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Monday, 21 July 2008

"The Beano", "Today" & Nick Park




The Beano was a comic of my childhood. The adventures of Dennis the Menace, The Bash Street Kids, Minnie the Minx, Billy Whizz, Lord Snooty and Ivy the Terrible occupy exclusively 2D space on paper and a 3D world in my memories. I was reminded of them this morning on my way to work listening to BBC radio's flagship news programme, Today, in which a long time Beano fan, Nick Park, extolled the virtues of the comic. The comic has reached its 70th birthday. As readers go through a long life, the characters are immortal. A four page strip has been specially created for the news team with their caricatures set alongside more traditional inhabitants of the publication. The link above is to the story. What I had not recognised was that the official site, Beanotown, has animated pranks of the gang. Beano TV has several clips to advertise their DVD collection. A series of shorter, more basic, flash toons are available, of which Bus Stop Bust Up provides the two screenshots below. No pretensions as to classics (and even as a huge advocate of animation I can't claim these toons rival the crispy paper version that adorned our hall floor as it was dropped through the letter box once a week as a kid) but it is still fun and good to know some things remain. My newspaper, The Guardian, not coincidentally carries an interview with Nick Park in which he muses on the state of British animation. Two short paragraphs caught my eye in relation to The Beano:
"It was Dennis the Menace, The Bash Street Kids and Lord Snooty that inspired him to pick up a pen, as he lovingly copied out their adventures. And there are clear parallels between the world inhabited by Wallace and Gromit - warmly nostalgic and located somewhere between the 1940s and the present, yet somehow timeless - and that contained between the covers of his beloved Beano.
"It's a bit like the way Ealing comedies have influenced our work here. The surburbness of it and the Britishness of it," he muses. "There's a certain quirkiness. The way Dandy set a cowboy in a strange northern town. There's a slightly bizarre incongruity to it. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was a Universal horror movie set in the north of England."
The final paragraph from the paper is also worth a read:
"There is nothing like it. It's a one-off quirky thing that has come out of a certain culture. There's a lot of quirkiness, creativity and imagination." He is talking about the comic but he could, of course, be describing himself."



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