Sunday, 11 March 2012

Vampires Suck...

...literally in both senses if you're fed up of 'em already. What with "Twilight", "Vampire Diaries" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer" dominating the mainstream media these days.

But let's face it: however much we'll complain or argue, Vampires are timeless - like Frankenstein and Werewolves and Frank Nelson. They won't go away immediately. What's really made me tire of them is how certain franchises try to "re-invent" them as something they're not - making them the ultimate "shiny-shiny" to fan girls too naive to know better.

Depending how they're handled, though, Vampires can still be cool - like "Young Dracula", f'r instance. But speaking as a cartoon nut, they're especially more fun when put to animation. So enjoy the lil' playlist below of a few personal choices - old, new, British and American =)

The Ugly Vampire - a DeviantART group dedicated to Nerk Nosserfartu, created by Kat Nicholson - soon to be developed as an animated series, touch wood!

Memoires of a Vampire Duck - a Blog by StaceyW dedicated to all things Count Duckula

Mona the Vampire - Official Site and Wiki entry.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Budgie the Little Helicopter

The 90's were a great time for animation. It was, for all of us growing up then, the ultimate period for Saturday Morning shows which were entertaining, high of quality and above all else, original. Whether for preschoolers or older, you can guarantee that there was always something different with the "new blood" rising.

Budgie the Little Helicopter is one of these, who actually has quite a regal back-story.
The little chap started out as a line of children's books written by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, influenced from her flight training in the Royal Navy. Aircraft Characters weren't exactly new at the time - Jimbo and the Jet Set, Dilbert, Harold the Helicopter - but Budgie had such an appeal with his airborne adventures that the Sleepy Kids Company and Fred Wolf Films got together to create a series from the books, to be broadcast on CITV (UK) and Fox Kids (US) respectively.

Based in Dublin, Ireland, the quality of Fred Wolf Films's shows are just an example of what can still be achieved with traditional animation today - since they helped bring to life James Bond Jr, Dino Babies, Disney's The Wuzzles or the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So it's little wonder why the character designs in Budgie have such a Disney-type feel to them, but the setting of Harfield Airfield was strictly British nonetheless.

Another remarkable note of this series was that all three seasons (bar a few episodes) were written by Cosgrove Hall veteran Brian Trueman. You know it's a Trueman episode when there are chunks of continuity, adventure, imagination, research and comedy - but above all, true characterisation throughout.
Budgie and Pippa
Right from the start when "Pippa Arrives", Budgie, Lionel and Chuck have many a tailspin during the show's run - travelling to the Arctic and Holland, constructing a new Airport (with visits from Concorde), saving their own from demolition and many others - while along the way meeting new friends, airborne or grounded. All featuring the voices of Richard Pearce (Budgie), Abigail MacVean (Pippa), Jeremy Nicholas (Lionel), Gorden Lorenz (Chuck) and Jeff Rawle as the Storyteller.

Despite production running between 1994 - 1997, the series is still being shown today overseas, and has done extremely well with its success. Merchandise galore included tie-in books, comics, toys, bath-towels, audio CDs, VHS cassettes...and yet the demand for a complete DVD set is minimal, with just a few measly releases scattered here and there. Perhaps Classic Media should be a little more considerate with the UK Programmes they now have as part of their Product Catalogue - we Brits care, too, you know!
Dedication from the Duchess!
So if you remember the series or curious to know more, you need only watch the Playlist below - whether to entertain a young family member or if you happen to be an Aviation Fan =)


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Three Voices of The Magic Roundabout

The true beauty of Serge Danot's "Magic Roundabout" series was not just down to the stop-motion animation and design by Ivor Wood, but the genius in the writing - though not through the original French version...

Long story short, for those who don't know, the original series in black-and-white had enjoyed a cosy seven-year airing between 1964 - 71 in France until being brought over to Britain by the BBC. But since the original French scripts were not included to be translated, they decided to bring in Eric Thompson (of Playschool fame, including "The Magic Ball") to rewrite and narrate completely new stories.

So what we hear now from our childhood differs very much from the original French - which isn't a total loss since Eric's imagination with the on-screen action and characters have made the show what it is today: memorable, hilarious and slightly controversial in terms of its subtle drug references (according to the Beeb anyway, what with Dougal's Sugar addiction and the "stoned" bunny Dylan).

But long before the 2005 Movie came along, the original episodes have been fondly remembered by fans old and new from its dry humour and surreal visuals. However, Eric hadn't always been the voice of the characters we love...

The original gang - from 1970
In 1991, when the episodes were transmitted to Channel 4 (and later Cartoon Network), Nigel Planer (Grizzly Tales, The Young Ones) was brought in to rewrite and redub from Eric, who had by this time passed on. It is said that Nigel based Dougal's voice on British comedian Tony Handcock, which suited the shaggy dog's sarcastic nature quite nicely.

But then for reasons unknown the episodes had a third redubbing several years later, this time by Jimmy Hibbert (second only to Brian Trueman of Cosgrove Hall fame), who added a great sense of energy and zaniness in the remaining seasons "new" to the UK. Hibbert would be reunited with The Magic Roundabout again come the 2005 film and the CGI series that followed it, again as voice actor and script writer - and who very much captures the same air of Eric and Nigel's renditions as best he can in the episodes he penned himself.
Same Cast, New Look - their current CGI appearance
So whichever version of The Magic Roundabout you remember watching - old, new or something entirely different - you can view a sample of each here. Name your favourites!