Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Flumps

Not many people today may know of "The Flumps" - but the "new generation" may recognise their theme tune, which was used for a series of Auto Trader adverts, no less…!
Narrated by English Actress Gay Soper, The Flumps was a stop-motion series created and written by Julie Holder in 1971 - like so many shows, old and new, it gained fame quite by chance. According to The A - Z of Classic Children's Television, Julie wrote a few "Flump" stories for her children, one of these her youngest brought to read out in school. The teacher was so impressed she told her husband, who just happened to be a BBC Producer, and snapped up the series for the Watch with Mother timeslot. And like many shows of its time, only one series of 13 episodes were ever made, but it still had a nice run of repeated airings until 1988.

The Flumps are…'s hard to say what they're meant to be. They fall in the same category as the Clangers or the Ping Wings - little fluffy beings who don't know what they are, but are happy all the same in their little run-down home. The family consist of Mother and Father Flump, Grandpa Flump (and his famous musical Flumpet) and the wee 'uns, Posie, Perkin and Pootle.

It's one of those "safe" shows where not much happens, with stories and songs told in a gentle, slow-paced manner - sort of a "day in the life" thing. However, combined with Julie's scripts, the singing / speaking performance of Gay Soper and the catchy theme tune by George Chisholm, the series eventually left a nice impact on me when I checked it out. Clear to see how it made itself a Cult Classic for those who do remember it.

In fact, it was charming enough to earn itself a DVD release in the new Millennium of 2000. Ideal for those who have little ones of their own to relive their memories =)

Even today, Miss Soper recalls the show well:

"...The story behind the voices.... I tried out various different accents - Scottish, Irish - before David Yates, the producer, made a choice of the slightly 'Northern' accent. The Yorkshire had some earthiness and warmth about it. I worked out a voice for each character and away we went!"

And how wee Pootle Flump's voice came to be:

"... Julie Covington was the real inspiration behind Pootle's muffled tones. She often did silly voices on stage during the rehersals of Godspell. It was really cute, so I immortalised it in the Flumps..."

" day back in 1989, a young man asked me: 'Could you do me a favour? Would you do a Flump voice for me?' I was totally floored, and then the Pootle voice came out! It soon caught on and every week hoards of 20-year-olds would ask me to do Grandfather or Perkin and so on. It was very strange."


Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Hillbilly Bears

Throughout their long run in television, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were never far from jumping on the band wagon when basing new shows on the latest "fads", which was understandable since a majority of animation studios made half a living of parodying (then) famous celebrities and comedy shows from as far back as the Golden Age. Yogi Bear was a take on "The Honeymooners'" Ed Norton, Wally Gator was Ed Wynn, and so on.
The cast for the full hour show!
So in 1967, they presented the hour-long Saturday morning "Atom Ant / Secret Squirrel Show": the titular characters respectively tied in with the sci-fi / secret agent phenomenon when Mission: Impossible and James Bond were in their stride. Joining them in their usual cartoon themes were Squiddly Diddly, the Hillbilly Bears, Winsome Witch and Precious Pupp. When the show split into two half-hours, SS nabbed Winsome and Squiddly while AA received Precious and the Bears.

Despite repeated airings of Secret Squirrel from Cartoon Network, CBBC and Boomerang UK over the years, I saw no trace of Hillbilly Bear episodes anywhere until the wonder that was the internet - where at least there is still hope of nabbing a good handful until a DVD demand is met...

The Hillbilly Bears (possibly a parody of the Beverly Hillbillies, which I assume, since the original ran between 1962 - 71) consisted of the Rugg family - ever-grumblin' Paw Rugg (voiced early on by Alan "Fred Flintstone" Reed, but later succeeded by Henry Corden), Maw, Floral (both by Jean Vandr Pyl) and Shag (Don Messick). In true hilbilly fashion, they were always a-feudin' with their neighbours the Hoppers - or in Floral's case, dating their "handsome" son!

Of course, this wasn't the first time Hanna-Barbera had taken the Hillbilly route - they tried it early on with a Tom and Jerry-carbon copy, Punkin' Puss & Mushmouse, for the Magilla Gorilla Show in 1963. But that's another story...

It's interesting to note, however, that according to their original model sheets, Floral and Shag Rugg were originally called 'Lil' Billy" and "Hominy". Whatever reason there may have been for the name changes remains unknown.

So if you recall the series from old, feel free to watch the Playlist below - and don't forget to "Do the Bear" while you're at it!

For further Hanna-Barbera stuff, be sure to check out the following LINKS OF INTEREST below:

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Jelly Jamm!

Every so often, one tends to find some fancy little oddities without even trying - and here be one of them.
Jelly Jamm is a pre-school series that's still fairly new on the block, having been released in 2011. Created in Spain for Cartoonita, it follows the adventures of a colourful band of friends who live in the musical planet of Jammbo. Together, Bello, Mina, Goomo, Rita and Ongo learn about friendship and having fun while bobbing, jiving and grooving along to their musical world. Featuring fantastic voice-work by Maria Darling, Emma Weaver, Lizzie Waterworth-Santo, Isabella Blake Thomas, Beth Chalmers and Adam Longworth.

The series is also making waves on Channel 5's Milkshake block here in the UK, and having watched a few episodes already I can see why it's so appealing. Despite being created for a younger audience, clearly 737Shaker and Vodka Capital have been wise not to talk down to their viewers with the same humdrum nature one would expect to find in a pre-school show. The storylines are simple but maintain plenty of action to keep attention.

And I do mean that - the animation is quirky but cute - and at times crazy, even! No surprise considering it's the same folks who blessed us with Pocoyo, also produced en EspaƱa.


Thursday, 12 April 2012

Rony Oren

British viewers may recall seeing one or two of the following programmes below at some point of the '90s, at a time when Channel 4 used to show animation at reasonable hours. They all have one thing in common - they were created by one person.

Rony Oren is pretty big in his part of the world. Once he opened shop with FrameByFrame Productions, went on to animate and produce thousands of stop-motion productions in his lifetime, from adverts / commercials to kids shows and short films - as well as writing and drawing children's books of his own. He's pretty much the Nick Park of Israeli!

What makes Rony's animation work noticeable is how rubbery and bouncy his technique is. Something that's quite reminiscent of Pingu or Morph or Mio Mao.

Although all of his works have been broadcast worldwide, three of his shows have been showcased vastly in the UK - all which I recall watching, whether it was 6am or 12am.

Foxy Fables was one of his earliest works in 1987. Co-written and voiced by Andy Seacombe and Teddy Kempner, the series adapted a number of Aesop and Uncle Remus fables often ending with a moral - while still delivering hilarious dialogue all the way.

Andy and Teddy would collaborate again for Rony's next series, Tales of a Wise King - again, each episode sharing a moral from adapted stories of mythology, fantasy and magic, all teaching viewers about using your brains.

The last of Rony's series I recall Channel 4 showing was Grabbit the Rabbit - and as with the two above, this also adapts stories from Jean de la Fontaine and Joel Chandler Harris, although by this time Rony's style seem to have more spit and polish involved.

Rony is still animating and writing to this day - so anyone interested in how to create their own claymation characters should keep an eye out for his useful selection of books to add to your library!


Thursday, 5 April 2012

Spotlight on Humphrey

The animation world has seen a number of famous bears brought to life - Andy, Barney, Fozzie, Chuck Jones's Three Bears…even Disney has its own number to speak of. Whether your favourite happens to be Winnie the Pooh, Baloo or Bongo.

However, there is one more bear that Disney almost neglected about - and like so many short-lived characters, would gain a small but loyal fan-base.

The brain-child of director Jack Hannah and writer David Detiege, Humphrey originally started out as an antagonist for Donald Duck in the mid 1950's. Rumoured to be a predecessor for Yogi Bear (who would star alongside Huckleberry Hound a few years later), Humphrey lived in a National Park where, with his neurotic, bumbling personality, he often fended for food and up against hunters or Ranger Woodlore.

Humphrey starred in five Donald cartoons where he proved so popular that he was almost granted his own series - ALMOST. For before 1960, Disney stopped producing theatrical shorts to concentrate on television and other projects. His lead episodes only consist of "Hooked Bear" and "In the Bag".

However, his popularity with the audience never dwindled. Over the years Humphrey was still very much present in merchandise and later generations of Disney made sure he wasn't forgotten about - including him in various episodes of Goof Troop, Rescue Rangers, House of Mouse and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

In fact, once Disney shut up shop, Jack Hannah took the "dumb bear" design over to Walter Lantz and redubbed the character "Fasto", who went on to star in three shorts alone.

Fatso was pretty identical to Humphrey in both mannerisms and "voice"

Fortunately, with the joy of DVDs and the Internet, it's safe to say that Humphrey Bear will never truly be forgotten about.
Humphrey Bear - included as part of the totem pole at Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort