Monday, 24 January 2011

70s public information films: junctions, caravans, and axe-wielding maniacs

Here's Junction Lanes, a 1974 public information film.

"Hey, Dad, you know the traffic lights at the top?"

"You know if you want to go straight on, the offside lane's favourite?"
"Is it?"

"Well, today the other lane cleared first."
"Oh yes?"
"Well, in a case like that, is it alright to change lanes?"

"Not if something's coming up in the other lane it isn't."

"Oh. Well, I won't do it again, Dad - not in your car, anyway."

"I'm off to the Himalayas, Dad!"

"When approaching lights, pick your lane early and stick to it."
"I won't do it again, Dad, honest!"

Next up is 1976's Caravan Instability (or, as the narrator at the start has it, Claude Goes to the Seaside: A Cautionary Tale for Caravaners)

There, think I've got everything in. Heh-hey, I'm looking forward to our holiday, aren't you dear?"
"Yes, dear."

"Just a moment - with all this weight at the back I'm not safe to be taken anywhere."
"Oh, do stop fussing, Claude."
"You mark my words!"


"That's done it - the whole lot's shifted up front. You'll never manage, now."
"Hey, hold your head up, Claude! You're making it very hard to steer."

"Oi! There's a speed limit for caravans, you know!"
"Alright, alright, don't panic, I'm putting the breaks on."

"Hey, pack that in, Claude!"
"It's not my fault, I told you we were overloaded!"

"Next time you take a caravan on holiday, please, don't overload it and keep within the speed limit."

And finally Door Chain, also from 1976, which features a modified version of the song Green Door.

"Who can it be? Perhaps..."

"It's your rich aunt Annie who you love to see, outside the front door..."

"...or your loving husband who has lost his key outside the front door..."

"Now I wonder who is it going to be outside the front door..."

"But stop! On the other hand, could it be that..."

"...there's a real gone con man who'll take you in, outside the front door?"

"Or a mad, bad axe-man who is deep in sin outside the front door?"

"So put the chain on the door before you let them in through the front door."

"See who's there first before you open the door - put the chain on."

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The life and underdocumented death of Cosgrove Hall

Founded in 1976, Cosgrove Hall arguably took over from Halas & Batchelor as the popular face of British animation, a role which has since been taken on by Aardman. The studio is best-known for Danger Mouse and its spin-off Duckula - certainly these two appear to have garnered the most international attention compared to the rest of the company's library.

In 2009 it was reported that the studio was on the brink of closure and, sure enough, it folded soon afterwards. A lot of people seemed to miss the news - this 2010 article honouring Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall states that "Cosgrove Hall is still home to many talented animators".

Andy Fanton, who pitched a pilot starring his Carroty Kid character to the studio, wrote a blog post on the closure:

Personally speaking, I find this very sad indeed. I had the very good fortune to work with some of the talented folk at Cosgrove Hall, when I was developing my Carrotty Kid idea for TV. The people there were lovely and enthusiastic, and really wanted to produce great cartoons despite being starved of cash at nearly every turn. The studio spent much of it’s final years as a ‘studio-for-hire’, producing work on behalf of other companies, but the desire to try and return to what they did best, in producing their own, original shows was clearly and passionately evident. It’s just a pity that they weren’t given any real chance to do so.

So, a sad and ignoble end to one of the country’s finest animation houses, and another kick in the gut to a home-grown animation industry which was already on the floor. Surely our kids deserve better than nothing but imports and a diet of reality TV talent shows? I’d like to think so, and if you feel the same why not join up and support the Save Kids’ TV campaign?

Enthusiasts of the studio's earlier work had been showing concern for some time. The fansite Cosgrove Hall Ate My Brain (which hasn't been updated since 2006, but is still worth a read) comments:
[Avenger Penguins] just wasn't as lovably quirky as previous CH cartoons, even though it was more technically accomplished. This may have something to do with CH's parent company Thames losing its broadcasting licence in the early 1990s, leaving CH in the poo. Their eventual rescuing by Pearson TV and Anglia seemed to lead not only to a name change (Cosgrove Hall Productions to Cosgrove Hall Films), but also a change in direction, as the shows started to become more "mainstream" and less silly. Or maybe I'm just bitter because I miss Brian Trueman, I dunno.
Will the studio's latter works such as Roger to the Rescue and Fifi and the Flowertots become as fondly-remembered as the likes of Danger Mouse and Duckula? Only time will tell.
Anyone interested in this studio should read this online archive of a 1986 issue of Animator magazine, dedicated almost entirely to Cosgrove Hall.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Trade Tattoo by Len Lye

Trade Tattoo is a promotional short made by Len Lye in 1937 for the GPO. The film utilises live action footage, composited so that it blends in and out of Lye's abstract animation.

More information about it can be found at Screenonline.