Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The mystery that is Marvin

A few years ago I found a VHS tape at a charity shop with two episodes of a cartoon called Marvin. The series is a bit of a mystery as to date no-one I've asked has ever heard of it, and I've found absolutely no mention of it online outside of Amazon (I've found information on a related series, however, but I'll come to that later).

The titular Marvin is an elderly gent who, unbeknownst to his wife, leads a secret life foiling criminals with the help of his three robots: the transforming Maxwell; the computer-headed Micron; and Buffer, who can turn his ears into an array of tools. The first episode on the tape sees him travelling to France to tackle a jewel thief with a robot dog, while the second episode has him catching two crooks with a ray gun that freezes people.

According to the back of the video box, the series was written, produced and directed by Mike Joyce, and its copyright is held by a company named MixPix. Despite the very eighties flavour of the cartoon, the copyright date is 1995 (although the Amazon page linked to above states that the video was released in 1985).

The series' trippy opening title.

Although obviously low-budget, Marvin can't be accused of cutting corners with its animation. Here, the camera swings round and zooms in on the door of Marvin's house - and the whole thing's animated frame-by-frame, with the entire scene completely redrawn each time!

Marvin's robot friends: Maxwell, Micron and Buffer.

A few of Maxwell's transformations.

At one point Micron disguises himself as a television set. When one of the villains turns him on, the animation takes on a Gilliamesque quality.

Marvin isn't a bad series at all. The animation has an eccentric appeal, the dialogue - much of which seems to have been ad-libbed - has charm, and the storylines are good fun; with more exposure it could be as fondly-remembered today as Mr. Benn or Ivor the Engine.

It's a shame that it seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. How many episodes were made? Was it even shown on television? It's certainly formatted as a TV series, but I suppose it could have gone direct-to-video.

As I said before, I can't find any information on Marvin online. But I have found something rather unexpected - a follow-up series, titled Uncle Marvin. From the Foothill Entertainment site:

UNCLE MARVIN - 3 x 25' eps Animation Specials

Super Marvin fought the good fight for many a successful year, but then he retired and became Uncle Marvin. Packed with visual humour, this all-action animated series will have international appeal for ages 5 years and upwards. As he can't fly around the world anymore, Uncle Marvin has built two robots to help him solve crimes, and is aided by his faithful partner - Maurice the Mouse.

Produced & Directed by Mike Joyce for MixPix.

After poking around Google I found that Uncle Marvin DVDs are being sold by a company named Chip Taylor Communications. Although the Foothill Entertainment site credits the series with three specials, Chip Taylor Communications is selling only two, alongside something called Monkeez. One of the Uncle Marvin specials, French Breath, looks like a remake of the Marvin episode French Flight.

I'll have to chase the Uncle Marvin specials down someday. If they're up to the standards of the episodes on the VHS then they'll definitely be worth a look.


  1. THANK YOU!!! I felt like I was the only person to ever watch this because none of my friends knew what I was talking about when I described it. I saw it on Nickelodeon during the 80's and became obsessed with finding it again. They only showed one episode from what I remember and aired it a handful of times before it disappeared from existence. Still, I remember thinking it was really clever and unique as a kid.

  2. I loved this series, we had the same two episodes on VHS.

    I had assumed it was made by one of the known studios like FilmFair SmallFilms or Cosgrove Hall, but found nothing relating to it anywhere.

    It's great to know that other people remember it and that it has even been continued into another series :)

  3. I remember this too and had exactly that VHS.

  4. I had the exact same VHS also and adored Marvin as a child, been looking for ages for something related to it online, now I've finally found it, thank you! :)

  5. I've been trying to find this on youtube and can't find it! the funniest part was the hotdog scene where the guy takes a bite and the sausage flys out! omg I laughed so much at this when I was little!

  6. I was born in 97 and my family have had this vhs ever since I can remember. I have no idea how, where, or when we managed to acquire it. It's just kind of always been there. As much as I absolutely adore Marvin, this is literally the only post I've found about it online. Is it just me that finds it kind of creepy how it managed to slip in and out of existence almost completely? I'd absolutely love to find out more about it, but it seems that's pretty impossible.

  7. Any way you could upload these to YouTube? I had them as a kid and nostalgia beckons!


  8. Wow! This is amazing to find. My Grandfather was Mike Joyce the creator of Marvin and other animations such as Christopher Crocodile. Seeing the love for it makes me so happy, thank you!