Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A Grizzly Blog Post

Over the years, we've all had our fair share of Kids TV that has had plenty of "nightmare" from both Britain and across the pond - The Trap Door, Goosebumps, Tales from the Crypt, but the one series that has held a firm place in my heart (and one that has truly scared the boxer shorts out of me!) is Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids.
Long ago, this started out as a vast book written by Jamie Rix (first published in 1992) filled with 15 "cautionary tales for lovers of squeam". All starring horrid children and/or adults who have met equally nasty ends most fitting for their bad behaviour - for abusing the elderly, never taking a wash, picking on put-upon family members or just being badly behaved or spoilt. Unsurprisingly, Jamie himself was greatly influenced by similar horror stories such as Struwwelpeter, which prompted him to pen stories like "The Spaghetti Man" (to teach his son not to be so fussy with his food) and "Dr. Moribundus" (what happens when children play sick to avoid school).

As a result, Jamie's Grizzly Tales won the Smarties Prize for the best book of the year. Of course, it soon followed with Fearsome Tales for Fiendish Kids, Ghostly Tales for Ghastly Kids and More Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids - in fact to date, there are now over 100 Grizzly Tales stories and 12 books to collect (the new range from 2007 are the most gruesome; it's a wonder how most of the material got through the editing stage!!).

Then come 1999, husband and wife Producers Simon and Sara Bor of Honeycomb Animation (Tube Mice, Wolves Witches & Giants, Binka, Frootie Tooties) came upon Jamie's stories, loved them to bits and collaborated with Jamie to bring his stories to life on the small screen in the form of 10-minute episodes.

And well-adapted they were, too! I've loved Wolves, Witches and Giants for the insane twist on the traditional fairy-tales (next to Spike Milligan's equally mad narration) so this was a real treat when it first aired - from an epic soundtrack by Ed Welch to Nigel Planer (The Young Ones) as the perfectly frightful "Uncle Grizzly", who presented the first six seasons in his Scream Screen Theatre, with pet spider Spindleshanks to torture alongside!
Uncle Grizzly (alias "The Storyteller") and Spindleshanks
It's interesting to note that Seasons 1 - 4 (from 2000 to 2005) were traditionally animated, with Uncle Grizzly's segments brought to life with stop-motion form, and character designs by Bobbie Spargo. But from 2005, HA moved their production to digital animation with Flash (just as they had previously done with Funky Valley), starting out with The Crystal Eye, a Christmas Special that ranked up the views on New Year's Eye in 2005.

Following Seasons 5 and 6, the show was seemingly axed from CITV after the move to Digital Terrestrial, but still gained repeated showings on a semi-regular basis, both in the UK and across the globe - Australia and Croatia included. And that we all thought would have been that. But not so...

Roll on 2010, and news came that Grizzly Tales was to be reinvented for its 7th season, finding a new home on Nickelodeon and Nick Toons in the UK to accommodate Jamie's latest books, each written with a theme this time round - Blubbers and Sicksters, Gnaughty Gnomes of NO!, Terror Time Toys.

And my, have things changed! The new series aired from May 2nd with plenty of surprises for this reinvention - most of which you can find out from the Grizzly Tales Blog, including upcoming episodes and other interesting facts relating to the books and cast members of the TV Series. Amongst the changes made:

  • The character designs are now in the hands of Illustrator Tom Mclaughlin, which gives the characters a rather stylised look (even if they do appear flat-looking when animated).
  • Uncle Grizzly and his Scream Screen Theatre have been exchanged for his half-brother The Night-Night Porter, and his underground prison, the Hot-Hell Darkness, this time rendered in CGI animation.
  • Several episodes have been written exclusively for television and yet to be printed in book form - Nails in her Coffin, The Undertaker, The Wrap Man and Old Macdonald's Farm.

Thankfully, Ed Welch and Nigel Planer are still around with a delightful new theme tune and the same creepy voices to go round - according to a recent interview, Nigel based his Storyteller voice on David Jason's performance of The BFG, but nastier. Nice touch!
The Night-Night Porter - twice as scary in CGI!
In all, I'm delighted that the show is back for another hurrah. Honeycomb Animation have gained plenty awards for their aim at quality kids shows and, unlike most producers, aren't shy of getting involved with each production either - from writing to directing, all from the comfort of British Waters. Plus, it'll be nice for today's generation to get hooked on Grizzly Tales again instead of vying for the next Anime/American import overseas.

To add, I'll be keeping a very close eye on how the latest Grizzly Tales are adapted for TV - and seeing what they'll actually get away with onscreen! ;-)

The only downside I have is this:

how come Australia gets a DVD box set of the first 6 seasons while we've been handled one measly DVD release here in Britain? A scandal, I say! =P

So if anyone fancies a laugh (or a fright, one or the other), be sure to check out the new series on Nick Toons at 8:30am and 6pm. Well worth the time!

1 comment:

  1. You have been doing your home work! Bobby Spargo was not involved in the design of the series though, just the first two books.