We mentioned at the end of our Looney Toons Show podcast that the creator of Danger Mouse passed away. We were talking about Mark Hall, who died on November 11, 2011, presumably of complications relating to the cancer he was living with. Here’s a link to Mr. Hall’s NY Time obit. His lifelong partner in crime is Brian Cosgrove, who is still with us, and together they not only created Danger Mouse, but established two animation houses. One of these studios, Cosgrove Hall, would go on under their leadership to create internationally known cartoons, win an international Emmy, and develop a reputation for being a premier animation house in Europe.
Cosgrove Hall may have been best known for their 2D children’s entertainment, but they also worked with stop motion an CG. Their most famous stop motion, which has to be seen to be believed, is their adaptations of The Wind in the Willows which started with a 75 minute movie and then ran for four seasons in the early/mid eighties. They continued to work in stop motion right up until their closure in 2009, but perhaps their most notable other work in this category is The Fool of the World and The Flying Ship, which won an International Emmy in 1991 in the Children and Young People category after airing on Christmas Day in 1990. It’s mesmerizing. It is available on DVD, but was only released in the UK. It won an international Emmy in 1991. I STRONGLY recommend you buy it, but in the meantime, here’s a taste via youtube.
In addition to these achievements, Cosgrove Hall worked on properties such Andy Pandy, Postman Pat, and the animated adaptations of Roald Dahl’s The BFG and Terry Pratchett’s Truckers, Wyrd Sisters, and Soul Music. Not only did they dominate the animation market in the UK, but they also worked in a cross-genre setting, using traditional 2D, stop-motion, and CG techniques, in both 2 and 3D arena. This is particularly impressive to me, especially when you compare it to todays industry where you can specialize in such minute areas of animation. It’s also notable that while they adapted from fairy tales and animated liscenced properties, Cosgrove Hall also created – and arguably had their best commercial successes – with their original properties. Not too shabby!
Cosgrove Hall came to a sad end. Both of the founders retired in 2000, and the company spent a few years working on revamps of classic properties. The implications that I saw in the articles I read on it were that creative control was taken away from the studio at this point. In 2009 it was more or less liquidated into ITV, its parent company. It was a little unclear to me how long ITV was the majority shareholder of the company, but I think that it had been for a long time, and that the decision was based on the studio’s consistant inability to turn a profit following the co-founders retirement. It’s a valid business decision – but a loss in more ways than one.
One of the last original shows to come out of Cosgrove Hall was the Carrotty Kid. (It rhymes with ‘karate’ if you have an English accent.) According to the property’s creator, the reason that it never made it past the pilot stage, despite positive reception, was a decision on the part of the network to end their children’s afternoon programming block. Some groups are trying to fight that decision. Here is a link to group that is trying to ensure that high-quality children’s entertainment remain a priority in the UK.
If you want to learn a little more about the great of Cosgrove Hall, this seems to be the premier fansite. Those of us who grew up with Cosgrove Hall’s works tend to think of ourselves as pretty lucky, so here’s hoping that new talents will rise to take the place of the greats that came before them.
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