Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Tony Hart and Morph

Tony Hart with SMart presenter Kirsten O'Brien
Tony Hart (1925 - 2009) was perhaps the best thing that happened to the BBC for many inspiring artists, myself included. Before Digital Art Software like Photoshop become as big as it has today, Tony showed many of us what can be done with the traditional methods of pen, pencil, paint, chalk, crayon, paper and various other techniques. It's a shame that his old shows such as Take Hart or Hartbeat have yet received a second TV Airing or even a DVD release because this is the type of presenting that's missed in today's hyped-up generation, especially when art is involved. Being an artist isn't as big a joke as Spongebob's "behind the scenes" features make it out to be...

Tony's natural deliverance and "on the spot" creations make his programmes so much more enjoyable than anything "staged", IMO. And he has done many things for children's programmes at the time, including designing the iconic Blue Peter logo.

Old Friends - Tony with Morph
Not only that, but Tony also brought into our lives the fantastic Morph and Chas. While Wallace and Gromit have become their best-loved characters of all time, it was Morph and his chums that helped put Peter Lord and Nick Park's Aardman Studios in the Animation Directories. And like many popular stars, Morph and Chas began as secondary characters in Tony's Take Hart series, often seen interacting or messing about with Tony in dozens of Intermission Skits. In fact, the two characters proved popular enough to be given their own series - The Amazing Adventures of Morph, with Tony all the way as storyteller and (I presume) writer.

Morph and Chas
In later years, Morph and Tony would help each other along the way to remain in the hearts and memories of the small screen viewers. Snippets of TAAOM would be edited with new animation for The Morph Files, where all traces and vocal work of Tony would be replaced by Neil "Bob the Builder" Morrissey. While Neil was fine in his own way, there's something about Tony's gentle voice that's become a staple in Morph's roots. And I find it a shame and surprise that The Morph Files have somehow found its way to DVD before TAAOM, the latter which I literally grew up with.

However, the next Morph series, Morph TV, made amends when they were gracious enough to reinstate Tony's old art tutorials for the next generation to learn from. And though Tony has long since passed on, his legacy still lives on in spirit.

As for Morph, as well as being a feature in SMart (1994 - 2009), he and Chas have since returned to TV in Ricky's Radical Reinventions (2012) and plenty of the old sketches are available for viewing on Aardman's official YouTube Page.

Who knows what Morph and Friends will get up to next!

For now, take a trip back in time to 1980 with The Amazing Adventures of Morph!

Before his retirement in 2001, Tony Hart presented several more art-related programmes throughout the '90s - at one point, he dealt with the antics of The Art Box Bunch!


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