I’ve been writing and developing TV and Film animation, video games and other related properties for over thirty years now, working on everything from Pre-School to Action/Adventure, from The Wombles (1996) to Sabrina, Secrets of a Teenage Witch (2013), as well as a feature screenplay, ‘Sokator 442’ (2009, Zoo Films), and a few more that didn’t make it out of development.
I’ve created highly successful properties, including Lego’s multi-billion-selling Bionicle® (which for legal reasons I have to say I co-created), and have written many award-winning shows, as well as getting a BAFTA nomination for one of my own, the CBBC Christmas Special ‘The Tale of Jack Frost’ (2004).
I continue to create, develop and write on properties, for myself and for other people, and what follows is a selection of my personal credits in recent years, starting with current work.
INDIA/SINGAPORE CONSORTIUM (CURRENT)
Story Producer on a very exciting classic comics to movie universe development, initially planned for three movies, that for the moment must remain classified.
FZ ENTERTAINMENT, CHINA (CURRENT)
15 Scripts so far for the second season of ‘CoNaBLUE’, a lovely 52 x 13′ series with an emphasis on exploring, learning about, and protecting nature. The show follows five child characters who take young viewers along on their adventures, introducing audiences to diverse ecosystems around the world with a blend of science concepts and stories designed to develop children’s emotional intelligence.
Also for FZ Entertainment, 15 scripts so far for their 52 x 13′ series ‘Princess Doremi’, aimed at 6-9s, about seven Princesses that live on a magical island called Wonderland, where there’s no problem that can’t be solved by using Music Magic.
BALLY BO (UK/IRELAND)
Helping to develop a lovely new series about four kids on a magical island having fun helping nature with their special natural powers. Brochure, trailer and the thirteen gorgeous music tracks are all at www.ballybo.com.
Before these, there was the first series of ‘CoNaBLUE’, and before that, in recent times anyway, there was this lot…
ZOO FILMS/AFTER STUDIOS UK (2018)
Development on an animated feature about a cocky puppy and his helter-skelter adventures in the exciting and scary world of hidden London.
HONEY PARTNERSHIP, UK/CHINA (Ongoing)
Development of various animation-based marketing plans for China
MONSTER ENTERTAINMENT, DUBLIN, 2016-17
Scripts for ‘I’m A Fish’, a very fun 52 x 2′ edutainment series following up their highly successful series ‘I’m A Creepy Crawly’.
SPLASH ENTERTAINMENT, LOS ANGELES, 2016
Development work for Splash, formerly Mike Young Productions, on an animation series about a group of musical friends provisionally titled ‘Symphony Street’, which was created by Katherine Jenkins and her husband Andrew Levitas. Not sure what’s happening with this, but I suspect I wasn’t Welsh enough to be on the production, tax-wise…
GOODGAME STUDIOS, HAMBURG, 2015-17
I worked freelance for two of the studios within Goodgame on half a dozen or so games at the development stage, from a mobile clicker game to a full-blown RPG. Basically anything that’s needed writing, I wrote, including character creation/description and animation scripts, global backstories, and concepts for levels, worlds and gameplay, as well as names for everything.
In theory this is ongoing, but you know what the games industry is like, they throw a thousand ideas against the wall then throw them out when they don’t stick. Towards the end of 2015 Goodgame underwent a major reorganisation, and everything I was working on was cancelled, so, as a narrative designer, I’m currently ‘on hold’, i.e. ‘available’.
KAVALEER PRODUCTIONS, DUBLIN
Scriptwriter, ‘Kiva Can DO!’, 2015-16
A delightful series from a delightful company that’s destined for big things – the series and the company. The pitch is basically a girl and her friend coming up with STEM solutions to problems, making some kind of machine from cardboard and other recycled materials, then finding themselves in a fantasy world that also seems to be made of recycled bits. Very sweet. I did the usual, pitched a load of story ideas and got a couple of scripts out of it – thanks to the Irish tax break points system, they were mostly written by Irish writers, so to get even two was nice.
SOKATOR 442 (ZOO FILMS/GALLEON/POLYBONA, 2009)
Initially a series concept about two kids from Earth who get transported to an alien planet where football has replaced war. I’d been helping Galleon develop this as a TV series alongside Zoo Films, but in 2009 Zoo started production on a feature length version for Galleon, ahead of the World Cup in 2010. It was financed and distributed by Polybona of China, where it had a cinema release. I came up with the story, and wrote the first few drafts of the script, and the final draft.
API (SMOOVIE FILMS, NEW ZEALAND, 2011)
“A coming-of-age story about a young, ambitious Tasmanian devil, who befriends a cute little wolf girl named Daisy. This chance meeting finds Api’s dreams of adventure on the sea, come to a sudden reality when he is abducted by a brood of pirates lead by the most notorious Captain Blackmane, who is on the hunt for a mysterious key which legend tells holds the secrets of power and immortality. Together Api and Daisy work to foil the plans of the pillaging pirates as they threaten the inhabitants of a pristine south sea island.”
Technically a commissioned screenplay, although my fees were deferred until production, and therefore of course never received because it didn’t get into production. It was a very professionally organised project, and the screenplay was fun to write – who knows, maybe one day the producers will find the money…!
ASTROBOY (PASCAL BLAISE/DENTSU, 1999)
I was lucky enough, nay honoured (hell, he asked me on the balcony at the Imperial Hotel, Annecy – I was blown away if you really want to know), to be asked to write a script for a 2D/3D IMAX feature film version of the classic anime by Oscar-winning Pascal Blais (of Pascal Blais Productions, Canada) for Dentsu of Japan. Sadly, the project was subsequently cancelled at treatment stage by Dentsu when Sony announced their new Astroboy series. Timing is everything, I guess.
Before I found myself in the world of TV animation, I wrote a number of development feature screenplays. None of them made it to production of course, although it looked close for a while for two of them.
KEEP ME COVERED (1989 onwards)
An animated sci-fi rock and roll musical developed by a mad American musician who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Somehow he got through the doors at Disney on Pentonville Road in London with a tape of the songs and pitched the hell out of it at the then boss. He was politely told to go away and get a script of course, and in the lift he met my friend, background artist Nick Martinelli, and suddenly I was writing a script. Bizarrely it somehow got taken by the Marjacq agency, and via them found its way to the late and legendary Ken Russell, who agreed to direct it in a call with me on a Dartmouth pay phone on Christmas Eve 1990. Still one of my claims to fame. It almost became part of a three film deal. Almost…
THE TOWER (1989 onwards)
Developed from a computer game idea of mine during my time at Vektor Grafix in Leeds in 1989, the Tower was about what would now be called a Multi-Channel Massive Multiplayer Online Virtual Reality Game that went horribly wrong in a Hell opens up kind of way. Remember this was 1989, when there was no online, the only Virtual Reality was at NASA or Cambridge University, and the UK only had four TV channels. I had to invent the VR kit – PVDU (Personal Video Display Unit, ie headset), Data Glove and Trackboard (a two metre square board with a grid of trackballs to simulate walking). It was set in 2005, by which time this kind of kit still didn’t exist outside the tech labs. It was also taken up by Ken Russell’s team as part of the three film deal, and I developed the screenplay with his producer Ronaldo Vasconcellos and his assistant Jeremy Bolt, who went on to be a bit of a big producer himself.
A rewrite/reinvention of a partial script created by the late Bill Pearson, the renowned special effects guy behind everything from Blake’s 7 and Alien (he built the Nostromo), through Doctor Who, Flash Gordon, Space Precinct, Battlefield Earth, Casino Royale, and of course Red Dwarf. The film was a sci-fi blast-em-up about humanoid lizards invading from a parallel Earth, and I got paid with beer at the Shepperton Bar. He never got around to making the film of course.
LEGO BIONICLE (1999 – 2003)
In 1999, Lego attempted to counter the all-conquering Pokemon by brainstorming concepts internally then sending them out to any writers they could find. One of these one page ideas landed on my desk. It wasn’t called Bionicle, and bore little resemblance to what would come. I almost entirely rewrote it, and pitched it back at Lego as the genesis of what would become Bionicle. Over the next few years, liaising with Lego’s internal producers, designers, artists and writers, I created the characters and their increasingly complex worlds, and devised back stories and plot arcs, both for each release and for the whole multi-release, multi-platform world that Bionicle became, across toys, online stories, comic books, games and movies.
Worldwide release of the merchandising began in February 2001, and Bionicle has since gone on to become one of the biggest-selling toy ranges of all time, with an estimated turnover of five billion dollars. The first Direct to Video movie based on my story outline was released by Miramax in September 2003, and immediately went to Number One in the Video/DVD charts both in the UK and in the US. I was also involved in the set up of the second equally successful DTV movie, before ‘The Tale of Jack Frost’ started to need too much attention for me to work for anyone else.
THE TALE OF JACK FROST (2004)
Based on the best-selling book by David Melling, I optioned the rights before David had even drawn it I loved the idea so much. In the end Jack Frost was made by (and would never have got made without) Zoo Films, London, while I raised the money, wrote the script, and co-produced and co-directed it with Zoo Films’ Neil Graham, with a LOT of help from Mark Adams’ Pembridge Partnership.
Animation was by Maya Productions (India), narration by Hugh Laurie, voices by Jonathan Bee and the ever-wonderful Gary Martin, and the two beautiful songs were written and performed by Folk Music darling Kate Rusby.
First broadcast on BBC1 at 9am on Christmas Day 2004, as well as various times on the CBBC Digital Channel, it has since been sold by BBC Worldwide to numerous territories, including Canada, Spain, Sweden, Australia and (my favourite) Iceland – always wanted to sell snow to the Eskimos. OK, so Eskimos don’t live in… oh, you know what I mean.
#1 rated UK Children’s animation, Christmas 2004
Nominated for Best Animation, BAFTA 2005
Nominated for Best TV Special, Pulcinella Awards 2005
Fuzzyworld is a pre-school show about two boys, a girl and a dog, called Argle, Bargle, Dingle and Dave, Dave being the dog, who live on a very tiny planet made entirely of Fuzzonium, a material almost exactly like felt. Everything on the planet is made of Fuzzonium, including our heroes, and everything talks, even the furniture, except Dave, who just barks.
The three Fuzzies have a huge range of interchangeable heads, hands and feet to help them through their days, such as Painting Hands, Thinking Head and Tippy Toes. However, every time they start having fun, Sharp Monster comes from the neighbouring Planet Pointy to steal their stuff so he can rule the Universe. Fortunately the Fuzzies also have their Fuzzy Power attachments, the Head of Power, the Hands of Doom and the Tights of Terror, and with them, and with their clever thinking, always manage to save the day.
Fuzzyworld is currently in development with Monster Entertainment, Dublin. A pilot episode has been made, hopefully to be followed by a whole series.
THE KILLING CLOUD (1989)
My second paid writing gig, but it was a doozy. Vektor Grafix was chock full of serious creatives, and did some of the earliest and best 3D (as it was called then) flight simulators, including a fully working Space Shuttle simulator that was published by Virgin Games, and which was for a while on permanent video loop in Nasa HQ’s entrance lobby.
I had an idea to combine a flight simulator with a story, which became The Killing Cloud, as far as I know the first attempt at an interactive movie ever made in the UK. It was set in a future San Francisco choked by toxic fog , and you played a cop who had to catch the bad guys who created the fog , until you eventually get through the levels and find the big bad guy, and turn the fog off. On flying hoverbikes, of course. Mirrorsoft went for it, and over the next months I oversaw the story development and provided anything that needed writing.
It did pretty well, and is still available on all good Abandonware sites. I also had an idea for a 3D POV shoot-em-up while I was there. Sadly they didn’t go for it. Four years later, ‘Doom’ came out. Ah well. Vektor then underwent changes, and a few of us had to be made redundant, last in first out etc. However, I carried on as a freelance consultant for them for a few years after that until I was distracted by the animation industry. Good times.
THE BASKERVILLES (2000)
After writing most of the British Animation Award-winning second series of ‘The Legends of Treasure Island’, Central TV asked me if I had any series ideas. Of course, what they wanted was a British Simpsons – what they got was The Baskervilles, a series created by myself and ex-Cosgrove Hall artist Nick Martinelli, who directed the series.
The Baskervilles was about the nicest family in the world who go on vacation but end up in Hell by mistake, and for reasons they’re too stupid to understand, never leave. But this isn’t the traditional Hell – this is an upside down suburbia where you have to be bad to be good, which of course the Baskerville family never quite get, and so are always in trouble.
We made the pilot in the Philippines in the summer of ’95, and production finally got underway in ’98. By then Alphanim (France) were the producers, and it was financed by France 2, Cinar & ITV, and eventually sold to a good many territories. The series launched in 2000, and became a bit of a cult, something to do with the fact that we were trying to make a British Simpsons within the constraints of politically correct kids’ TV. Despite this, it’s still playing in various territories twenty years later.
Top performing series on CITV for summer 2000
Pulcinella Awards 2000, Special Mention for graphics
In 1997 I had the idea to set up a company to team write animation series, and somehow Ken Anderson, now of Wild Child, and Animator/Director Tony Barnes, thought it wasn’t such a mad idea, and so we started Skryptonite. It went well, for a while, and we wrote a good few series, with such excellent writers as Pete Hynes, Jill Brett, Keith Brumpton, Simon Jowett and many more. But in the end I think we possibly rocked the status quo a little too much, and we all moved on. Still think it was a good idea though.
THE WAY THINGS WORK (1999)
I was the head writer and script editor on this 26 x 11′ series based on David Macaulay’s best-selling publishing and multimedia property for Dorling Kindersley Vision & Millimages. The show was one of the last educational shows to be broadcast by CBBC.
Winner of a Gold Medal at the 2004 New York Festival for Best Children’s Programme.
CONE CONTROL (2000 – 2001)
I was head writer & script editor on this 52 x 11 ‘ series for Steven Ching’s Animation Services (Hong Kong). The series was completely financed by Animation Services, which gave us writers absolute carte blanche on the script front, with the consequence that we created and wrote some of the wildest kids’ scripts out there. But despite this, the show is still playing around the world.
LAPITCH THE LITTLE SHOEMAKER (1997-98)
Skryptonite’s first gig, a 26 x 26′ series based on the legendary (in Croatia) Croatian folk tale for Haffadiebold, E-M Distribution & Croatia Film, on which I was head writer and script editor. Still showing here and there, and available on video/DVD.
Most of the time I write on other people’s shows, and these are a selection of my personal credits. In between these, I was either working on my own things, or doing development work, for everyone from Cosgrove Hall Productions to Disney Channel. For some reason I was more often than not brought in on shows that were far too bonkers ever to make it to broadcast, but they were fun to work on nonetheless.
ROCKABYE ISLAND (2013)
Monster Entertainment and Magpie 6 Media’s pre-school series about a bunch of kids who go to school on a magical island. 2 scripts.
SABRINA, SECRETS OF A TEENAGE WITCH (2012-13)
A new CGI series of the American classic, currently in production by Mike Young Productions for The Hub in the US and The Disney Channel everywhere else, and also distributed by Moonscoop. 4 scripts.
JUNGLE BOOK (SERIES 2) (2011-13)
India’s DQ Entertainment’s follow-up to their highly successful first series, co-produced by France’s TF1 and Germany’s ZDF and distributed by Moonscoop. 7 scripts.
DENNIS AND GNASHER (2008)
The return of the big-haired twosome, courtesy of Red Kite Animation. Still showing all over the place. 1 script.
WOBBLY LAND (2006)
Brown Bag’s wonderful pre-school series for Nickelodeon about a group of creatures living on an oversized playmat. Exquisite stuff. 5 scripts.
Nominated for an Irish Film & Television Award 2008 for Best Animation
DIVE OLLY DIVE (2006)
Mike Young Productions’ 2006 CGI show about a bunch of undersea research vehicles and their aquatic friends – fun animation with ecological undertones. In the ever-more cynical world of children’s TV, it’s refreshing to see a show that at least tries to slip some kind of message under the kids’ mental barriers.
For a while I was developing and scripting cartoons for the nascent mobile market, which really did feel like getting back to the roots of animation – if Chuck Jones were still alive he’d be making mobile cartoons. One of these was Canada’s GRAVITY FX’s ‘GEMMA’, a 24 x 90 second series about a two year old toddler and soccer savant which went out on Orange in time for the 2006 World Cup.
NICK & PERRY, ALIEN DOGS (2000)
I gag punched all of this 52 x 10′ series for TFC Trickompany/WOR, Ellipse/M6, having helped create the bible some four or five years earlier. Still available in all good video stores, as long as you live in Germany. Also the best bible ever – nothing to do with the concept, the execution or my work, just because it was enclosed in a pair of green carpet tiles. Still on the list of Great Bibles Of Our Time for people who weren’t then but are now very high up.
SKIPPER & SKEETO (2000)
A 26 x 11′ animation series based on the hugely successful software titles for Egmont Imagination & Animation Services (Hong Kong). I wrote half the series. Still a staple of many broadcasters’ kids’ output.
AMAZING ANIMALS (1996 -1998)
I wrote all of series 2 of this 13 x 26′ live action/2D & 3D animation/edutainment series (and the early part of Series 3) for Darling Kindersley, Partridge Films & The Disney Channel.
Emmy Nominated 1998
Winner of a 1998 New York Film & TV Festival Award for Best Children’s Programme, 2-6 category.
THE WOMBLES (1996)
The legendary talking noses – what a joy. To get paid was a bonus. In the end I wrote 5 episodes for the first of the new 13 x 10′ series for Film Fair/Cinar, then for reasons I still haven’t worked out said I was too busy to do the second series and gave them a writer friend’s phone number. He went on to become the head writer on Balamory…
THE LEGENDS OF TREASURE ISLAND SERIES 2 (1994)
My first big break, I guess. I started off transcribing the directors’ storyboards into script format, and ended up writing and/or re-writing 9 episodes of this 13 x 22′ animation series for Howling Wolf Productions & Central/Carlton TV, including the episode that won the award.
Winner of the 1996 British Animation Award for ‘Best Children’s Series’.