Over my shoulder – Page 3

The point I am making is that animation suffers from a lack of exposure. As one man remarked after seeing Halas & Batchelor’s retrospective: “Why on earth haven’t we been given an opportunity of seeing these films before this moment?” I suggest an answer may be found in the video cassette. A start has been made with compilations of SuperTed, Alias the Jester, Dangermouse, Teddy Ruxpin etc adventures. Paul McCartney/Geoff Dunbar’s Rupert Bear and the Frog Song, with two other shorts on the reel has sold well, so too has TVC’s endearing animated version of The Snowman. The trend could be expanded to include your own deserving productions. A determined effort to create a consumer demand in parallel with the release of cel set-ups could start a new trend while promoting the talents of your own studio. Surely this form of exploitation is preferable to the present practice of filing films away on racks to gather nothing more than dust?

Coordinated action would have more impact, with greater industrial control, and reduced overheads as a result of the larger quantities involved. As a first move in that direction write to me do Animator with an indication of your interest and degree of participation I know that certain studios are already contemplating such a move. Now is the time for the rest of you to re-consider your assets.

The second Leeds programme came from Elaine Burrows of the BFI. The collection had originally been seen at an earlier animation event at the Cinematheque Francaise. It is very difficult presenting ‘the best’ of such retrospective material for so little has survived the ravages of time. One can only choose from items held in the library and may, on occasion add little to a pioneer’s reputation. However, the programme was fully representative of early British animation and all the old familiar titles were there including films by Arther Melbourne-Cooper, Lancelot Speed, Dudley Buxton, Anson Dyer, Joe Noble, Len Lye, Lotte Reiniger, Norman McLaren, David Hand, Jack Chambers and Jack Elliot, Biographic 4, Richard Williams, George Dunning, Alison de Vere, Michael Dudok de Wit, Ian McCall, and Susan Young. The last three were ‘student’ productions representing current output.

Both programmes were well received if not particularly well attended but that can be said of the majority of the programmes screened during this over ambitious event. Often two, three or four presentations clashed with one another, resulting one one occasion of a recorded audience of eight people at the least attractive of the shows. I was dismayed by the small number of people who turned up to hear Ray Fields excellent “Super-Special Effects” lecture and I draw a veil over the embarrassingly few who welcomed Max Von Sydow, especially after he had been specially flown in for the occasion. Not surprisingly he flew out of the country again almost immediately.

The organisation was a remarkable tour de force, fully deserving total success and while it is easy to criticize with hindsight it must be done in order that future festivals will not be marred by the mistakes of the first. The problem on this occasion was that of excess, too much happening with too many overlaps, a surfeit of goodies spread over too long a period, too often in outlying venues. Next time – and I understand there will be a next time – perhaps it would be wiser to concentrate on one aspect of cinema/TV with peripheral side shows to tempt visitors at times arranged outside the main programme of events. Even to the extent of leaving it to Bristol to celebrate the animated film genre.

Cosgrove Hall Christmas Party

12 noon, Saturday 10th December, and it is time for Cosgrove Hall’s Christmas party to begin at BAFTA’s headquarters off Piccadilly Circus. There is the usual excited chatter and laughter as the young V.I.P’s explore the premises, while their adult escorts – the ladies and gentlemen of the press – explore the possibilities of the two bars.

Carlos Alfonso (left) and Chris Randall (centre) seen at the Cosgrove Hall Christmas party.

The festivities are an admirable P.R exercise enabling the studio to attract a good response from the news media and affording the film makers an ideal opportunity to gauge children’s response to their latest offerings: two new episodes in the Count Ducula series. Ghostly Gold was made in Manchester, England, Fright at the Opera in Madrid, Spain at the Alfonso Studio owned by Carlos Alfonso. Carlos, a former Thames TV director specialising in pure animation, told me his present studio devotes its energies to freelance commissions, in addition to the work for Cosgrove Hall. They have also produced Tom and Jerry episodes for the Hanna Barbera series. These activities keep them so busy they have no time to develop their own indigenous characters or series for the Spanish market.

‘Ducula’ features the voices of David Jason as the Count; Jack May as Igor; Brian Trueman as Nanny and Jimmy Hibbert as Dr Von Goosewing. Brian, Jimmy and Peter Richard Reeves are responsible for origination the scripts. Music is specially written by the popular comedian Mike Harding, who is always present on these occasions mingling with the guests and generally contributing to the air of bonhomie. The series is directed by Chris Randall and produced by Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall. The executive producer is John Hambley.
Chris Randall admitted to being conscious of small national differences in the two episodes but not so the children. They were not looking for subtleties, they were there to be entertained. My ten year old grand-daughter Sarah was very impressed by Ghostly Gold and the audience seemed to agree, but Fright at the Opera was greeted with reserved reactions. The differing responses had nothing to do with where they were made, nor Chris’ stylistic observations. Some scripts are better than others and the first – dare I say it – had more bite. On this showing without a doubt Alfonso Studio artists are expert copyists.

The current series will be followed by further adventures of Dangermouse and then an entirely new series.

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Printed in Animator Issue 25 (Summer 1989)