Dan Whitworth developer for Count Duckula series

Dan Whitworth is currently working on development for the Count Duckula series at Cosgrove Hall. He talks with Ken Clark.

KC: I understand you have changed Duckula’s personality from the one he had in his two Dangermouse films.

DW: He was mad about show business but we are playing that down, he is more of a Toad of Toad Hall type character who goes off on a whim. And we’ve given him a slight American accent.

How have you handled his ‘vampire’ tendencies?

Well, although he is a vampire, he doesn’t really want to be one. Igor continually tries to make him follow family tradition by saying, “Your father would be ashamed of you and so would your ancestors. Why can’t you be a vampire?” To which Duckula replies, “I don’t want to – I’m a vegetarian.” But that doesn’t deter Igor who tries to tempt him by slipping meat into Duckula’s sandwiches. His vampirism is a hook on which to hang the settings. There is great potential in the spooky, scary atmosphere of a dark castle. The castle can contain unlimited rooms, attics, secret corridors, dungeons and tunnels, indeed, many will be new to the residents. Of course there will also be standard backgrounds.

I get the feeling the backgrounds were inspired by early Dracula and Frankenstein movies?

By coincidence, when we began the pre-production work there was a season of old Bela Lugosi movies on television. We taped them and studied the sets and lighting effects.

Duckula has an apponent in the form of a Van Helsing type character called Goosewing. His ambition in life is to ‘ZAP’ Duckula with a device he has invented. He will appear in the early episodes but we are anxious to develop other ‘heavy’ characters. There is a fine interplay between Duckula, Nanny, Igor and Goosewing. All the main characters are different but their individual personalities gel together.

Do you animate from pose-to-pose or straight ahead?

Usually pose-to-pose, with straight ahead between poses, although sometimes it pays to animate straight ahead throughout, using rough keys. That allows you to change your mind as you go. When you have someone in-betweening for you then you work pose-to-pose. I have Rosemary Welch as an inbetweener, she is a free-lance who also worked on the Dangermouse series. I send work out to her and while she finishes it I can be doing another part of the job.

On Dangermouse we had six weeks to complete a ten minute episode. Three animators did all the animation in the scenes they were responsible for. If there were 150 scenes they would have 50 apiece. They would be provided with layouts, rough sizes for characters, storyboard and bar sheets, and they would key it all out, animate it, in-between it, they’d clean up their own drawings, split the levels, etcetera – that is a lot to accomplish in six weeks.

Count Duckula’s castle. © Cosgrove HaIl 1986.

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