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Cosgrove-Hall Productions

Main image of Cosgrove-Hall Productions

Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall attended Manchester's Regional College of Art together before working in Granada Television's graphics department in the 1960s. The pair were keen to set up their own animation company working with both drawn (cel) animation and stop motion puppetry, so while Brian continued work at Granada around 1970, Mark spent a year getting their company, Stop Frame Animations Ltd, up and running. Early commissions included adverts for TV Times and Look-In magazines and Public Information Films.

A larger scale production was the psychedelic series The Magic Ball (ITV, 1971-72), written and voiced by Eric Thompson. Stop Frame also struck up a relationship with Ruth Boswell at Thames Television, providing the title sequence and short stop motion films to Rainbow (ITV, 1972-95). Over the next ten years or so Rainbow featured Sally and Jake, Grandma Bricks of Swallow Street and Robin and Rosie of Cockleshell Bay. Boswell also adapted 26 Enid Blyton Noddy stories for a Stop Frame series (ITV, 1975).

The success of the Rainbow films led the company to become a fully-fledged subsidiary of Thames Television come January 1976, with John Hambley appointed as Executive Producer. Renamed Cosgrove Hall Productions, new studios opened in May 1976 in a converted tobacco warehouse in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. The location leant its name to their first successful Thames series Chorlton and the Wheelies (ITV 1976-79), the adventures of a Yorkshire-accented dragon. Meanwhile Cosgrove Hall produced the lascivious sci-fi comic strip Captain Kremmen for an older audience as part of Kenny Everett's various shows (ITV, 1978-81).

Writer on Chorlton and the Wheelies was Brian Trueman, whose quirky, inventive humour was central to the studio's increasing success. Trueman wrote Jamie and the Magic Torch (1977-80), series versions of Cockleshell Bay (1982-86), Alias the Jester (1985-86), Count Duckula (1988-93) and the highly successful Dangermouse (1981-92).

The studio's more painstaking stop motion work has been critically well received, whether one-off features such as BAFTA winner The Pied Piper of Hamelin (ITV, tx. 1/1/1981) or the BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning series The Wind in the Willows (ITV, 1983-90). While most one-offs have been for TV broadcast, a cel-animated feature of Roald Dahl's BFG appeared in cinemas in 1989.

In 1993, Thames lost its ITV franchise and Cosgrove Hall its backer. A deal with distributor ITEL created Cosgrove Hall Films and enabled the creation of studios equipped for digital animation alongside the continuing base of 2D rendering and 3D puppets.

The company has diversified into adult animation, including features based on Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels (Channel 4, 1997; 1998) and, beside recent children's favourites such as Engie Benjy (ITV, 2002-), it has produced remakes of several classic TV characters, including Andy Pandy and Bill and Ben. Remakes of Dangermouse and Postman Pat are mooted. Cosgrove is now less involved with the day-to-day running of the company.

References and Further Reading
Cosgrove Hall Films official website.
Cosgrove Hall Ate My Brain fan website.
Dangermouse and Friends, TV programme, tx ITV 29/12/82. Producer: Julian Aston. Thames Television.
Tippett, Richard. 'The Wonderful World of Cosgrove Hall!', Look-In, no.31, 28 July 1979, pp6-7.
Toonhound website.>

Alistair McGown

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Dangermouse (1981-92)Dangermouse (1981-92)

The world's greatest secret agent - a mouse with an eyepatch

Thumbnail image of Wind in the Willows, The (1984-88)Wind in the Willows, The (1984-88)

Definitive animated version of the Kenneth Grahame children's classic

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