Behind the Scenes of the Animation City Interviews
In September 2017 the Waterside team brought together Cosgrove Hall legends for a filmed conversation with Ric Michaels. These interviews begin to form an oral history of the animation studio, introducing fans to some of the faces behind Cosgrove Hall creations and establish Manchester as the home of the studio.
Ric Michaels interviewed Cosgrove Hall founder Brian Cosgrove, BAFTA award-winning CHF Animator Barry Purves, CHF model-maker and founder of Mackinnon & Saunders, Peter Saunders, and finally ex-development producer at CHF Westley Wood who recognised the significance of the archive and was instrumental in establishing it at Waterside.
Sharing personal experiences and memories of the animation studio Brian Cosgrove reminisced about first meeting his business partner Mark Hall. How animators learnt on the job and developed their skills whilst working on the studio’s early animation. At Brian’s very first animation studio Stop Frame Productions model makers created simple foam rubber puppets for shows like Sally & Jake. Soon after establishing Cosgrove Hall productions model makers produced models on wheels to simplify the animation process.
Brian then traced the growth of the company and how they managed to balance 2D and 3D hand drawn animation under one roof, creating original hand drawn animated series such as Dangermouse and also detailed traditional stop motion series like Wind in the Willows. Brian commented on how with both of these series, the company explored animation as a progressive medium for children to develop and expand as individuals without talking down to them. Hiring writers such as Brian Trueman, Brian felt that if the word was right, a child would understand within the context of the scene. This shows that Cosgrove Hall series had the potential to appeal to adults, as well as being could be developmental to children. Cosgrove Hall took risks to, with bold creative choices like Cinderella where the puppets were animated along to music. The company also took popular classics like the Enid Blyton character Noddy and developed it. Brian also discussed the influence of creatives such as David Jason and Bridget Appleby and the recognisable talent which these individuals brought to the studio.
Barry Purves, like Brian Cosgrove was interviewed in our Theatre at Waterside Arts. Barry Purves discussed the performative quality of animation, storytelling, acting and how this could be translated into animation. In particular Barry reflected on his fondness for Cosgrove Hall favourite, Wind in the Willows. Barry emphasises the impact of improved puppet making techniques at the studio and how this created a more detailed experience overall.
Westley Wood was interviewed in Media City in Salford. Wes discussed his fascination with the collection and the mythic quality of discovering the archive at MacKinnon and Saunders. Wes documented his career, working at Mackinnon and Saunders, Cosgrove Hall itself, ITV and before starting Animation Toolkit. Wes reflected on how Cosgrove Hall had inspired his career before he ended up working for the studio. Wes then shared his aspiration to establish Manchester as the home of animation production, and remembered recognising the archive’s cultural significance as a piece of Manchester’s history. Finally Ric and Wes spoke about why stop motion is still used by animators, the craft, skill and labour intensive nature of the medium. Wes’s advice for aspiring animators? Make a good reel, learn the skill and be able to demonstrate this skill simply and effectively.
Finally Ric Michaels and the Waterside team visited Mackinnon and Saunders to interview ex Cosgrove Hall model-maker Peter Saunders. Peter shared his early memories of Mark and Brian, and reflects on their passion for creating cutting edge animation. Peter pinpointed the rarity of animation production in the North West when he was young. Peter then shared entries from his diary from the time he started at Cosgrove Hall, reflecting on the journey the company went on, taking creative risks along the way and picking up new techniques. Cosgrove Hall was new and Thames Television’s backing allowed the company to grow, how the company blossomed quickly picking up new techniques.
These condensed videos appeared in the CHF Archive exhibition at Waterside Arts Centre opening Saturday 21st October 2017, and in the ‘About Us’ section on our homepage. Our thanks to students from University of Salford and the Waterside team for their support, a full list of crew is featured below.
Producers: Rachel Dargavel-Leafe, Richard Evans.
Interviewee: Brian Cosgrove, Barry Purves, Peter Saunders, Westley Wood.
Interviewer: Ric Michaels
Director/Cameras: Grace Phillip
Sound/Light: Tariq Qalib
Runners, (Stills, logging, running): Chris Chadderton, David Alexander, Elisha Stephens.
Production Assistant: Rosy Whittemore