Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Bump in the Night (1992)

I have very fond memories of this crazy little show during my younger years, at a time when stop-motion animation became as popular then as CGI animation has now. While Bump in the Night was currently airing on the CBBC programme block (before there was even a CBBC Digital Channel to speak of), it was also doing pretty hot over on ABC (American Broadcasting Company).

Before Pixar even dreamt up Monsters, Inc, it was Mr. Bumpy, the monster under the bed, who gave us the frights and laughs in the mid 90's, with his best friends Squishington, the bathroom monster, and Molly Coddle the comfort doll. It was also my first experience of the amazing vocal talents of Jim Cummings and Rob Paulsen, who would soon become two of the most widely-used and adored voice-actors in the business - in particular for the Disney Afternoon animation block, where both helped bring to life a variety of characters each as memorable as the next. For Jim especially, his resume would be ridiculously long to post here, but it was this show that earned him a nomination for an Emmy for Voice Acting in the Field of Animation in 1994. And with good reason!

It wasn't just the stop-motion animation that really "wowed" me at the time, but the wild storylines that creators Ken Pontac and David Bleiman could only cook up. In similar vein to Johnson and Friends, in a way, they thought up a wide variety of episodes that took place in a limited number of locations, most of which occured within the boy's untidy bedroom. Sure, there may have been some "gross" humour involved, so far as belches and sock-eating are concerned, but it wasn't as overexposed or...detailed...as certain cartoons that followed I could well mention.

Then of course there was the Karaoke Cafe musical numbers, which exercised Jim and Rob's singing performances in regards to certain subjects or topics of their characters' choices. I daresay, anyone who remembers this segment of the show would have the old familiar tunes forever embedded in their minds. Whether it's "Picking Up The Pieces" or Mr. Bumpy's take on "School's Out".

Bump in the Night was the work of Danger Productions - their only major hit so far as I can dig up. For reasons of production / financial matters, once the House of Mouse took over ABC, it only lasted for two seasons. And yet, not just the fans but the folks behind the show - the writers, the animators, the voice cast - still remember it with great fondness and happy memories. In fact, for a while, the complete series was released to DVD in 2010 by Shout Factory - sadly now out of stock.
Oh well, there's always YouTube...!


Friday, 25 October 2013

October Works 2013

Halloween is a-coming once more...

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


Janet and Allan Ahlberg wrote many grand children's books together. British readers would remember the likes of The Jolly Postman, Bill Burglar, It was a Dark and Stormy Night and the Happy Families series in their local schools or libraries once upon a time.

Funnybones was another series of books they wrote that I took to most. Maybe it was because the premise of a skeleton "family" was so creative and fun. Or maybe it was the illustrations by Andre Amstutz, where the skeletons, set against the "Dark, Dark Town", truly stood out. Whatever it was, I never got tired pouring through the books I had of youth and admiring each page from cover to cover.

I especially adored the animated series that followed, which saw the adventures of Big, Little and Dog adapted by Jocelyn Stevenson, who was also responsible for the terrific Charlie Chalk as well as a host of Muppets / Sesame Street children's books. Next to a very catchy soundtrack plus theme tune, the animation was expertly crafted, with a jolly Griff Rhys Jones handling the position of Storyteller and voices.

So huge credit to Cartwn Cymru for giving us a faultless little series. Only 12 episodes in all, but this one series alone makes it all the more special. And Cartwn Cymru would continue to entertain and impress with their follow-up show, the Toucan 'Tecs - proving as with Mike Young had with SuperTed, the Welsh can produce more than just beautiful singing voices!

As this series was aimed for the pre-school market, it's more comical than scary - however, if you want "creepy", then check out this strange adaptation of one of the Funnybones books from a Hong Kong production...!


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Don't You Open That Trap Door...!

My first exposure of this wonderfully creepy series was through a little-known Saturday Morning show known as "Ghost Train" - which broadcast other spooky-related cartoons such as The Real Ghostbusters and Scooby-Doo. Little did I know how much I would come to love and appreciate The Trap Door as I grew up...

The series was typically 80's, where being weird and insane was (and still is) in. Created by Terry Brain and Charlie Mills (known in the credits as "Brainbox Mills"), it centred on Berk, the "overworked servant of The Thing upstairs", his annoying pet spider Drutt and the brilliant skulhead known as "Moany Boni". Together, all three wind up pitted against a host of strange, gross and downright odd monsters that emerged out of the titular Trap Door.

There are so many reasons why I adore this show, but I'll name two of them;

Firstly, it's stop-motion. This is proof of why the likes of Aardman are still around today - because they show time and again just what can be accomplished without the need of CGI; popular and far-advanced it has become now, there's still a great charm of seeing something hand-made brought to life before our eyes with time, care and patience. And the animation quality for The Trap Door especially is outstanding. No surprise that Terry Brian would later go to work for Aardman as an animator for Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run and Creature Comforts.

Second: Willie Rushton. The man was a legend at so many things - cartoonist, satirist, comedian, actor, co-founder of Private Eye magazine, favoured panellist of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, and much-adored voice actor of both animation and audiobooks. All voices (including monster-related) were performed by Rushton himself, and how wonderfully he brought each character to life. Even as far as providing "additional material" for every episode from start to finish. I wouldn't be surprised if a good amount of ad-libbing was involved here...!

In truth, it defiantly nails the "horror" theme, yet the surreal humour balances it out as only we British know how. Terry and Charlie would continue their mad streak with the equally bizarre "Stoppit and Tidyup".

The Trap Door only lasted for two seasons - but as the old saying goes, it was "Short but Sweet". And many still remember it fondly with good reasons =)