Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Mark Mason and the Raggy Dolls

You could not have imagined my joy when, on October 2010, Revelation Films announced that they were releasing The Raggy Dolls on DVD.

This was one of my all-time firm favourites from the 80's, which not only surpassed beyond one season (running in fact for 9 seasons and nearly 120 episodes for about 8 years) but it also developed gracefully in terms of production.

The Raggy Dolls were created by Melvyn Jacobson and produced by Yorkshire Television: the series focused on the adventures of seven "reject" dolls, each learning to live with the faults they were made with and looking after each other. The message to "be yourself" was so clear yet discreet amidst the imaginative storytelling as was the importance of friendship and teamwork. Neil Innes of Monty Python wrote/sang the theme tune as well as narrating the stories before writing many new stories later on from Melvyn and Joy Whitby, bringing forth new, exciting ideas - and solid continuity, in terms of reoccurring characters and events!

But the series really took off in terms of animation. The first few seasons were originally designed by Steve Smallman and animated by Roy Evans, which had its own charm at the time it was made. Then when Series 3 was put in production, Yorkshire Television brought forth Mark Mason - head then of Orchid Productions - to redesign the characters with a fresh look.

These, by far, have been my most favourite episodes since. Although limited, Mark's animation and look for the characters is truly wonderful; each of them expressive and colourful, which really matches Neil Inne's narration, voices and storytelling combined.

According to an interview with Mark, his favourite characters to animate were Lucy and Back-to-Front "...because they were fun characters to animate. BtF was a puzzle at times to draw - walking one way and looking another, and Lucy could dismember herself which had a lot of comic potential. My least favourite was Hi-Fi and his striped trousers...At one stage I was having very bad nightmares about Hi-Fi!"

And according to a DVD Commentary from Neil Innes himself, the characters of Mr. Grimes, the Factory Manager, and Florrie Fossdyke the tea lady, were based on the appearances of the producers, John Marsden and Jo Kemp!

And here are some personal favourite scenes that really show Mark's eye for character and design:

Dotty always gives great expressions when she's cross!

Perfect expression for Claude - pure concentration for an arteest!
A nice trademark of Mark's - the "pouty lip" look.
Nice touch of smear animation here, from the episode "The Old Windmill".

Like Dotty, Mr. Grimes also shows hilarious expressions when under pressure!

Some lovely light effects for night scenes =)

Nice perspective of the Raggy Dolls running.

And to sum up, more great expressions, when the Raggy Dolls embark on some amusement park rides!

Roll on Season 5...! :D

More on the Raggy Dolls from the following links:

The Raggy Dolls on DVD - so far!


  1. these'll be great to see, looks like there'll be some of the episodes I animated! ...

    1. Wow - just looked at your CV and website, and I'm impressed with all the shows you've worked on before. A majority of which make up my childhood!

      Thank you for the comment, and the watch. Very honoured indeed =)