Thursday, March 30, 2006

Where is the punchline?

Gordon and I are sat in a room trying to thrash out our script! We've got a working structure but we are struggling to find an appropriate end scene, a punchline or pay-off gag to wrap it up!

This strip seemed appropriate to our struggle today.
This is Moonstar and Madam Madd in typical all-seeing form! Never mess with a mystic!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

2D to 3D

As Mad Tom's Farm has evolved from a comic strip to 2D artwork and now to 3D CGI we've had to make some changes along the way. We've tried to be as faithful as possible to the original and hopefully adding (quite literally) a new dimension to the characters!
Here are some test images of Tom as a 3D model.

We are trying to give the 3D models some of the charm of stop frame animation - we've even added finger prints to the surface!

There is still a lot of work to do but I think we are on the right track. What do you think?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Mad Tom's Shoppe

I just started work on a shop over at Cafe Press. Its only just opened so I've only got one thing to sell so far, but I'll be adding more over the coming weeks. Take a look:
Please support us if you can, it will all help the cause!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Getting technical

This is some work on a proceedural texture for Tom's tank. The intent is to give it a chipped hand painted look. The overall flat colour will prevail but there will be a lot of detail at the edges. We've been looking at films like Robots which has some very nice work on metallic surfaces.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Kids TV Forum

I was at the Kids TV Forum in London yesterday. It was an interesting day, not quite as good as the year before when you could choose from different streams of discussion; this year had only one stream.

The whole process of bringing a show to air can be very daunting, this forum helped to explain some aspects of it. I met some new contacts who saw some of our work on the Farm and seemed interested in talking more.

We've also had some good news on the voice talent front - we've got a 'yes' from our first choice for Dalton. I can't say who just yet until we confirm it all formally but we are both very excited!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Badgers Ahoy!

Here's an old piece I did featuring most of the principal characters. This painting was born from one of the later strips Niel and myself did where the gang were involved in a pirate dream sequence, all very mad! The badgers in the crows nest are the Fabulous Badger Brothers, Brian and Billy. I seem to remember Niel coming up with these two. We were planning on using them a lot more in the strip but never really got the chance.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Heroes and Villains

I dug out these two pieces which I think start to give a good idea about some of the main characters in the Farm. This first one is of Rufus, Dalton and Cool Bob. Rufus panics easily and is shown as a basic grunt (fitting his position in the Farm) Dalton, like Rufus, also has a tendency to panic but is dressed as a general (he thinks he's the brainy one) and lastly, Cool Bob, doggedly following orders, doing as he's told (because NOTHING matters really) and generally just Even facing a fate worse than death he's not really that bothered!

This next image is of Auntie, one of the major villains of the Farm. Not much is known about her except that whenever she turns up a sense of doom and despair comes across everyone! Think of your worst nightmare visits from mad relations at Christmas mixed in with a dash of Hannibal Lector and you've got the idea about her. She never drove a tank in the original comic strip, I just thought it'd be funny having some evil, old dear sat in tank (Margaret Thatcher anybody?)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Main Four

Our blog, along with many others, was down on Friday due to technical problems so we wern't able to post anything. Ho hum!

The image (that I can't upload) shows four of the main characters, Rufus, Flossie, Moonstar and Madeline. They are the kids, with an age range from about 8 to late teens, (we are still debating Rufus' age!) Rufus is our main character, he is the everyman flung into this new world. Flossie is the spoilt daughter of Tom and Bernie. Moonstar is the rich kid who is torn between his new-age beliefs and making heaps of money. Madeline didn't exist in the strips but she has evolved out of the changing world of the farm. She is the daughter of Donald Odd and Madam Madd. More on all these characters later.

I'm off the London for a couple of days - mainly unrelated with Farm development but hopefully I will have time to talk to some people about it. If I have anything juicy to tell you I'll post it here on Wednesday.

Gordon is going to look after the blog for the next couple of days - have fun!


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Daltons dream machine

I posted this image a few days ago, its one of Gordon's paintings from a few years ago

Well that charming Mr Glazebrook has gone and built this lovely ship based upon it:

I could just see that sat on my desk! Thanks Andy - you can get to his blog from the links on the right hand side of the page, well worth a look.

Zakak & Zimov

Zakak and Zimov are two aliens from the planet Zeist. (Film geeks will know that Zeist is the planet in Highlander II where the immortals come from. We both loved Highlander I but Highlander II did its best to destroy all the magic established in the first film. Zeist is such a ridiculous sci-fi cliché of a name that we had to use it. It seems that if you name something starting with Z and spray it silver it must be from space!!)

So it was with much mirth and irony that our alien visitors sprang to life. Originally called D-Y-N-1 and M-N-DAR they quickly had a name change. The new name is also a play on words, a nod to one of my favourite sci-fi authors Isaac Asimov.

Zakak and Zimov are an intergalactic double act, like Jeeves and Wooster, or Laurel and Hardy. There is defiantly a clever one and a stupid one, but who knows who is who!!

Anyway, they have crash landed on the farm and are desperate to get their ship working and head home. Neither of them has any technical know-how so they look set to stay for a while. The irony is that mud is like gold dust back on Zeist so if they can take enough back they can live like kings! If only!!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Progress report

We are currently knee deep in early development of a 5 minute script. The trick is getting the essence of the show into just 5 minutes without it being contrived, rushed or boring. Gordon has done a first draft of the script which needs thinning out somewhat. We'll be working on this today and hopefully have something we are happy with this week.

I spent yesterday morning on the phone to agents of a couple of well know voice actors. They were all interested but it will all come down to money at the end of the day! When we are further down the line I can let you know who this is.
Nick Patrick, one of the modellers here at Qurios, has started work on Andrews tank posted a couple of days ago. When he has made some progress I'll post some new images.
The last two nights I have been burning the midnight oil working on schedules and budgets for this, its like try to get a bunch of hormonal hamsters to perform synchronised swimming at Olympic level!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Rockets & Rabbits

The two rabbits, Dalton & Cool Bob have an obsession with flying. This evolved from a series of misadventures in the orginal strip:

We kept going back to different gags about the rabbits wanting to fly, it was one of those ideas that we could get a lot of milage out of. Gordon did a couple of great painting that helped set the scene for TV development. This first one was Daltons dream of bulding and flying his own space-craft. Cool Bob would always fly the contraptions they built but Dalton would have loved to try, if he hadn't been so afraid!

This second painting by Gordon was an extension of the comic strip above:

This led quite naturally to the image below produced as part of the TV development, its probably somwhere between Gordons two images above (the rocket and the spaceship). I can't remember why I chose blue over Gordon's red designs, I presume because its more of a metallic colour and it contracts nicely with the red tank.

Monday, March 13, 2006

On the origins of a tank

One of the main back story's of the farm is the suggestion that it may have been some sort of military base or weapons dump. Tom and Bernie often use military surplus instead of traditional farm equipment.

Tom's tank evolved from this. It started with Gordon's obsession with tanks, but the closest we got to it in the comic strip run was this:

In between the end of the strip and the start of TV development Gordon produced this great colour piece:

This was the basic design of Tom's tank. When I did the revised version for the TV pitch I didn't have to change much. I added the Starsky and Hutch stripe on the side and a few other small details, but the main shape remained the same.

We also did a longer image which was used as a promtional tool. It lent itself very nicely to side banner images on pitch documents!

So Tom's tank was becoming part of the shows identiy, so much so that the second script we did was all about the tank being stolen.

Last year Andrew Glazebrook was working for us and I asked him to start building the tank as a 3D model. Although we haven't finished it yet the results so far are pretty great. There are defintly hints on 'dalek' about this design, but they are just tanks after all! You might spot a small homage to the excellent 'Back To The Future' on the tank too, we like to call it 'Mrs Fisson'.


Sunday, March 12, 2006


This is another early image that sums up what the strip was all about. I can't remember what 'Zabaan' means now, perhaps Gordon can remember. I think it might have been something our mate Richard Dolan said, which would indicate its a quote from an obscure film. No doubt Glazy call enlighten us...

Tomorrow: the story of the tank, (so get off my back Gordon!)


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Mad Cows from English Men

This picture started life as a throw-away background picture in one of the early Funny Farm strips, (I'll dig out the original some time soon for comparison.) I always liked the drawing, it made me laugh and I think it sums up the humour of the strip very well. Its a cow... wearing a cowboy hat, using a carrot to entice his space-hopper forwards while talking to a bird. Sublime!

All of the orginal strips were penciled by Gordon then inked and lettered by me. This colour piece has been redrawn and coloured by me but is very close to Gordon's original.


Friday, March 10, 2006

The story so far - part 5

In 2002 I established Qurios Entertainment, a 3D graphics and animation studio. While we are mostly a service facility the intention of establishing Qurios was to help develop potential projects for television, such as 'The Funny Farm'.

We felt it was time to give things a fresh approach and we'd found more than one other "Funny Farm" on the net. So after many suggestions we settled upon 'Mad Tom's Farm' as the new title for the show. Recently we've worked on new scripts and have begun work on a pilot show. And thats the reason for this blog!

So we are now up to date, from now on I'll be showing you what we are doing for the pilot and sharing our triumphs and our pitfalls with you.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

The story so far - part 4

Where to next indeed!

The end of the Nelvana contract happened to coincide with my leaving London and returning to my native North East. Having worked for 5 years in 2D animation I was keen to explore new things and 3D seemed to be where it was at. So I got a job in a games company who were willing to train me in the ways of 3D!

Not a great deal happened for a while. We had a agent in London who was quite keen on doing something with the project, but that sort of faded away into nothing. We also had a brief skirmish with a company in Newcastle called Red Balloo who had already produced two BBC animated series. I had met them while working at Uli's and had worked on their projects. They were keen to sign up the Farm for potential development. The deal they offered wasn't agreeable and we parted company.

The games company I was working for, Acclaim Studios Teesside, were keen to develop it as a game, a demo level was even created and some character models too. For a variety of reasons, mainly due to a change of senior mangement and the eventual collapse of the studio, the project didn't get any further.

Here are some images from the farm level built by Trev Storey.

So we've had a few false starts along the way, but everyone we've shown the Farm to has had an interest in doing something with it, which is nice!

This brings us up to about 2000 - what happened next?


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The story so far - part 3

I was working for Uli Meyer Animation at this time and we were all heading out to Annecy to help promote the studio and some of its potential feature projects. Uli offered us some space on his (very large) stand to help promote The Funny Farm.
Obviously we took him up on his offer and off we went to France!

We had a great response and lots of interested parties. Eventually we signed a deal with Nelvana, a Canadian based animation studio with a prolific output. It seemed almost too easy - the contract was negotiated and things looked great. We cracked open the champagne and lit the cigars!

In hindsight it probably was a bit too easy! The deal with Nelvana would give them a 3 year option in return for them producing a tv series, sadly this didn't happen and the 3 year deal eventually expired. Where to next?

The story so far - part 2

So 'The Funny Farm' had come to an abrupt end. At the same time I moved to London so we found it harder to collaborate between us, (the days before email!). The strip rested for a while, and so did we!

I got a job in animation in London while Gordon found himself in the cut-throat greetings card business, with a sideways jaunt into world of wallpaper.

Then in about 1995 or 96 we thought about the idea of bringing the Funny Farm back as an animated series. I developed a bunch of images while we hammered out a pilot script together. Eventually we had a dozen or so character images, story outlines, a whole series bible in fact!

We were ready to show it to the world, so off we went to the animation festival in Annecy, France!


The story so far - part 1


This blog is to chart the progress of 'Mad Tom's Farm', a proposed animated television project that has been in nebulous development for over 10 years, on and off!

It all began back in about 1990 or 1991 with an idea for a daily newspaper strip with my creative counterpart Gordon Fraser. We decided a farm might be funny and so 'The Funny Farm' was born! (You can see what we did there right?)

We produced about 30 strips and managed to pursuade our local newspaper, the Hartlepool Mail to publish it. It ran for about 18 months, until a new editor arrived who didn't understand it, thought it wasn't funny and decided to can it. We also managed to get some strips published in a short-lived sunday paper, which folded at roughly the same time as our cancellation in the Hartlepool Mail.

Despondant and dejected the future looked uncertain for myself, Gordon and the strip we loved...