Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Spacelings

Record sleeve image courtesy of 45cat.

In 1985, Wise-Z Records released an LP containing a cover of Ed McCurdy's Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream, with Silent Night as the B-side. The performances were attributed to the Spacelings: a trio of cartoon aliens named Zara, Zig and Zog.

Accompanying the record was an animated music video made by Moon + Parrot Productions, a small company founded by Simon Holden and Keith Graham. The studio became the Holden Film Company  in 1986.

As far as I can tell, there were no further Spacelings projects, although it appears that they may have been intended to become a franchise in the manner of Alvin and the Chipmunks.


  1. Hi, Neil

    I was Animation Supervisor (storyboards, layout, timings, etc) on this video, so can fill in a few more details.

    The object was to get the record into the coveted Christmas No. 1 chart position, and the incentive for Moon+Parrot was the possibility of a “Spacelings” series.

    Under my expert guidance the video overran both its very tight production schedule and its not very big budget (to which, of course, I was not privy), leaving Moon+Parrot to carry a large part of the costs themselves.

    The overrun meant that the video missed a few key promotional slots (no-one outside the animation industry has any real idea of the timescale needed for animation production – leastways, that’s my excuse!) and it sank without trace. (The Christmas No. 1 for 1985 was Shakin’ Stevens’ ‘Merry Christmas everyone’.)

    Credits: Janet Nunn animated the 3 Spacelings; Mike Davies animated the Pirates, Santa’s sleigh and the Christmas Cracker at the end. (Great example of bad inbetweening! Mike keyed a nice roll on the cracker as it entered – it worked fine on the linetest – but he failed to indicate the arcs: the inbetweener (working overnight) did straight line inbetweens, so the cracker morphs in and out of proportion instead of tumbling in space! No time to test the drawings – we were already over schedule so everything went straight to paint and trace, to be shot the next day!

    Janet Hawkins supervised the paint and trace at specialist T&P company Hierographics. The t&p was itself complicated by the fact that the Spacelings themselves would flash different colours at times, requiring the cels to be painted twice in those places. This, I hasten to add, was not my idea but one of the premises that Simon and Keith had already agreed with the record producers, along with the coloured trace lines and self-trace colour areas: together with the glows and other effects which were a hallmark of Moon+Parrot’s commercials style. (These were created and added in by Simon and Keith themselves, along with their assistant Mark, while I was still working on the final scene.)

    Designs already existed for Zara, Zig and Zog, if memory serves – all I did was prepare a basic model sheet, tidying them up a bit. The rest of the characters were developed by the animators, working from my storyboard and rough layouts.

    Peter Hale

  2. While I do not recall the proposed production schedule, a trawl through my old accounts shows that I drew up the storyboard in mid August, but production didn't start 'til Wednesday October 2nd, when I began work on the layouts and model sheet. Animation probably commenced on the following Monday, although I was still working on layouts for the rest of that week. Production appears to have taken 7 weeks, including rostrum camera shoot of 2 (or possibly 3) days, as I was paid up to Friday 22nd November. (I wasn't involved in any post-production work.)

    1. Hi Peter
      Wow you have an Akashic record of a memory. HTF did you recall all of that??? I can certainly confirm that we went way over budget and felt for some reason that it was a good idea to put our own money into the damn project. I remember that the original design for the Spacelings came from David Stoten a young caricaturist at Spitting Image the Satirical puppet show founded by Roger Law and Peter Fluck.
      Great to be reminded of Mike and Janet plus Hierographics Steve Flack and Janet Hawkins.
      Any of you still animating i wonder?
      Happy days :)