by us for his
   generosity, innovation and expertise.

   During the late fifties John co founded a new film production
   company - AP Films - together with some fellow industry colleagues
   Reg Hill, Sylvia Thamm, Arthur Provis and Gerry Anderson. Their first
   television commission was a low budget children’s series called
   "The Adventures of Twizzle".

   Together the young, dynamic team were quickly to become a
   strong driving force in the new area of children’s television. Little
   did they realise at the time that their joint creative output over
   the next ten years would in fact lead to international cult status
   and a huge fan base that continues to this day.
   John was principally AP’s lead cameraman and director of
   photography– and it was he who initially discovered and helped
   solve the many technical problems associated with shooting
   marionette puppets on film. As the company, renamed Century 21
   undertook more puppet series commissions so the figures became
   more advanced and it was he who developed "Automated lip–sync",
   a revolutionary system at the time utilising solenoids inside the
   puppet’s glass fibre heads, once activated the system provided an
   accurate mouth movement which has since paved way to the
   sophisticated systems used today in animatronic puppets
   and effects.

   Between 1959 – 1969 a total of 10 major puppet series and two
   feature films were produced including "Four Feather Falls",
   Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet
   and "Joe 90". John’s role within the company gradually saw
   him evolving into associate producer.
   After Century 21 ceased making puppet programmes in 1969
   John, together with ex head puppet co-coordinator and designer,
   AP colleague Mary Turner formed the company Cinemation.
   Combining their joint skills as key experts in puppet production
   and design they were now set to create and produce what was
   to become an impressive volume of independent work, and in turn
   employed a key team of established puppet builders and operators,
   whilst frequently nurturing new talent.

   Over the remaining decade at Cinemation’s base in a converted
   church hall in Southwark over 4 major television series were produced
   and filmed for Lew Grade's Company ITC. Their first commission
   The Adventures of Rupert Bear saw for the very first time Mary
   Toutel’s iconic character translated into three dimensional puppet
   form, together with his pals from Nutwood forest, in 152 episodes .
   With a cast of beautifully crafted puppets supervised and directed
   by Mary, and shot against large-scale settings the series was a
   major success for ITC and generated a highly successful merchandise
   franchise worldwide. The popularity of the Rupert series followed
   with Here Comes Mumfie. The success of these series then saw
   Cinemation devise and create their own format Cloppa Castle.
   Once again all the key Turner/Read elements were apparent and
   every single element was meticulously produced to the tune
   of 52 episodes.
   Further success followed with the television series “The Munch
   Bunch”. Amongst other works during this period were a short puppet
   series “Tree Top Tale" for Canadian television, figures for a Swiss
   museum of Ventriloquism and life sized marionettes for Granada TV's
   adult drama “The Magic Toyshop”
   As the eighties drew to a close Cinemation relocated to the
   picturesque village of Thames Ditton, Surrey where John continued
   with Mary to mechanise and develop limited edition autonoma for
   private clients and collectors...


   Hip! Hip! - Yahzaa! (13.04.06)

    Let's have a big "Yahzaa!" this week, for those Amazing Adrenalini Brothers,
    who've just pulled off their biggest feat yet. Rendoosia's finest and fittest trio
    have been cavorting across CiTV screens recently in their all-new riproaring
    series (78 x 7mins), and one episode "Cape of Majesty" has just run off
    with a coverted Pulcinella for "Best TV Series for All Ages" at this year's
    Cartoons on the Bay animation festival, in Italy. The winning episode
    features an animated version of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and it has
    yet to be broadcast in the UK. But there's a particular reason for that...

    The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers!

    It's being unveiled as royal birthday present!

    Yep, "Cape of Majesty" premieres on ITV1 at 3.35pm on Friday, 21st April,
    the day of the Queen’s 80th birthday. And it's such a special event that
    programme-makers Pesky are also marking with the release of a special
    online birthday makeover game also starring the Queen.

    So let's hear it for our Rendoosian heroes, Xan, Adi and Enk.
    Now performing by royal appointment!

                   More:  The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers   Pesky


   A big smiley advert  (10.04.06)

    Anyone who's seen this is left with the biggest, brightest smile on
    their face. And anyone who hasn't needs to drop by Studio AKA, asap.
    What am I talking about? - The latest advert for the National Lottery
    that's playing across the UK. "The Big Win" is simply a beautiful ad.
    Though it's anything but simple in design and execution.

     Studio aka's advert for  the National Lottery, via Agency AMV

    Studio AKA were given an open brief: " A man is given a bag of smiles
    and he hands them out to everyone he meets ". And that's precisely
    what happens. Only the "man" is now a pointy-nosed man-creature,
    and the folks he meets in his higgledy-piggeldy town are just as weird
    and wonderful. It's a beguiling cross between Seussville and the
    Moomins, accompanied by a nursery-rhyme sing-a-long song,
    and it will surely collect a bag-full of big smiley awards this year.

    Mind you, director Marc Craste is no stranger to awards. His film
    "JoJo in the Stars" won a 2004 BAFTA for Best Animated Short,
    alongside several others. You can buy JoJo on DVD direct from
    the Studio AKA web site. Plus you can watch "The Big Win"
    advert again and again, until you're all smiled-out...

Studio AKA


   Snow monsters  (05.04.06)

    This week the trade press and fan sites have been buzzing with
    the news that Laika Entertainment have won the race to option
    Alan Snow's book "Here Be Monsters" as a stop-motion feature
    for Henry Sellick (Nightmare Before Christmas) to direct. But although
    many have raved and salivated over Mr Sellick and his talented team,
    Mr. Snow  has been left a little out in the cold...

     "Here Be Monsters" by Alan Snow

    So leave it to The Hound to wave a flag for Alan, because
    a) His book is a blast and b) he also happens to be a rather talented
    animator/designer in his own right, which makes this little deal with
    Laika Animation even sweeter. Indeed, it could be the perfect match.
    Alan has written and illustrated more than 160 books in his busy career,
    although Here Be Monsters is his first novel. It's the first of the Ratbridge
    Chronicles and its busy plot is full of boxtrolls, cabbage-heads, rats and
    pirates. The book is illustrated with, literally, hundreds of pen and ink
    illustrations - it's a phantasmogorical feast for the eye.

    If you stop by Alan's web site, you'll find a link to some intriguing test
    animation that he put together with Aardman Animation, prior to the
    film deal. You'll see a boxtroll and mean old Snatcher come to life before
    your very eyes. This is brilliant, off-the-wall stuff. Rather creepy too,
    with some music by the Insects who, possibly, are the same folks
    who brought so much atmosphere to Tom Thumb. And boy, it doesn't
    half whet your appetite for the film!...

  Here Be Mosters   Buy the book


   Happy birthday, Mister  (04.04.06)

    Do you know that the Mr Men are now 35 years old? - Well they are,
    and it's their birthday this month. Or rather, it's Mr Tickle's birthday, 
    because he was the first in print, and created after Roger Hargreaves'
    son Adam asked what a tickle looked like - which you do know,
    of course, because the legend has been repeated so many times...

    "Mr Birthday"

    So here we are, 35 years on, with Adam Hargreaves now in charge of
    these fabulous characters, who just keep growing in popularity and
    adding more new Misters to the gang on a regular basis. And with
    such a milestone birrthday now upon us, Adam has created two more
    characters to celebrate. They're called Mr Birthday and Little Miss
    Birthday, the former simply loves parties, whilst the other is keen
    on birthday presents. Well, aren't we all?

    And therein lies the enduring appeal of these bright geometric characters.
    There's a Mr Man or a Little Miss in all of us, isn't there? And so long as
    our human foibles, feelings and characters traits keep growing, so the
    possibilities for new Misters and Misses will be there.

    I've always had a soft spot for the fellows. I got copies of those first
    Mr Men books - "Mr Tickle", "Mr Bump", "Mr Greedy" - for my own
    milestone 5th birthday, way back in 1973 (alongside an Orinoco glove
    puppet, as I recall). I was instantly smitten, and begged and pleaded
    with Mum and Dad to get the rest of the set. They were such a simple idea,
    I was confident enough to start drawing my own new Mr Men based
    on my family. One of my brothers was Mr Stinky, another was Mr Bogey.
    Well, you get the picture...

    I've still got those books today. They're a bit worn and frayed around
    the edges, but I love them (or is that my Bagpuss collection?). Anyway,
    I'm jolly glad I've kept them because in the midst of my collection is
    a first copy of "Mr Silly". And it's in its original form. You see, Mr Silly
    is the only Mister to have had a page changed later in its print run.
    That's because originally, he's seen smoking a big fat cigar in one
    of his pictures - an act that is now considered very silly indeed.
    Times change then, but those dear old Mr Men will probably be
    with us forever. They're currently the subject of a very noisy bidding
    war, with various licensing comglomerates battling it out in the
    business pages for their property rights. It might sound silly,
    but those little Misters and Misses are worth millions now...
The Mr Men


   Rats, Mirrors and Mills  

    As you probably know, The Hound is currently mid-way through an extensive
    overhaul of the site, cleaning up the design, removing dead links and expanding
    the indexes. That means I'm catching up with a whole heap of productions
    old and new like those fabulous early films from Cosgrove Hall. "Cinderella"
    and "The Pied Piper" are extraordinary creations, from an extraordinary
    team - so meticulous, and crafted for art's sake, rather than for any
    over-riding commerciality. If you haven't seen these before, or have
    forgotten their brilliance, Clear Vision's DVDs will reawaken your
    imagination. The Pied Piper, particularly, is still as potent and as
    haunting as the day it first aired, over twenty-five years ago...

    But what do we have like this nowadays? - There's lots of very fine
    commercial fare, but it doesn't feel so spontaneous. Every film and
    series seems to exist for a reason. They're packaged and presented
    on a plate for the market to consume. That's not to say today's films
    and series are poorer quality - goodness, no - there are any number of
    animated marvels out there to drool over. But sometimes you find
    yourself yearning for something that truly stands apart.

    ...Which is probably why I've been so susceptible to the delights of
    Mirrormask, the new film from David McKean and Neil Gaiman that mixes
    its live-action stars with some very odd animated puppets and CG additions,
    courtesy of Jim Henson. The folks at Tartan Films sent me a preview disc
    the other day, and I'm jolly glad they did, because it's a very brave production.
    The film unspools like an arthouse Muppet movie, and whilst it doesn't
    always work - the line between Helena's dream-life and her real-life is perhaps
    too blurred - there are a great many pleasures to be had from its acute
    otherworldliness. "Mirrormask" stands out like a sore thumb from the
    current buffet of spin-off specials, extended episodes and classic
    adaptations. Mind you, I don't really know how to class it for Toonhound.
    Is it live-action with animated segemnts, or animated with live-action
    inserts? - The dilemma's a pleasant one, regardless...

    Summerton Mill is utterely unique too. The BBC's decision to give it a
    repeat run as a stand-alone show is very exciting news indeed. Here
    is that rarest gem; a series that was born outside of the boardroom,
    in a sunny, suit-free world. Dan, Fluffa and their happy valley are just
    waiting to be discovered by the masses. Indeed, this is just the kind
    of series that Nostalgia Heads will be reminiscing over, twenty years
    from now...
    Till next time!    

        Pooch says 'Stay tooned!'

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