The DYR blog

The blog with general chat about all things from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s plus news about new features and developments on the website.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The past will be BACK this Christmas!

December is one of the most nostalgic months there is, if for not other reason than it's the month of Christmas. Without fail there will be a nostalgia-festival with old James Bond films, retro classics like Mary Poppins or E.T. on, not to mention Morecambe and Wise and then there's the classic music like Slade's "It's Christmas!" and The Wizzards "I wish it could be Christmas every day"!

Well December 2011 is even more retro-themed than usual, as it happens, with a whole host of nostalgic film releases.

First and foremost has to be the fact that Margaret Thatcher of the 1980's is going to be brought back alive - spectacularly - by Meryl Streep. The clips of the biopic film "The Iron Lady" that we've seen so far, have been eery in their accuracy! Meryl looks (and sounds!) just like Margaret Thatcher on the 1980's. The film is also a trip back in time to that turbulent era of strikes, low employment, and social chaos (issues that have been with us a fair bit in 2011, in fact.)

Then there's the return of 1970's cartoon stalwarts "The Chipmunks", who's film franchise continues unabated and "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" sees them and their hapless owner (Jason Lee) Shipwrecked. Expect more high pitched singing and hi-jinx, just like the 1983-1990 cartoon, only in this time in optional 3D!

Not yet had enough? Well how about the remake of classic 1979 spy drama "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"? Where Gary Oldman takes Alec Guinness' role, as the put upon spymaster chief "Smiley". It's a classic tale and well worth a modern re-telling. Also 1970's TV series "Mission impossible" returns with it's high-octane Tom Cruisey-ness, more gadgets and explosions than you can shake a stick at! And then there's "Tintin" (who had a big part in my 1980's childhood though the comics). This film comes to the big screen as a massive 3D animation featuring the voice of Daniel Craig among others.

So all in all it looks like there's a lot to remember, this upcoming December! Enjoy it, though don't get so drunk on the past that you forget to buy friends and family presents!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mark Hall, 1936 - 2011

We all know the names of our favourite programmes from when we were younger - maybe it was Dangermouse or The Wind in the Willows, Count Duckula, Jamie and the Magic Torch or Cockleshell Bay? Though, the chances are that we probably don't know the names of the writers or creators of those programmes a fraction as well - however large a part of our childhood they were.

Well Mark Hall was one of those almost anonymous creators. Astoundingly, Hall created ALL (!) of the programmes I mentioned above. Alongside his college friend Brain Cosgrove he made surely some of the best childrens programmes of the 1970's and 80's.

Hall, was born in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, and was an artistic child who put on his own string-puppet shows for friends and then used those skills to good effect in his working life (so buy your kids some puppets now, if his work is anything to go by....) From 1969 he worked as a stop-frame animator, immediately working on some of the 1970's iconic kids programmes - such as the Noddy series.

Then, along with Brian Cosgrove, he started the hugely successful "Cosgrove Hall Productions" in 1976. First came the cartoon Jamie and the Magic Torch (1976-79), then the surreal Chorlton and the Wheelies (1976-79), then Danger Mouse, 1981-92, the secret agent operating out of a London postbox, Count Duckula (1988-93), about a vegetarian vampire duck, Cockleshell Bay (1980-86), Creepy Crawlies (1987-89), Noddy's Toyland Adventures (1992-94), they even made the brilliant 1989 film version of Roald Dahl's book The BFG - one of my all time favorite films.

I had no idea how far and wide Mark Hall's influence stretched into my childhood imagination! I think, in homage, tonight I will crack open a DVD of "Chorlton and the Wheelies" I have from a few years ago. I've been meaning to watch it for a while and this seems a fitting tribute. What a brilliant imagination Mark Hall had, he will undoubtedly be missed.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Hitchikers Guide to 2011

It’s exactly 30 years since the TV series of Hitch Hikers guide to the Galaxy popularized the book to millions of people, and the genius of Douglas Adams was writ large on the nations consciousness.

30 years is a long time, and many things can happen, many developments can occur, and while it is true that the Earth has NOT been bull-dozered to make way for an intergalactic superhighway, it is striking how many of the things Douglas Adams wrote about in his futuristic fiction have come to life!

For a start, there’s the Internet, that in 1981 that was barely a twinkle in Bill Gates’ eye. But when Adams described the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (the magical book with the answer to everything...) it sounds almost exactly like the internet

“It has the answer to everything known, compiled by people all round the galaxy beaming in their copy and it being instantly available to anybody to read – over something called the subethernet.”

Or then there’s the Ipad/ Smart phone technology he describes:

“It's sort of like an electronic book, you press the screen, and it lights up and gives you an index and characters appear upon the surface.”

Visionary! There’s even predictions that came true about Artificial Intelligence, Genetically Modified Animals, Biological Computers, and satellite technology!

It’s almost to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if the earth ended up being a giant super computer run by mice! Well, I would be surprised, just not as much as I could be.

Pick up the books again if you get the chance – they’re a staple at second hand shops – and have a laugh, they are truly as brilliant and as funny as you remember them! And you might even get a clue as to what the future holds for the 2020’s!