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!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Fester Fish!

Aaron Long is one of these guys that Cartoon Network, Disney, Nickelodeon, etc desperately need now more than another Spongebob / Beiber marathon fest. Next to being a fantastic music composer, he's got a very sharp sense of humour, which has been let loose since he took to his hand in animation.
Fester Fish is pleased with his growing popularity!
From his early days with Slick Nick Private Dick, he really took off when he brought to us Space Goose and Fester Fish, both which have become Internet favourites since. It's not just the creative storytelling and characters that Aaron has produced (with inspiration from the 1920 rubberhose cartoons of yesteryear), but the fact that he uses Flash (and Photoshop for BGs) to animate frame-by-painstaking frame instead of the lazy "tweening" method one sees nowadays from Flash-based 'toons - and that he, he alone, created these with no funding from anyone as a regular one-guy studio - shows that any artist / animator with enough patience, skill and guts can produce equally fun results. short, if TV fails, make your own entertainment!

Although these have been featured on Cartoon Brew already, I just can't help but share his two Fester cartoons further. Be sure to check out his DeviantART and Blog pages for further development in his style and plans for future shorts to come =)

Friday, 4 November 2011

The Sooty Show - 2011

Title Card for the New 2011 Series
Anyone in British Waters ought to have seen, heard of or grown up with Sooty and chums. Originated from Harry Corbett in 1948 for the BBC, Sooty, Sweep and Soo would go on to become the longest-running children's programme in the UK, spanning an incredible 60 years in various shapes and forms (including an animated series from Cosgrove Hall Films).
Even when Harry retired, he handed the bear to his son, Matthew, who - until his own retirement in 1998 - became a huge creative driving force for Sooty's further adventures, becoming as iconic as his little friend during his respectable career.
Richard Cadell, a life-long friend to the Corbett family and co-star of Sooty and Co, happily took over from Matthew started with Sooty Heights, and has since continued the traditional string of stage shows, keeping the little band of friends alive for generations old and new.

Hey Ho, it's Sooty & Co! Matthew Corbett poses with the Camper Van
However, Sooty's television career since the late '90's hadn't always been "Izzy Wizzy". Following HIT Entertainent's takeover of Gullane Entertainment, it left the series in creative doubt.
HIT's current brands have had (to them) more of a worldwide appeal than just one country alone - consisting of Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam, Pingu, Barney and Thomas the Tank Engine - so their attempts of making Sooty appeal outside of Great Britain had been rather negative and, lack of a decent word, stupid. Poorly-made puppets and a lack of Brendam Longman (long-time voice of Soo) were two of the biggest blows to the "franchise".
Soo from the 2004 series, comparing the old look with the (then) new. Don't fix what isn't broken...
But bad writing in all stifled the series between 2001 - 2004, which landed them in a 6-year hiatus until HIT, unsure of what to do next, decided to put the rights up for sale.

Richard with Sooty, Sweep and Soo!

...however, Richard became a true hero in the end when he snapped up the rights in 2008 and, from 2011, delivered us a brand-new series set in a holiday camp theme park. And having watched a majority of the new series, I was happily delighted with the results. Now that he's in complete charge his talent shines through much more. You can really see how passionate he is about Sooty and the brand, rather than just trying to make money off it.
It really does feel like old school children's TV from the 80's/90's - purely to entertain and not educate, with all the wonderful slapstick that made Sooty and Sweep a brilliant duo in the first place. And even the additional writers, Alex Skeratt, shares his enthusiasm!

In this day and age where reviving and destroying childhood heroes is becoming an annoying "fad" in today's media, it's folks like Richard that has to remind everyone that if you do plan to bring back a classic series to the present day - DO IT PROPERLY. And so I applaud Richard for showing 'em how to do just that, even with a small budget.
While I'll always adore the Matthew Corbett shows (mainly because that was the era of Sooty I grew up with), Richard Cadell is fast becoming a second favourite if this new series is anything to go by =D
Currently airing on the CITV channel, the number of guest stars to take part have been an additional treat - including Stacey Solomon, Justin Lee Collins, Keith Chegwin, Paul Daniels....and an old friend who makes a delightful return for one last hurrah...

Talking of familiar faces, test your Sooty knowledge and see if you remember any of Sooty's past from the episodes below - a little slice of why the 2011 series deserves further admiration!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


There's a personal quote of mine I tend to live by: "Being normal is boring - it's more fun to be mad!" And that same theory seems to have worked very nicely for Spike Milligan himself.

Anyone who has heard of or listened to The Goon Show should obviously know who Spike Milligan is. His warped, manic sense of humour has left a lasting impact to those who are inspired to follow in his footsteps - walking backwards to Christmas all the way!

In fact, Spike was also a hit for children's television once his radio days had long since passed. Next to narrating Honeycomb Animations' Wolves, Witches and Giants and writing Badjelly the Witch (as well as countless children's books and poems), he may also be remembered for The Ratties - created and written by Mike Wallis and "daughter of 'Eccles'" Laura Milligan. But going by the mad giggling in the episodes below, one can only suspect that Spike had sneaked in a few dozen improvs during recording...!

Once again, to whom so ever owns the rights to this show - DVD release plezthanx.