Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A Sqwombat appears

Squid + Wombat = the above result =)

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Zig and Sharko - at last!

Since I made this post about Xilam's newest slapstick cartoon waaay back in January, it has since been my most-viewed blog post this year - and with good reason. Already airing overseas via Disney Channel Asia, Zig and Sharko has, along with Space Goofs and Oggy & the Cockroaches, succeeded hugely in terms of animation, fun storytelling and old-school mayhem, all neatly packaged in 7 minutes per episode. Something that American and, indeed, British animation is still missing a trick on here and there.

Oh, and Marina the Mermaid is also very quite cute =3

View a heap of episodes from their official Playlist below!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

La Linea

Regarding a previous post on Italian Cartoons, here's one that everyone is sure to have seen at some point - whether as a filler in-between shows or part of the Great Space Coaster...

Osvaldo Cavandoli's La Linea is a perfect demonstration of what one can do in an animated world. Drawing cartoons since 1943, till his death in 2007, "Cava" became famous when he created La Linea (alias "The Line", alias "Mr. Line"), which was originally part of a advertising campaign for Lagostina, a popular brand of cookware. After just six/eight adverts, the character became popular enough to be given a series of his own - lasting just over 300 episodes!

Everything about this series just works, especially for International Broadcasting - each short lasts between 2 - 5 minutes, perfect for a quick laugh. The art style original, literally made of a simple white line, easy to identify and animate. And the "voices" are provided by Italian Clown Carlo Bonomi (famed for also voicing Stripy and Pingu, both Italian-related to boot!), which is really just a mock version of Milanese, but to many it's just gibberish.

And just another example of how much the old masters of the Golden Age Era have inspired other artists. The entire premise of La Linea is influenced by Chuck Jones's Duck Amuck, where "Mr. Line" is at the constant mercy of the artist and his pencil. The real beauty comes from his reactions and Carlo's hilarious improvised deliveries :D
Artist and Creation interact
There are literally hundreds and hundreds of the original shorts scattered across online to watch, but if one is lucky enough, they're bound to either nab the entire DVD box set (available only in Germany) or the rarer CD featuring the Soundtrack of the series by Franco Godi and Corrado Tringali respectively.

Below are a few personal favourites I'd like to share, including one of the very first Lagostina adverts featuring La Line. Be warned: once you've seen a couple, you may be tempted to watch more...!


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Shoe People Surprises

The first time I recall seeing The Shoe People was on an old VHS cassette, entitled NSPCC Children's TV Favourites - the old compilation with selected episodes from only the best kid's shows at the time. The episode in mind was also the first-ever Shoe People story, "Can You Keep a Secret?", where author James Driscoll introduces us to the magic land of Shoetown where old shoes come to life, based on his own series of books. And having tracked down the original series on DVD, it was lovely to catch up with another old favourite, with the vocal talents of Philip Whitchurch (My Hero, the Toucan Tecs).

However, there was another "secret" that had always bothered me - yoiks ago, when GMTV Kids was as young as I was, I recalled seeing early one morning what looked like a new Series of the Shoe People, but only briefly. And for a while, I felt as if I'd imagined it...

But no - after one harmless browse on YouTube, I found that after all this time I was right!! A bumper crop of episodes featuring The New Adventures of the Shoe People (made most likely around the same period, late 80's) turned up right on my desktop, all nicely written by Nigel Crowle! And the differences I remembered seeing have returned as clear as day:

  • The episodes had been extended from 5 minutes to 11 minutes
  • Plenty of new characters are added to the cast, including a trio of rowdy skates called The Boot Boys 
  • The characters' mouths are now animated, whereas they were not in the first series
  • Philip Whitchurch reprises his role, but was also joined by Joanna Wyatt, who voices the female characters (and the latter, according to IMDB, has also done some work for Angelina Ballerina, The Mr Men Show and Guess with Jess).

It's interesting to note how a few of the new characters here all have American accents. Possibly as a means of selling the series across the pond as it were. But apart from that, the music, character designs and animation have remained intact, if not better than before. It's a mystery why The New Adventures have yet to be brought to DVD since Revelation Films Ltd have done so with the first series. Then again, they've already blessed us with The Raggy Dolls, Willy Fog, Round the Twist and Dogtanian, so perhaps it's only a matter of time...

So here's an episode from each season to treat you with!

Monday, 15 August 2011

All Chalked Up - with Simon and Rudy

"Rip-off" sounds like such a harsh, overused word nowadays. Yes, animation studios have had a tendency to "borrow" storylines/characters/ideas from one another over the years (from the discreet to the bluntly obvious), but "ripping off" is thrown about so often it's rather lost all meaning to me.

Believe it or not, there are times when two shows are created that, without intention, both share a familiar setting to one another - this is what's know as a coincidence.

And such an example can be found today:

Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings was created in the 1970's by Edward McLachlan, brought to animation by FilmFair Productions (Paddington Bear, The Wombles) and narrated by the enthusiastic Bernard Cribbens. The series featured the adventures of a lad called Simon who had a magic chalkboard/fence, from which his chalk drawings came to life in a land of their own, alongside a chalk friend called Henry. Directed by Ivor Wood and with a nifty theme tune by Mike Batt, it's another classic series that nostalgia fans can't forget no matter how hard one tries.

ChalkZone was created in 2002 by Bill Burnett and Larry Huber by Frederator Studios for Nickeloden. This show was about a kid called Rudy Tabootie, who possessed a set of magic chalks which enables him to enter the frantic world of ChalkZone. Whilst Simon had Henry, Rudy's chalk buddy was Snap, as well as gal pal Penny from school - and this series has since gained a popular fanbase for its zany originality in characters, soundtrack and storytelling. Plus, with voice actors like E. G. Daily (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls) and Candi Milo (Cow and Chicken, Codename: Kids Next Door), it's considered one of the better Nickeloden animations of its time.

I can happily say that Bill and Larry's ChalkZone is by no means a "rip-off" from FilmFair's Simon series. The fact that both shows have a 30-year gap between them, it's obvious that ChalkZone was created by pure chance and unknown from what we British offered first.

Then of course, somewhere in-between the two, Rupert Bear had an adventure with chalk drawings himself...but that's another story ;)

Here's an example of both shows to watch and compare - whether either are familiar to you or something new entirely =)

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Mr Hiccup

The most interesting thing about foreign cartoons is the fact that, somehow, they turn out to be a little bit more creative and unexpected from our British / American favourites - the most notable are those before or during the 80's.

Italian cartoons have been a small staple in my life, from Dad's side of the family; so it was not uncommon that I'd spend a few hours of my childhood watching Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera and even Ox Tales in another language and country, yoiks before Digital TV really kicked off. Though it is a matter of time before a few of these are eventually broadcast worldwide, depending their international appeal.

Among the most obscure Italian cartoons, Mr. Hiccup, so far, seems to be taking the lead, with little info available anywhere bar YouTube. The premise was very simple: a little man suffers from eternal hiccups which, somehow, become more of a blessing than a curse.

The series of 39 episodes was brought to life by the Italtoons Corporation from the mind of Guido Manuli, who has collaborated with another famous Italian animator Bruno Bozzetto - including such shows as Mr. Rossi...

Below is the original Italian version and - rarer still - an English version. Enjoy the obscure nuttiness of both! =)

Thursday, 11 August 2011