ANIMATED PRODUCTIONS FROM COSGROVE-HALL RANGE FROM THE TV SERIES “DANGERMOUSE” TO THE FEATURE LENGTH “WIND IN THE WILLOWS”.
FRANK BAKER LOOKS AT HOW THEY GOT STARTED.
The early part of Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall’s story reminds me of two other animators, Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. As two students Brian and Mark met at Art College, and their paths were to cross again some years later when they both joined Granada Televisions’ Graphics Department.
Though the work at Granada was rewarding Mark was frustrated that his graphic work of animated titles were only seen for forty five seconds, whereas Brian was commissioned to produce a series of twenty-six cartoons for Granada Television.
Mark was enlisted to help on backgrounds for some of these, and they found that the cartoons they worked on together were the most successful. It looked like a partnership was in the making, but not yet!
Mark left Granada Television and set up his own company, while Brian completed his series of cartoons at Granada. Brian helped Mark in his spare time. Then in 1971 they pooled their talent to start “Stop Frame”, their own animated film company.
With a staff of thirty their work was in the production of animated commercials. Though this kind of work paid the bills, Mark and Brian were looking for something they could channel their creative talent into.
Yet, even at this early stage of the company, their work was noted for its quality and reliability. They were consequently approached by the major television company Thames Television, who were looking for someone to produce animated films for them. So Cosgrove-Hall Productions Ltd. came into being as a subsidiary of Thames Television on 1st January 1976. Starting with half a dozen staff (all of whom are still with the company) they converted an old tobacco and confectionary warehouse in Chorlton-cum-Hardy into a makeshift studio and began production of their first series – the tale of a happy dragon, a wicked witch and a land where people had wheels instead of feet. Stumped for a title, the team decided to put their little-known Manchester suburb on the map and CHORLTON AND THE WHEELIES began its 39 episode career on ITV.
Since then the company has grown to 70 people, has made more than 3000 minutes of animated film (the equivalent of 30 feature films), has won national and international awards, and has had its programmes sold in over fifty countries.
Cosgrove Hall productions use two different techniques: cartoon animation for series such as DANGER MOUSE and films like THE TALKING PARCEL, and model animation for such programmes as THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS or COCKLESHELL BAY.
Their stop frame model animation Christmas specials Cinderella (1979) and The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1980) have both been widely acclaimed, The Pied Piper winning the 1982 Prix Jeunesse, the World’s Top Prize for childrens’ programmes. It has also won the BAFTA Award for the Best Children’s Programme, and the Harlequin Award for Children’s Light Entertainment.