Monday, 24 February 2014

St. Bearnard

St. Bernard / Grizzly Bear mix.

In a way, St. Bernards are rather bear-like in build - they have to be for all the alpine rescuing most of them do. You could argue and say that Polar Bear might be a better fit here...but somehow, to me at least, it'll seem too cliché =P

Friday, 21 February 2014

A Shark In The Bath probably still not as scary as finding a Spider in a bath, to be sure of.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Insektors (1994)

You really can't help but admire the French sometimes - when it comes to animation they always manage to surprise and amaze us all. With feature-length movies like The Triplets of Belleville and Ernest and Celestine or shows for the small screen such as Zig and Sharko. Each in their own way showcases sparkling talent that plays a part in pushing the boundaries of animation, with changes nearly always for the greater good.

This little gem is such an example, both to the animation world and my own childhood during the 90's. Once part of the defunct children's schedule for Channel 4 of the UK, Insektors was one of my highlights every weekend morning. But even after rediscovering this series only recently did I realise that there was plenty more that I knew little about...!

Insektors tells the story of two colonies of insects: the colourful, cheerful Verigreens and the dark, gloomy Kruds. Basically, your average Good vs Evil show, and yet it offers so much more that made it stand out. Not just with compelling storytelling and characters, I might add.

At the time it was one of the very first kids shows animated in full CGI by Fantome in France, which was formed in 1985 by creators Renato and Georges Lacroix. Snobby animation heads may think its style looks "primitive" to current CGI studios, but many fans consider it ahead of its time: one of the cogs, you might say, in helping to shape Computer Graphics to what it is able to do now.
It was a time when Pixar was slowly taking shape with developing Toy Story, trying to find its footing with a new form of animation. Fantome studios just gave folks something more to consider with how CGI should look, feel and move - and even for a mid-90's made-for-TV series, it still holds its own today I feel.

And not only did it exceed in animation but also in writing - at least, the British version I grew up with. At 10 years old, I was totally unaware that it was originally a French production where, in similar vein to The Magic Roundabout, great sections were rewritten when the show was redubbed for English speaking countries. Character names and dialogue were changed almost entirely, leaving little of the original French scripts. Interestingly, the Verigreens were known as "Joyces" and the Kruds were "Yuks".
The series was also adapted for other European countries including Germany, Spain, Italy and Russia. But even more intriguing was the North American dub, which stayed much closer to Eric Rondeaux and Véronique Herbaut's original scripts (including character names) than the British version. That's not to say that the UK dub was poor, far from it - if The Magic Roundabout benefited from Eric Thompson's "revisions", than the British version of Insektors certainly learnt a lot from it!

The credit is all down to writers Teddy Kempner and Andrew Seacombe, the latter being the son of Harry Seacombe, who was one of the key players of the manic British Radio programme of yesteryear The Goon Show. Clearly, much of Andy's own surreal humour came into play when adapting Insektors to suit the British audience. Constant jokes and references to British culture made the UK dub more quick-witted with one-liners a-plenty - helped enormously by the variety of accents to match, ranging from Welsh, Scottish, West Country and...Japanese?!
In short, it was a show meant for kids, and yet it refused to talk down to its audience. Brilliant stuff!

Though smaller than the NA voice cast, the cast for the UK dub played their parts very well and rarely missed a beat in delivery. It's not surprising that Teddy and Andy were amongst the chosen alongside Neil McCaul and Caroline Bliss. It's thanks to them that I - among many others - can still remember almost every episode and quote rewritten for British waters (to add, they even found a way to make the symbolic "K" more prominent for the 'Krudds'). Although the NA dub deserves as much praise for equal performance and quality, even if their versions are harder to track down online.
But whatever language you prefer it in, Insektors has gained a much-admired following ever since with two seasons plus a Christmas Special - some folks may disagree with my thoughts, but I still believe, in its own, quiet way, the team behind Insektors helped to shape the future of CGI animation worldwide, both for the big screen and television.

Four years later, however, Pixar and Dreamworks would bring to us A Bug's Life and Antz almost simultaneously, both which pushed aside the Insektors out of the spotlight and towards least from those outside of their small but dedicated fanbase, who look forward to the day when a complete DVD collection is released for everyone - French, British, Portuguese - to enjoy all over again =)

Season 1 Playlist: