Saturday, November 26, 2011

Danger Mouse Co-Creator Mark Hall Passes On

Mark Hall, who co-founded the animation studio Cosgrove Hall and co-created Danger Mouse, passed on 17 November 2011 at the age of 74. The cause was cancer.

Mark Hall was born on 17 May 1936 in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. As a child he would put on his own puppet shows for his friends. It was while he was at the Regional College of Art, Manchester that he met Brian Cosgrove. In 1969 Mark Hall and Brian Cosgrove founded Stop Frame Animations. Initially the studio created commercials for the magazine Look-In and The TV Times. It was in 1971 that they produced their first series, The Magic Ball. In 1972 they produced and Mark Hall directed the television animated movie Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo. Stop Frame Animations' last series was Noddy in 1975. Stop Frame Animations folded in 1975, but from its ashes Mark Hall and Brian Cosgrove founded Cosgrove Hall as a subsidiary of Thames Television.  In 1976 they produced the series  Jamie and The Magic Torch.

Cosgrove-Hall then produced the seies Chorlton and The Wheelies in 1976. This was followed by the programmes Captain Kremmen and Cockleshell Bay. It was in 1981 that Cosgrove Hall would produce their greatest success. Danger Mouse, a parody of spy fiction and spy movies featuring the title mouse who was a secret agent. Danger Mouse would not only prove to be a smash hit in the United Kingdom, where at its height it had 21.5 million viewers, but around the world as well. Indeed, while it was not the first British cel animated series to air in the United States (Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings, Ludwig, and Paddington Bear had preceded it), it was by far the most successful. With British wit, plenty of parody, and a tendency to bizarre plots, Danger Mouse proved appealing not only to youngsters, but to adults as well.

Cosgrove Hall would go onto produce more successful animated series including The Wind in the Willows, Count Duckula (a spin off from Danger Mouse), Oh! Mr. Toad, Fantomcat, Noddy's Toyland Adventures, and Captain Star. Cosgrove Hall also produced television movies, including The Pied Piper of Hamelin and The Reluctant Dragon,  as well as the feature film adaptation of Roald Dahl's The BFG (1989).

To some degree Mark Hall is a legend in television animation and with good reason. It would be enough if he had simply co-created Danger Mouse, one of the most successful animated series of all time, but he and Brian Cosgrove did much more. Although often shot on minuscule budgets, the Cosgrove Hall programmes were always very well done. Indeed, the series The Wind in the Willows is one of the few adaptations to successfully capture the feel of Kenneth Grahame's novel. With Brian Cosgrove, Mark Hall left behind a legacy in animation that will be long remembered.

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