Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Juniper Junction

Near the end of last year, I just happened across this charming-looking film on YouTube. It hasn't the zap-powie modern stuff that appeals to today's hyperactive audience amongst the toilet humour, the vulgarity, the reality shows and the unnecessary "gay" appeal that bombards most celebrities and chat shows.

It is, simply, charming. Nothing else. Just that =)

Juniper Junction is set at a country railway station 100 years ago, told at a gentle pace in a gentle manner with a dignified air in its inhabitants - from the station staff to the frequent supporting animal casts - and light humour out of a simple yet wonderful storyline.

Best of all, the only CGI within this 40-minute movie are the smoke effects. The rest is 100% stop-motion animation by use of vintage Gauge 1 model trains and sets and model puppets.

It is the effort of four years worth of work by Peter Strange and Paul Rhodes, and having bought the DVD to see for myself, I appreciate every minute and every second that went into its making. It has a very reminiscent air of Cosgrove Hall's glory years, drawing my mind back to the first time I saw their adaptation of the Wind in the Willows and how much the detail and animation grabbed my attention. I had the very same feeling in the first few minutes of Juniper Junction, and I still do.

It takes you back to a wonderful age: where steam engines still rode British Rails, where wives manage the roles of their husbands when indisposed, where "not all angels have wings" manage to charm even the most indignant of Kings, and where (in case of this film) everything was done by hand through hard work and for the fun of it.

Full of distinctive characters, the love of Cricket and railway practices, this film is ideal for all retired Railwaymen to relive the days of their younger years, and for parents looking to find something safe to sit and enjoy with their children. You'll laugh and simper through every moment.

It is fantastic, and I cannot stress enough how much this film appeals to me. The crew who made this possible maybe small, but they deliver with promising results. The voice actors, the animators, the composer, and of course Peter and Paul.

Check out the trailer below and be sure to visit their official website for more information and to buy your copy of their DVD today - it might prompt a sequel with any luck!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Everybody Say Humf...

Andrew Brenner is one of those remarkable folks who has been part of the animation circle for quite a long time, with a portfolio longer than the Trans-Siberian Railway. Since early 1990, he has succeeded and expanded himself as script writer / editor for the following titles (among many others besides);
Now that I'm old enough to to fully appreciate and learn more of the mentioned shows, I was astounded of Andrew's "legacy" that could easily match those left by Brian Trueman and Jimmy Hibbert. Thankfully, though children's television has changed since the Silver Age of the 90s, that hasn't stopped Andrew from delivering more wonders!
His latest work has been a big hit - Humf tells of a "small furry thing" who explores the world around him with friends and family to help him along. After watching several episodes online, I can see why this has received such lovely acclimation. The animation - produced by King Rollo Films and Rubber Duck Entertainment - is the smoothest, beautifully crafted I've ever seen in the preschool market....and the fact that this is digital 2D animation makes it even better!

The writing, too, differs from the normal "cut-and-paste" storytelling in modern-day children's animation. Andrew clearly knows how to write for children and their parents in mind, having written just about every episode of Humf single-handed. The characters are cute yet relateable, the storylines simple but not obvious. According to this interview back in 2009, Andrew is very passionate about intelligent storytelling and getting the message across clearly to both children and parents.

"...Television is now one of the most influential sources of stories for most children and it is very important not to waste the chance to offer them something that has some kind of value...I am not at all convinced that television is ultimately a good thing...But the reality is that it has an influence and so I would like to think that it makes a difference what we do with it. And that it is worth trying to use it to tell better stories..."

So here are a couple of Humf episodes for you to watch and draw your own thoughts:


Friday, 24 June 2011



So here's a Frog/Giraffe combo for ya, since I haven't posted any new arts here for a while.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

PLUG ALERT! - My Cardboard Life

Near the end of May this year, I attended another visit to the London Comic Con at the Expo where, amongst other fantastic artists and guests there, I picked up this cute little book - Cardboard Colin and Paper Pauline.

 The premise is very simple yet adorable. Two friends, a cardboard boy and a paper girl, getting cutesy and silly from their various conversations. What caught my eye most of all was the fact that the artist, Philippa Rice, makes her comics completely out of cut-out paper and cardboard and other various material scraps. Quite a novel way of being unique and recyclable!

Feel free to check out more of Colin and Pauline from their webcomic, My Cardboard Life, as well as buying their lovely little merchandise from their shop =D

Thursday, 9 June 2011

BBC - Small People's TV - 1998

The first time I saw this Children In Need promo back in 1998, it made my heart sing. This was what truly made up the Children's BBC at the time: long before Digital TV, long before Sam and Mark, long before everything became outsourced and "American-imported".

THIS, my friends, was a perfect history of British Children's TV from the BBC, by the BBC. With as much of the "gang" included as possible - stop-motion, live-action and traditionally animated =)

I'd have loved to know who was responsible for the animation throughout here. Could be from their respective studios (who were probably still in business) at the time, but at a hunch I'd call on Cosgrove Hall for the stop-motion segments.

The little chap here, BTW, was played by one Scott Chisholm; in what would be his acting debut just aged 5, he would later expand his career in various other shows such as Casualty, The Giblet Boys and Things To Do Before You're Thirty.

But enough chatter. Here's the video below to enjoy and reminisce...thank lord that 83% of the shows included have already made their way to DVD... le sigh.


Children's classics go back to the future
Children's TV trailer turns Scott into a star

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Voiced by Daws Butler

Anyone who has worked in the voice acting biz will tell you their favourite actors from the past - either from personal experience working with them or learning how to relive the animated characters they originally helped to bring to life.

Some of the most popular names that crop up have been Mel Blanc and Daws Butler - both who have had legacies larger than Russia, both who served their various companies well, and both who have worked together long-term, notably when Hanna-Barbera Productions first opened up shop.

Although he made his name first at MGM and then later Hanna-Barbera, Daws Butler also lent his voice to many commercials and animation shorts. What I also respect about Daws was the fact he shared his talents and skills with the world, training young people of the time the fine art of voice-acting, making them the stars they are today - just ask Nancy Cartwright and Joe Bevilacqua =)

Without Daws, we'd probably never have the likes of Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear nor Quick Draw McGraw to recall and enjoy countless times over...that is if you happen to be as big a HB fan aside others.

If you'd like to know more about Daws Butler - or Hanna-Barbera in general - be sure to check out Yowp's Early Hanna-Barbera Cartoons blog with plenty of interviews, newspaper cuttings and in-depth episode reviews!

Meantime, here's some other vids featuring the vocal talents of Daws himself.

This cute short is one of Sesame Street's often-recalled segments, featuring an Elroy Jetson-type narrator. Rather like the odd concept of a photographic train yard, which helps the lil' J stand out - even odder when one finds an A4 Pacific in an American Railroad yard!!

Daws was also fondly remembered as the voice of Cap'n Crunch, mascot for Cap'n Crunch cereal. The animation, I believe, was produced by Jay Ward Productions:

This last one's my personal favourite - next to being a voice actor, Daws was also a nifty writer, collaborating and voicing this set of Bosco Chocolate Sauce adverts with veteran animator/musician/cartoonist Bud Luckey. Rumour has it that the third, larger bunny here might be voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft, but please feel free to correct me:

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Alas Poor Simpsons...

So this year in March has seen the 24th anniversary of the Simpsons - who at this time boast of 26 seasons, 486 episodes and a feature-length movie to boot, all the time earning billions and billions and billions of dollars in whatever merchandise Matt Groeing and his crew can come up with next.

.....but at what cost...?

Any long-term Simpsons fan will tell you that the show, the characters and its creativity today are far from their glory days - they've long since scraped through the barrel and have since been digging up dirt. Characters are now stereotypes, continuity has been "restarted" several times over and any couch gag that runs longer than the episode is a sure sign that the writers are, ever so slowly, running out of decent ideas.

The sad fact is that the only way Simpsons is ever going to remembered by was for how far downhill it has run with every new season that is made. More to the point, since Family Guy came on the scene, the Simpsons's attempts at trying to "better" them in terms of cutaway gags and unnecessary shock value is stupefying.

There is a VERY thin line between quality and quantity - look at any short-lived series that lasted only 1 Season, 13 episodes tops. I'd sooner rewatch those over and over again then have more episodes produced and run into the ground, thus losing every inch of the original quality.

And speaking of quality, even the animation has taken major steps back. The original Opening Sequence was the last-remaining speck of good quality the show has ever had, and comparing it to the new version, there's no contest which I prefer.

I am fully aware also that the first few seasons plus the original shorts that aired on The Tracy Ullman Show are not everyone's cup of Joe since they were originally produced and animated by Klasky Csupo - of Rugrats and Duckman fame - which have often been criticised of being "ugly" and "crude".

Personally, going by the current Simpsons in animation and writing - as well as Fox Network having at least 5 shows sharing the same art style and "dysfunctional family" concept - I'd happily settle for "ugly" than "bland" any time in this life.

And just for the Hellavit, here's some screenies of how the Simpsons used to look and act, as well as a selection of some of my favourite Tracy Ullman shorts - ugly they appear, but they're short, sweet and FUN.

Now view a selection of the shots from the brand new playlist!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

PLUG ALERT! - Andrew Morrice

Fellow comic readers: Are you tired of seeing Marvel and Manga Novels plastered in every comic/book shop you go to?

Do you remember the good ol' days when comics were chock-a-blocked with humour and mad characters alike?

Do you long to relive those days again...?

Well if you check out the artwork for one Andrew Morrice, then you can! With characters like Stan the Crow, Taffy the Flame, Snide and Snout and the gleesome threesome April, May and June, you can relive the glory days of the Beano and Ha Ha Comics once more with an artist that uses genuine 100% traditional methods to reproduce ha-larious stories of days gone by.

...well, what are you waiting for?? Get over to his page and buy his books!

Friday, 3 June 2011