Friday, 23 December 2011

Mike Pearse - The Great Bash Street Nativity Play

A while after I had posted several blogs praising Mike Pearse's fantastic Beano entries, I received a very nice email from a blog watcher;

"I am a MASSIVE fan of Mike Pearse and avidly collected the Beano for many years, collecting rather the sizeable collection of classics and 6 years solid of comics (which unfortunately got destroyed a few years back!)

I remember Mike Pearse as being one of the most inventive, funny artists, next to Tom Paterson. But it wasn't just his artistic talents that set him apart, it was his amazing way of storytelling. Reading the Beano would normally raise a smile or a giggle, but Mike Pearse's works would actually have me rolling in laughter, and his stuff still does to this day. Thank you so much for posting the halloween comic, I've been searching for those long comics for SO LONG!

Tell you what though, there are two more. The football one would be a joy to read, but the comic that sticks out further than anything else is the Christmas comic, the nativity play. I still speak about it to this day sometimes, and can't look at a nativity donkey the same way again, it left that much of a mark on me. If you posted that, I would be so grateful!"

So for you, Emma, that's exactly what I intend to do - the original story in all its unedited glory! Merry Christmas from the Signore Studios Blog! :D

NOTE: apart from the cover, which appears to be the work of David Parkins, everything else is Mike's stuff.

...and just for fun, here's an extra Pearse Bash Street comic which, so far as I know, was only available online via the Beano website. Thank Lord for the screenshot button! ;-)

I wonder, though, if "David" was intended to be a nod to the life-long Bash Street artist, David Sutherland...hmmm...

Monday, 5 December 2011

Tom & Jerry Kids - Secondary Stars

As with every other character within the animation world, many of the stars we've watched and remembered today each started out as a "bit-character" or antagonist in a previous star's short. Woody Woodpecker from Andy Panda, Snagglepuss from Quick Draw McGraw, the Blue Racer, Crazylegs Crane and the Japanese Beetle from Tijuana Toads...the list is endless.
Even Sheen from Jimmy Neutron, in a bizarre twist of fate, was given his own spin-off series..

In short, if a character has a wide enough appeal through personality or premise, then the producers understand that the audience would want to see more of them, often gaining entire spin-offs for themselves (though in case of Sheen, I'm perplexed. The kid is as likeable as a naked mole rat with anthrax).

And today's blog post is no exception. According to Pat Ventura's latest blog, when he was a writer on Hanna-Barbera's Tom and Jerry Kids series, he mentions the following:

"Being an artist, when I created a character for a cartoon sometimes I would also sketch a rough design and the producer would use it. Two of the characters even starred in a couple of their own cartoons."

In Pat's case, more than two secondary characters were given the spotlight treatment in later seasons, though not all penned by Pat - all who originally featured in the various Tom & Jerry / Spike & Tyke segments. So we'll see how Slowpoke Antonio, Kyle and Clyde Cat, Bernie Bird, Wildmouse and Calaboose Cal get on, shall we? B-)

Now arranged in a fancy Playlist!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

When Animation Goes AWOL - Roobarb - Season 2 (2005)

Another blog post about plans that were stopped before they could begin or releases that never came to fruition:

 Roobarb was the creation of Grange Calveley, and the outline of the first series was as simple - yet brilliant - as the animation.

1974 saw the adventures of Roobarb, a green dog who was a mad as a box of hazelnuts, always daydreaming or inventing some daft new creation while also being mocked / assisted by the chattering birds and Custard, the fat pink cat next door. Narrated by the ever-charming Richard Briers (The Good Life, Ever Decreasing Circles, Skylark, Bob the Builder) and animated by Bob Godfrey (with his trusty marker pens that gave the series its original "wobbly" style), it was the first fully animated television series to be made in the UK, and has, as with many British Shows, gained a great cult following since.
So it came to pass that, over 30 years later, a brand new series, Roobarb and Custard Too, was produced by Irish company Monster Animation & Design (of Fluffy Gardens fame). And it has been one of those rare chances when a revival of a classic kids series has succeeded!!!

With Grange Calveley to write 40 further stories to accompany the 30 before, Richard Briers returning as the joyful storyteller, and the animation - though animated with Flash on the computer - retaining its trademark "wobbly" look with simplistic backgrounds, very little else had been changed - including its unforgettable theme song.
Some minor characters were tweaked and some new ones added, but above everything else Series 2 has maintained much of what made Series 1 so memorable in the first place :D

 And with Series 1 already on DVD, Series 2 was soon to follow suit - and then comes the mystery of this wonderful, successful revival...

Rather than released as a massive box set as with the likes of Shaun the Sheep, Series 2 was planned as a series of 4 separate DVDs. And no matter how much I have asked or looked, only Volumes 1 and 2 have been made available...
So what has happened to Volumes 3 and 4??

We've seen a series of books based on the new episodes published by Mogzilla, and while Series 2 has continued to be rerun on Channel 5's Milkshake block, it's a mystery why the rest of it has yet to make it to DVD. Perhaps they just got mislaid or forgotten somehow...who knows...?

The Official Roobarb & Custard website!
Toonhound's Roobarb Page
Grange Calveley's home page!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

When Animation Goes AWOL: Cosgrove Hall

Mark Hall 1936 - 2011
First off, something that I only just found out last night - I regret to inform the death of Mark Hall, who lost his battle with cancer on Friday November 18th. The news really took me off-guard, especially as it seemed he and Brian Cosgrove were ready to provide a host of exciting new animation projects for a fresh young generation, while attracting the interest of the old following the opening of their new studio...

Though I fear of how this may affect Cosgrove Hall Fitzpatrick now, when so early in the game, my deepest sympathies and coincides go out to Mark's family, friends and colleagues in this difficult time. God Bless =(

However, I intend to carry on regardless by showcasing a few other shows that Cosgrove Hall Films were unable to complete before their company folded in 2010:

One of these was their first venture into CGI with a series entitled "Theodore". While little information is given on this particular pitch, Wikipedia states that it was to be set in a Nuclear Organisation called "Radioactive Science and Technology Station" (RSTS). When these may resurface again remains uncertain.
Another series that never passed the pilot stage was The Carrottry Kid, created by Andy Fanton (a comic artist for the recent Dandy Comic). The series would have featured the characters as anthropomorphic fruit / vegetable characters, the hero being a karate-chopping young carrot who, with help from his mentor Master Che-Ri, trains to be a true karate fighter in order to stop the evil forces of Count Cornelius Cob.
Unfortunately, due to ITV's absorbing of Cosgrove Hall, the series never really flourished. However, over the years it has found new life as a web comic, with the original pilot still available to view online:

To say that Mark passed away aged just 75 years old says a great deal for his legacy in the British Animation media. The talents he urged, the skills he shared and developed, the hands-on approach with every member of every series that he and long-time colleague Brian Cosgrove helped to create should be an example to us all - even in today's cynical media, half the shows in the world that are created are not as glorious as Danger Mouse, Count Duckula, the Wind in the Willows, Victor and Hugo and many, many, many more...

In fact, I received a second surprise the following morning when I was contacted by one Roger Stennett, who was a writer on several CHF shows, including Fantomcat, Avenger Penguins and Sooty's Amazing Adventures. He was "particularly pleased that I enjoyed the work of Cosgrove Hall Films so much", going by what I've posted about in the past, and went on to say:

"Both he (Brian Cosgrove) and Mark were such gently powerful influences at Cosgrove Hall Films, and whenever I think of my time working with them both, it always makes me smile.

Over my 20 years + of writing Animation, they were indeed 'the best of times' "

In short, Mr. Hall truly did leave his Mark.
Thank you, Sir. From all of us.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

When Animation Goes AWOL: Orsum Island (2005/08)

Another blog post about plans that were stopped before they could begin or releases that never came to fruition:

ORSUM ISLAND (2005/08)
Co-written with Ryan Healy =)

During his lifetime, David Mitton had made a firm name of himself as Director, Producer and Writer for television – more famous for his 20 years of work on Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends (from 1984 till 2003) and for creating Thomas's “sister” series, TUGS (1989).

David left Thomas in 2003, following the HIT Entertainment takeover, and later began working with long-term business associates David Lane, who he had known from his days working with Gerry Anderson on the set of Thunderbirds (David Lane directed a number of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and other Century 21st productions – as well as working on feature films such as Superman and Muppet Treasure Island), and mutual friend and colleague, Michelle Fabian-Jones. Together, they set up Pineapple Squared Entertainment – their first major series being Adventures On Orsum Island, based on books featuring the adventures of Monty Dragon.

Orsum Island was intended for older children, in terms of more dramatic storylines and sharper humour. The series would follow the adventures of a boy traveller called Kodi and his struggle of survival with his friends Divine Flower, Monty the Dragon and Fidget the Chameleon, as the evil Zarkan tried to rid the island of all life using his terrifying army of The Viners, led by Malus.

Its original website had everything for its first planned series – character sheets, episode outlines, etc – all the perfect ingredients of filling a gap in the market for the 7 to 11 age group demographic, which is felt to be sorely overlooked by broadcasters and producers in the UK, who are currently more geared toward the preschool market. The team also intended for Orsum to be ground-breaking in terms of visual and technical innovations, with live action sets and 3D / CGI characters and effects.

Production on Orsum Island was ongoing between 2006 and early 2008. However, whilst the series was intended to begin with a 13-episode first series run when deals with broadcasters had been agreed and finalised, only four episodes were produced when production came to an abrupt halt. David Mitton, who had been a major financier of the project, suddenly died of a heart attack in May 2008.

Very short-lived - the logo for Pineapple Squared Entertainment Ltd
All three partners in Pineapple Squared Entertainment were passionately committed to the project, but David felt it a great opportunity to pass on his 40 years of experience in the film industry to a new generation. He was very enthusiastic about Orsum Island and the future for his new company and team. Production on Orsum Island never started up again following David’s passing, and Pineapple Squared folded – with Michelle Fabian-Jones and David Lane abandoning the company and setting up a brand new venture to carry on the legacy that the previous project had left behind. 
As of now, it seems very unlikely that the episodes will actually air – however, clips from the series have been scattered across the internet to view from. A full episode is currently available on YouTube to watch (See Below). Interestingly enough, David wasn’t the only member of the Thomas crew to feature on the Orsum team – Robert Gauld Galliers, who had been Art Director on Thomas from Series 1 to 7 also came on board to help with the project, and Martin T. Sherman, who would go on to provide the USA voice of Thomas from 2009, was also part of the voice cast for the series!

In a strange way, whenever I hear a company bearing the word “pineapple” today, I don't think of that loopy Louie Spence and his Pineapple Dance Studios – I just think of one of my childhood heroes and what could have been truly “orsum” to watch...

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

When Animation goes AWOL - Willo the Wisp Season 2

Another blog post about plans that were stopped before they could begin or releases that never came to fruition:

Willo the Wisp was one of the memorable 80's shows fondly recalled for the surreality in its characters and storylines - all thanks to creator Nick Spargo and his manic imagination.

Originally created in 1980 and narrated by Carry On star Kenneth Williams, Willo the Wisp is a ghost-like storyteller / "gossiper" who'd tell about the goings-on in Doyley Woods, where we first meet Mavis Cruet the "overweight fairy person", Arthur the Caterpillar, The brainless Moog, the Beast (formally Prince Humbert the Handsome), Carwash the Cat and Evil Edna the wicked witch.

The series has gained a strong following since, eventually making its way to DVD with all 26 episodes completely remastered - but what this DVD release contains is what inspired me to create these AWOL posts in the first place.

Willo had proven so popular that, come 2005, Nick's daughter Bobbie Spargo decided to bring forth a second series featuring all-new adventures for the fans. There were, obviously, notable differences:
  • Willo was no longer a caricature of Williams - instead after the new narrator, James Dreyfus (My Hero, Nina and the Neurons, Gimmie, Gimme, Gimmie, The Thin Blue Line).
  • Mavis Cruet was redesigned slightly slimmer (although still too heavy to fly).
  • Evil Edna became a widescreen television, with a wheeled stand instead of her original metal legs.
And with the series written by "Grizzly Tales" and "Alistair Fury" creator Jamie Rix, it looked and had good promise - with an announcement that Season 2 would be on DVD in 2006, a year after "Season 1" itself was released...

It's there in red and white. Trailer and all. A planned DVD release that never happened - so why?

Was it because the fans weren't happy that the characters looked or sounded different?

Was it because Rix's new stories weren't as memorable as Spargo's original series?

Was it another economical / business issue that stifled hopes and plans?

Or was it because of total disrespect from Playhouse Disney UK by lack of advertisement and giving the series lacklustre timeslots - between Midnight and 2am - denying anyone of any age the opportunity of seeing it properly...?

Whatever the reason, I don't know. But from what little of Series 2 I did manage to catch by sheer luck, I think it would have grown more and be accepted by the fans had it been treated respectfully during its run.

For now, at least there's YouTube - catch what remains of Series 2 to judge for yourselves:

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

When Animation goes AWOL - The Diddleys

Don't you find it annoying, yet ever so curious, when you hear, see or read news of something "Coming Soon" in the animation world...only for it to actually never happen, despite previews and advertisements and the like? How, for whatever reason/s, it goes AWOL (Absent WithOut Leave) as if it was never announced at all?

Several times in this life I have seen this sort of thing happen, and in most cases they're usually within the United Kingdom. Here is a short series of blogs about projects that were stopped before they could begin or releases that never came to fruition:


When Thomas the Tank Engine still ruled the rails (and still in model-form), and long before Chuggington came to be, Silverglint Entertainment tried to get in on the act by what it seems like an attempt to merge two of the most popular interests for boys - namely, steam engines and superheroes - while also trying to match Pixar in terms of CGI animation.
The Diddleys, as the tagline declares, were "steampowered superheroes who live in the magical world of Toostville". Diddley-Dum and Diddley-Dee, with the help of Charlie the Stationmaster, are always on the look-out for anyone in danger whilst they're running the railway.
But when the call does come, all it takes is for the titular characters to be filled up by H2O the Water Tower's "magic stuff" for them to transform into anything necessary for the emergency. A Submarine for an underwater adventure, a Rocket Ship for a space rescue...
...and that's about it, at least that's what was offered from the teaser trailers. Since then, apart from a few measly books that were published, The Diddleys along with their fancy website just vanished into virtual thin air. Nowadays if you're fortunate enough, you might just come across that lonely little book in a charity shop, or see if the Diddley-themed engines are still at work at the Brooksland Miniature Railway in Sussex, which must have been created to help promote the series further...then again, it's been so long, no one seems to know whether the park is still open today.
Mind you, maybe the whole concept of superhero steam engines just wasn't meant to be, especially with creepy character designs as this. Then again, the Diddleys didn't abandon railway realism entirely...they also tried to promote Railway Safety through activity pages et al, probably also to tie-in with the miniature railway one can assume.
Still, it would have been interesting to know more about the show's development - how it came to be, a little chat with the creator/s - or at least wonder why we didn't appreciate it properly when it was first announced back then.

Ah well, that's life - sooner or later, things get derailed, quite literally =P


Sunday, 13 November 2011


As you may know, if you've been following this Blog of mine long enough, I've always been an admirer of anything obscure, original or just downright nutty - so this stop-motion series from Germany fits all three roles nicely...
Plonsters was created by Bettina Matthaei and produced by Anima Studio für Film & Grafik GmbH in the late 1980's. Having been aired in Australia and Norway, it eventually made its way to British airwaves, which I happened to catch sight of as part of Channel Five's Milkshake! block during some channel surfing one morning.
The series follows the adventures of three plasticine creatures known as Plif (green), Plops (blue) and Plummy (orange). With each episode lasting no less than 5 minutes, showcasing simple yet fun storylines for youngsters to follow, it really does prove what one can do with some plasticine and a little imagination...

In fact, going by the gibberish language from the Plonsters, the series seems to have the same universal appeal as with Morph and Pingu in a way - but you be the judge.

Also check out Bettina Matthaei's own web site  (It's in German - however you can translate it by using Google Translate!)

Saturday, 12 November 2011

I talk to the Trees...

Drawn last weekend during a damp day in the local park. Wasn't too bad going by the lovely scenery mind =)

Friday, 11 November 2011


Music and Art both have something in common - the need to express one's feelings and / or creativities, through the smallest of doodles to the shortest of songs. Even animation, however comical or dramatic, has expressed the talents of the animators and Directors over the years.

Animusic brings the theme of timing animation to a particular soundtrack to a whole new level. Founded by Wayne Lytle in 1995, he and co-founder David Crognale have produced a new style of visualisations where "the music drives the animation" - quite literally according to the programmers.

Mixing stunning, imaginative CGI with incredible Midi-based scores, Animusic was released on DVD in 2004 and 2005 respectively as a series of music videos - originally intended for music/animation enthusiasts, they have since become popular for all ages. Wonderful stuff for the imagination if you're after something different =)

Check out a few videos from the DVDs, including the earliest Animusic video that set the ball rolling - More Bells and Whistles:

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Mr Potato Head - The Comic Strips

Ever since Pixar's Toy Story came out, I can never imagine viewing my old Mr Potato Head toy without hearing Don Rickles's memorable tones first. The character's popularity has obviously grown far more since the Toy Story Trilogy, though he was already popular long before then. Next to a short-lived TV Series that almost no one seems to remember, he was also granted a sizeable life as a comic strip character.
Designed and drawn by Jim Davis and Brett Koth, famed for Garfield and U. S. Acres, I remember reading this with great delight on the old ucomics website (now under the name of GoComics). Featuring Mrs. Potato Head and their two kids, Chip and Julienne, the humour centred on various subject in the strips' run - family life, handing a new job, taking advantage that all the characters have removable body parts...or in Brett Koth's case, complete surreality that invaded Orson's Farm... XD

The strip's actual run escapes me as it's been so long, but at a guess I think it started out somewhere in July 2002 until June 2004 est. At the beginning of its run, a collection of the first batch of strips was made readily available in a completion book for his 50th birthday.

So here's a healthy selection to enjoy anyway!