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      February 2002

At last! - A big new page of toon news ...

  A round up of offerings from this year's ToyFair...
  Cracking Vegetables, Gromit!...
  Nick Park names his feature....

Don't forget:
The Big Mustapha

...a mini-Q&A with
Fleetway artist
Joe McCaffrey...

  Danger In The 3rd Dimension...
  Good grief! - Dm's back...
  Goin' Yoko!...
  Tony Collingwood does the Rhumba..
  A Hell Of A Night....
  Peafur give us a lecture...
  Moomin 'Eck!...
  Not British - but wonderful still...



Ah, the dubious pleasures of London's ToyFair. This annual event
    showcases all the latest toys and games for businesses and
    traders and - wouldn't you know - The Hound here now qualifies
    as a fully-fleshed head-to-toe trader, courtesy of ToonsToGo.
    I can't honestly say the visit was enjoyable. Useful, certainly.
    But not much fun - as you'll hear later...

    Still ToyFair's all about new products, and pictured here are some
    of the mighty-fine Brit-toon items coming your way over the next few
    months. And you heard it here first, the 'hot' new toons to be
    revamped appear to be DangerMouse, Mr Benn and luverly bubbly
    Stingray. Plus we're due a whole lot more of Bagpuss, more Clangers,
    more Thunderbirds, more Captain Scarlet, more Itsy & Bitsy and
    even more Rainbow...

    Here's what we saw:


    Golden Bear have had huge success with their various beanie
    ranges of late. At ToyFair they were promoting an extended
    Bagpuss range, now including a beautiful, large soft toy Bagpuss
    on a purple cushion and brand new singing Organ Mice Beanies.
    Their Rainbow range was also shining brightly, and they'd
    lined up brand new Itsy & Bitsy spider toys - including the
    twosome on pull-strings, so that they 'garble' and 'chatter' as
    they climb their webs..

    Better still was GB's fab selection of DangerMouse beanies, talking
    keychains, and - wonderful - talking soft toys. Penfold, in particular,
    was an instant star. In addition, we found a fantastic quartet of
    Mr Benn beanies, including bowler-hatted Benn, The Shopkeeper,
    plus Mr Benn as a Wizard and an Astronaut - Neat, eh?
    Although not British, it must be said that Golden Bear's other
    star attractions were based on Hanna-Barbera creations: Hong
    Kong Phooey and The Banana Splits have all been given the
    all-plushed, all-talking treatment too. Start raiding your piggy-
    banks, children...


    A relative new-name on the toy scene are Impact Intl, although
    the folks behind the venture are old-hands at the biz. You
    may already have spotted their big fantastic radio-controlled
    SPV vehicle fom Cap'n Scarlet. Well now they're bringing us
    a big radio-controlled Thunderbird 2,  Lady Penelope's FAB 1,
    a small Thunderbird 4, and a nippy little Scarlet SCC - very
    nice! - The bigger vehicles feature sounds and voices too...

    Elsewhere, Vivid Imaginations are continuing to expand their
    mega-succesful Anderson ranges. What caught our eye, though,
    was their first FAB Stingray vehicle. Is there more to come? -
    We think so...

    Now a name you may not know is that of the Stamp-Centre.
    This blossoming company has mined a niche producing items
    from SmallFilms and Anderson shows, including very desirable
    paperweights, coasters, and First-Day Covers. They took great
    pleasure in revealing a new range of Stingray paraphanelia -
    including a very handsome paperweight - and better yet, brand
    new pewter bottle-stoppers for The Clangers, Bagpuss and
    Thunderbirds. These were real 'little gems' and we'll definitely
    be stocking them over on ToonsToGo...

    Oh there was more, of course, lots more around the fair. But
    to be honest, very little caught our eye as being particulary
    innovative or original. We were also mightily surprised to find
    no new toons being promoted, like 'Don't Eat The Neighbours',
    'Engie Benjy', 'Rubbadubbers' and the rest - I guess it was just
    a tad too early for these...

    Toy Fair was a tad repressed, actually - everywhere you looked
    there were 'suits'. Certainly, it was a trade-only event, but no one
    seemed to operating on our level - a small eager business, striking out
    into the Big Bad Business World. It was all 'units' and 'forecasts'.
    There was also precious-little real promotion on offer. Tie-in
    trailers and clips were presented almost shame-facedly, on
    tiny monitors and no one seemed to hold any real enthusiasm
    or knowledge of a licence. All they could do was spout off the
    year of release and how 'popular' it was or still is. The worst culprits
    were the vendors offering 'Ice Age', 'Spirit' and 'Jimmy Neutron'
    goodies. Salesfolk barely even knew the release dates, let alone
    the actual content of the films, and indeed, the main 'Spirit'
    toystand didn't even bear one mention of the Dreamworks film
    from which the toys were spawned - not good, eh?

    If ToyFair left us glum, however, the trip home was glummer.
    The Wife and I operate out of Elgin, way-y-y north of London,
    in Morayshire, Scotland. You may recall, that last Monday was
    a ferocious day of high winds and falling trees across the uk.
    Our trip back took nigh-on 17hrs, including a 3hr delay outside
    Edinbrurgh Waverely Station and 5hrs squashed in a People-
    Carrier up to Inverness - an honest-to-goodness pain in the
    behind, I can tell you!....

    Tch! - The traumas we go through to keep people informed...


     Well that's just smashing, isn't it? - Nick Park and Aardman
     have at last revealed the title for the long-awaited, oft-planned,
     Wallace & Gromit movie. It's to be called 'The Great
     Vegetable Plot'...

     Er, and that's about it. No plot synopsis has been revealed,
     no new characters, no nuthin'. But what the heck, at last we
     have a title and confirmation that this mouth-watering project
     is actually on the table, waiting to be made in the future,
     after 'Tortoise And The Hare' is wrapped and released...

     But, but, but - don't go all miserable on us yet - there is some
     more immediate Wallace & Gromit news to excite.
 Mr Park has
     also just finished producing a series of 12 one-minute W&G movies
     for the internet - Horrah, and suchlike!

     It's the first film outing for the pair in - oh - six years, and
     you'll be able to start downloading these shorts sometime
     in the Autumn.
Apparently, the mini-films focus on long-suffering
     Gromit, demonstrating his master's inventions.
The project
     stemmed from a photo commission given to Park by a U.S.
     magazine. He was asked to come up with some pictures staged
     in Wallace's Workshop, looking at the glorious gadgets dreamt
     up by Mr W. Items revealed in the films include
a high-powered
     cricket ball bowling gun and a toaster-cum-TV

     Superb idea, eh? - Re-heating the franchise prior to the
     feature film - I'll be there first day, ready to download, I'm tellin'
     you. Stay tooned to the likes of the official Aardman site for news
     of when and where they go live. Of course, Aardman has been
     something of a pioneer for Internet animation in recent years.
     Witness the on-going success of
'Angry Kid'...

     Drop by A
ardman's site for WG, Angry Kid and loads more:



    Good grief, Penfold, The Hound's all-hearing ears have picked
    up signals from Cosgrove Hall Digital regarding the ever-popular
    DangerMouse. Apparently the team are actively prepping
    and planning for a retrurn of the Greatest Secret Agent In The
    World - in 3D!

    That's right, DM may well be returning to our screens as a
    CGI star. Plans to develop the project have leapt to the fore
    after CHD's successes with 'Fetch The Vet' and the
    forthcoming 'Engie Benjy' series...


    A new DangerMouse series in 3D would surely fulfill many
    a toon fan's dark desires. It'll be interesting too, to see
    who fills the late Terry Scott's shoes voicing Penfold...

    Gosh, with those Golden Bear toys in the offing and now this,
    2002 is shaping up to be DM's year, methinks...



    So who the hell is Yoko? Yoko's a bright flighty spirit bird, and
    he's got two equally vibrant friends, an armadillo called Jakamoto
    and a monkey called Toto. This electric trio are the stars of
    an innovative new animated series from Collingwood O'Hare
    - the studio who 've brought us 'The King's Beard', 'Rarg',
    and 'Dennis & Gnasher', and who recently aquired a Children's
    BAFTA for their 'Animal Stories' series...
    This latest creation is called 'Yoko! Jakamoto! Toto!' and the
    central idea is to tell simple,
humorous animated tales solely
    through music and action, with a look and sound inspired by
    traditional Spanish, Latin American and African art and music -
    hence the choice of those three excitable spirits...


    Says the press release:

    ' Writer/director Tony Collingwood took his original idea and
     developed the series in 2-D CelAction computer animation.
     He worked closely with Italian designer/animator Andrea Tran
     to create the show's unusual look and with composer Roger
    Jackson, to achieve its distinctive soundtrack....'

    Sounds intriguing, eh? - A team of 20 are now hard at work
    preparing and animating the 52 x 5min episodes commissioned
    by CITV. That's right, there are a massive 52 tales to get
    finished and ready for broadcast in 2003 - Yikes! - That sounds
    like a sleepless year is ahead for the Collingwood team...

    There's more on 'Yoko! Jakamoto! Toto!' at the official COH site:

    And Yours truly caught up with Mr Collingwodd himself, just
    prior to the release of 'The King's Beard' and 'Eddy And The Bear',
    back in December: Here's the Q&A...



     Had an email from Peafur's Alan Gilbey this week. Apparently,
     he and partner-in-crime Dave Freedman are staging a special
     Mr Hell evening at the Exeter Animation Festival this month.
     'Aaagh! - It's The Mr Hell Show' has just finished a haphazard
     run late-nights on BBC2, where it was left to flounder in the
     stinking pit that the Beeb execs call 'a cult slot' - in other words,
     they abandoned the thing. That was a crying shame 'cos the
     series got better and better as it progressed and the boys
     found their feet. In fact, the show seems to have been a mini
     hit everywhere it's been broadcast so far, excepting the UK...

     Down in Exeter, Alan and Dave will be talking about the
     development of Mr Hell, and showing several - quote - 'unseen
     gems', plus the original pilot and the now unshowable Serge
     The Seal plane hijack sketch! They'll also be running a two day
     workshop on animation screen writing - perfect for True Blue
     Toon fans like myself to brush up on their writing skills...

     Here's the detail:


     'A HELL OF A SHOW' - Tues 19th February 8pm
     Exeter Phoenix, Bradninch Place, Gandy Street, Exeter.
     Tickets 4.50 ( 3.50) Tel 01392 667080.

     As Alan himself says:

     'Its a really good, wide ranging festival with lots of home
     grown and Anime stuff...'

     A full programme can be found at:

     Hell, I'm tempted to go myself, but Exeter is a l-o-n-g way from
     Elgin and after the debacle getting to ToyFair t'other day, I don't
     know if my backside can handle the strain again!...



    You know, it's been a busy month for emails. Selina dropped
    me a line recently too. See, she's started up an online petition
    she wants me to tell the world about...

    Selina is a fan of the original felt Moomin Series from Film Polski
    and she's screamingly-eager to see the thing get a DVD release.
    You remember the series, don't you? - The first adaptation
    of the late Tove Jansson's classic works, with Moomintroll, The
    Snorkmaiden and those Hattifatteners and more. It was on tv in
    the mid-80s and has since been lost in a sea of rights exchanges
    which have seen a new, very flat, very American 'toon' version fill
    the void. Now I'm not quite as negative about that new show as
    others out there - as far as American toons go, it goes a long
    way to capturing some of the flavour of those fab books - but
    it pails utterly next to the brilliance of the Polish version.

    Yes, yes, so the late great Tove was Finish and the series
    had no English connection what so ever, but as Selina
    herself says:

     'This series was both slightly melancholy and extremely magical...'

    And I'll say 'amen' to that. It perfectly captured the spirit of
    the original and is screaming for recognition, British, Polish or
    Tibetan, or whatever. It really would be a fitting tribute to construct
    a thorough DVD release of this series, with accompanying info
    on Ms Jansson and her haunting creations. Heck, it would sell
    a bucketload in Finland, at least - so sign this petition:


    Of course, those there Moomins aren't the only overlooked gems
    out there. Where's Huxley Pig on DVD? And Philbert The Frog?
    And my all-time very favourite series Cloppa Castle?

    *sigh* - We live in hope...

    Well now,  with all that news and chatter going on there's no
    room for any site chatter this month. Suffice it to say there's
    always lots planned here and, with ToonsToGo taking its
    first faltering steps into the Big Bad World of e-commerce
    you can bet things are going to get even busier from now on...

    - Till next time!  



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       to their respective owners - so no filching, folks!