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Toonhound presents...






British TV series

    The Magic Ball

  Magic Ball

     producers: Stop Frame Productions Ltd
     animation: cel animation
       episodes: 26 x 10min episodes

"Somewhere in England, by the seaside, there's a town
    called Haythornswaite. It's a busy town, full of busy streets,
    busy people and busy shops. Except for one shop, which
    never seemed particularly busy, perhaps because it was in
    a side-street, away from the main 'busyness'..."


    Thus begins each episode of this classic Seventies series. The shop we are
    led to is in fact Aunt Mill's shop, full of marvellous knicknacks, antiques and
    artefacts. And Aunt Mill has a nephew called Sam. This young fellow can't
    help but be enthused by the marvellous wares in Aunty's shop. And when ever
    Sam enthuses, so too does his magic ball. Sam's special sphere washes
    the screen with concentric rings of rainbow colour and sparkles, and Sam
    and his ball are both transported away to another magical adventure, in
    which he and we learn more about the curious object in question.

     The Magic Ball - Aunt Mill  The Magic Ball

    When those veritable Toon Gods, Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall first started out
    they operated under the title of Stop Frame Productions. "The Magic Ball" was
    their very first series commission, and it's interesting to see how ideas from the
    series were reused in later Cosgrove Hall productions. Most obvious is the
    connection with Jamie and the Magic Torch. Jamie's torch also featured
    concentric rings of magic action, and much sparkling. And he too, ended up
    in a strange and psychedelic world each episode. Sam and his Aunty live in
    a sleepy seaside town, similar to the one which later featured in Cosgrove Hall's
    Cockleshell Bay.

    Then there's the Mr Benn connection. Of course, that wasn't a Cosgrove Hall
    series, but Sam's Aunty's shop was very similar to Mr Benn's costume shop.
    And both Sam and Mr Benn would be whisked away each episode, as if by
    magic. Sam arrived on ITV just after Mr Benn's first appearance on the BBC. 
    The series is often referred to as "Sam and the Magic Ball", or indeed, "Sam's
    Magic Ball" depending on where you read it. It's been said that production was
    actually filmed in Brian Cosgrove's garden shed, in Manchester. Soon afterwards,
    Brian and Mark were whisked away too, to their new studios in Chorlton-Cum-Hardy
    and, well, that's when the magic really began.

    "The Magic Ball" was written and narrated by Eric Thompson, he being father to
    actress Emma Thompson, and very famous in toon circles for his involvement with
    that other magic series The Magic Roundabout. Eric brings the same deft touch
    to Sam's adventures, and his clever narration, coupled with that haunting calliope
    theme tune make for a series that lingers long in the memory...

    The Magic Ball - Cosmo, Beckett, frank, Crispin and Tarquin with Sam in "The Story of the City Under the Sea"    

    Recurring characters

    Sam often bumps into a sextet of recurring characters on his travels.
    One or more will turn up each episode, in different roles. Next time you're
    watching, see if you can find:

   • Cosmo - a white-bearded old man
 Becket - a big-nosed
man with a goatee  
 Frank - a large bullish guy 
 Crispin - a small bullish guy
 Tarquin - a weedy straight-haired posh chap
 Gloria - an overweight curly-haired woman


    » The series won a Hugo TV award at the Chicago Film Festival and another
        award at the Venice festival.

    » Fans should keep their eyes open for a hard-to-find tie-in annual,
        published back when the series first aired.

» Prior to the recent DVD release Sam was a hard fellow to track down.
        The BBFC identified a proposed Vestron Video release which was put
        forward for classification in 1986, but no one  recalls having seen it for sale.
        Episodes of the show were definitely repeated on television, back in 2002,
        on "Pyjama Party" with host Katie Puckrik. But that's all in the past now,
        with Sam's arrival on disc!


    Series one
    The Story of the Cave Man

    The Story of the Princess in the Castle
    The Story of the Chimney Sweep
    The Story of the Six Winged Lions
    The Story of the Highwayman
    The Story of the Circus
    The Story of the Weathermaker
    The Story of the Chimpanzee
    The Story of the Grandfather Clock
    The Story of the Toy Soldier
    The Story of the Flying Carpet
    The Story of the Cowboy and the Indian
    The Story of the Pirates

    Series Two
    The Story of the Mountie
    The Story of the Nervous Bagpipes
    The Story of the City Under the Sea
    The Story of the Giant
    The Story of the Strange Planet
    The Story of the Knight and the Dragon
    The Story of the Hunter
    The Story of the Bee
    The Story of the Drawing Book
    The Story of the Eskimo
    The Story of the City of the Machines
    The Story of the Comic Book
    The Story of the Witch


   Broadcast info

    The series premiered on ITV, on 5th January 1971...


   The Magic Ball on DVD

    UK DVD  The Magic Ball - Series 1
                Region 2 / 13 eps / Network DVD / November 2006

    You'll also find an additional episode on this fab compilation:

    UK DVD  Look Back On 70's Telly - Issue 1
                Region 2 / two discs/ Network DVD /
February 2010


      Stop Frame Productions Ltd
      for Granada TV

      producers:       Brian Cosgrove, Mark Hall
      director:          Brian Cosgrove
      story:              Gerald Hagan
        writer:            Eric Thompson
      animation:       Brian Cosgrove
      backgrounds:   Mark Hall, Peter Clark,
                            Valerie Pownall, John Leech
      dubb mixer:     Peter Walker, Frank Griffiths        
      narrator:          Eric Thompson


    On the web

     Little Gems
     A magic guide from the Gems...

      index »    previous »   next »      

© Stop Frame Productions / Granada Television Ltd / F2010