Monday, 30 July 2018

The Beano In Motion

Any time someone brings up the subject of comics / comic books, one of the first that comes into the minds of us British is 'The Beano', which celebrates its 80th birthday this year. It's amazing to think that while the comic strip artists come and go, the characters that they've drawn continue to develop, thrive and make kids laugh through each generation. I've already spoken about my favourite Beano Artist and characters before, and there are already countless of articles that detail the history of the Beano, from it's early years to its online presence today.

However, not many people would remember when the Beano first appeared in animated form.

The Orginal VHS Cassette cover!
The joy that six-year-old me expressed could not be described in one word alone when I happened upon The Beano Video on sale at my local Woolworths way back in 1993. To see the likes of Dennis & Gnasher, Minnie the Minx, The Bash Street Kids and The Three Bears brought to life with such fluidity and energy was - as today's generation would put it - "well cool".

Dennis and Gnasher break through!
Incidentally, the opening sequence and structure of The Beano Video was similar to another comic book-like series, by the name of ZZZap! There was no central plot or main focus, just a collection of 15 shorts all featuring the characters mentioned above. And many of these I still remember to this day - Dennis doing battle with 'The Pink Glove', Pa Bear trying to make Hare Soup, Minnie's attempts at scrumping from her Dad's apple tree...

Storyarcs and relating to the target audience are one thing, as today's shows aren't shy of doing, but it's nice to showcase a Variety Show now and again - made purely for the sake of being a fun, goofy cartoon. And at least there'd be something and someone different to watch rather than focusing on the set of characters alone.

The 3 Bears had the most expressive animation in the entire video!
The people who were involved here have just as much history as the Beano characters themselves. The animation directors, Tony Garth (Microscopic Milton, The Poddington Peas, Danger Mouse) and Dave Osbourne (Tube Mice, The Animals of Farthing Wood, Pip Ahoy!), have both worked as animators and writers respectively, while the entire comic book appearance was directed by Derek Modford (Charlie Chalk, Rastamouse).
All the shorts, presumably, were storyboarded by animation entrepreneur Mark Mason (Anglemouse, Philbert Frog, The Forgotten Toys), and the entire production was produced by Jo Pullen (Huxley Pig).

And of course, the voice cast consisted of versatile names like Jonathan Kydd (Bangers and Mash), Gary Martin (The Baskervilles), Enn Reitel (2DTV), Kate Robbins (Spitting Image) and the late, great Susan Sheridan (Jimbo, Noddy, Muzzy).

The B-E-A-N-O Videostars!
A 'sequel' was made a year or so later, The Beano Videostars. Unlike the first Beano Video, this one had a structured plot that tied the characters and their shorts together - in that the Beano characters (including Ivy the Terrible and Billy Whizz) were invited to a special cinema screening, which included a pair of curious aliens joining in the fun.
Terry Ward and Richard Everett (Nellie the Elephant, Bananaman) took their turn of directing, writing and producing this video cassette. It also showed the characters adapting to the times - as the Beano continues to do today - particularly with the inclusion of Rap Music...up to you whether or not the following songs have aged well!

Of course, when it comes to animation as whole, it's always a team effort - the writers, the directors, the voice actors and the animators themselves. No one person is better than the rest, and yet it'd be impossible to give thanks to every individual that plays their part in each production made. From time to time, it pays to 'Google search' a few names in the credits that grab your attention, and to find out more about them or any other work they contributed elsewhere. Chances are they may have worked on something else from your childhood, and thus gaining more respect for them than before =)

All Fall In!
The same also applies to the characters they've helped bring to life: while Dennis and Gnasher have had many animated reincarnations over the years, and are the headline characters for The Beano, in truth the comic itself wouldn't be as fondly remembered if not for the many other characters within its pages - and many of which who have not been fortunate enough to have made it into animation themselves.
In fact, it would be nice to see Beano Studios branching out to their other characters someday. I'd love to see how well Calamity James or Biffo the Bear would translate in animated form!

Luckily, as well as YouTube, both Beano VHS cassettes were also released to DVD, even though the 'video' term is slightly lost in translation today. No matter - for so long as the characters are remembered and people continue to draw / write / animate them, then chances are they'll still be going strong for their 100th birthday celebrations!