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   Toy Tales at The Cartoon Museum
   Toy Tales    (09.07.10)


   This week, The Hound made an 1100mile round-trip to London where,
   amongst other things, he took in the opening night of a brand new
   animation exhibition at The Cartoon Museum, in Little Russell Street.

   Toy Tales features a collection of production artwork and models
   from some of the UK's most famous animated productions, with the
   centerpiece being a mouthwatering collection of wonders from the
   SmallFilms stable, and as you can imagine, 'twas a joy to behold.
   Visitors are welcomed by an amazing Clangers set display, with our
   pink piping pals presented on their moon, gathered around a skyboat.
   Yep. Clangers. And a skyboat. In a real life, just as they were during
   the original production, right before your eyes. And if you can steer
   your eyes away from that, there's an equally thrilling display case
   close by, wherein sits Bagpuss, the original sagpuss, baggy
   and yearning for you give him the very biggest hug. There are
   also some framed setups from Ivor the Engine that are of equal
   and unbridled delight. Their muted colours, painted on board,
   immediately transport you to that oh-so-grey, but never grim,
   imaginary corner of Wales.

    "Noggin the Nog"  image copyright Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin
    Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin

   But although it's these first exhibits that will draw the most obvious
   comment, The Hound found himself even more dazzled and beguiled
   by the stunning selection of artwork from Noggin the Nog that follows
   on from them. These are pure gold. Great brooding seascapes, 
   and roiling grey skies suck the viewer in to that weathered Nordic
   realm. Here are the Nogs on their boat, riding the storm-lashed
   seas. And here they are again, in a cave, with their torches
   lighting up the dark. The artwork has an internal glow that
   illuminates the viewer. Oh, why aren't there prints of these

   The exhibition moves on to still more SmallFilms in the shape of
   some behind-the-scenes Pogles photos before allowing other UK
   studios and creators to take the stage. Thus we have some
   wobbling wonderful Roobarb originals from Bob Godfrey, followed
   by some Morph art, and some Wallace & Gromit prints and comic
   art, there are a couple of DangerMouse cels, items from
   The Snowman and Father Christmas and several cels from
   "Famous Fred", Keith Chapman's original character art pitches
   for Bob the Builder, and a script-to-film look at Peppa Pig. Oh,
   and squeezed in amongst all this is a glorious display case
   containing the indomitable, boom-booming brilliance of an
   original Basil Brush  - Well, he-llo!

   As for the whole opening night experience, it has to be said it
   was hot, although not altogether in the best of ways. London has
   been in the grip of a relentless, sweltering heatwave and consequently,
   the Museum was stifling. There were cartoonists, animators and
   hangers-on alike wafting the oxygen-free air with whatever item
   they had to hand, and The Hound was soon completely overheated.
   He was just making a bid for the exit in search of some relief, when
   the museum founder, Oliver Preston jumped up on a table right in
   in front of him and welcomed the night's most special guest. 
   No, not me, silly. It was the great Peter Firmin himself. And
   moments later he was on the same low table, Clanger
   in hand, inches away from The Hound as he recounted his
   small endeavours in that Kentish barn and how strange it was
   that he had
come to pass in to the annals of our animation
   history. What a sweet sweaty thrill!

   Toy Tales, too, is a thrill. It inhabits quite a small space, but there
   are still over 100 items on display. And, yes, you can point out
   that it's highlighting just a few family favourites whilst omitting great 
   chunks of our animated history. But who cares? It's simply a joy to
   see this kind of material up close. Plus there are the permanent
   gallery delights to savour alongside this temporary exhibition;
   wonderful prints from Hogarth and Gillray, Ronald Searle originals,
   Steve Bell, Jak and so many more.

   Toy Tales runs at The Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street,
   London WC1A 2HH from 7th July to 5th September 2010. The
   museum itself is dedicated to preserving the best of British cartoons,
   caricatures, comics and animation, and it's always worth a visit,
   when you're in town...
                                                      More: The Cartoon Museum



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