Raiders of the Lost Archives: Fantasy and Adventure

Fantasy and Adventure with Kevin Saves the World!

Our January Pop Up Event focused on the recently catalogued Kevin Saves the World series, a children’s animation series written by Daniel Postgate and produced by Bob Godfrey Films and Kine Aune. Based on the book of the same title, the series features Kevin, a young boy who wants to live an ordinary life but keeps finding himself involved in all kinds of unusual adventures. These unusual adventures transport the viewer into various fantasy scenarios, and so the natural theme for our Pop Up Event was fantasy and adventure.

Material from various episodes of the Kevin Saves the World series

Material from various episodes of the Kevin Saves the World series

Fantasy is a term generally used to define a genre that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element. The genre was traditionally inspired from mythology and folklore, but developed as a distinct type of literature during the Victorian period. Farah Mendlesohn attempts to define the types of literary fantasy in her book Rhetorics of Fantasy. She offers the follow categories into which fantasy genre can fall:

Portal Quest: Essentially there is a portal through to another world that has magical elements

Immersive: The entire story is set in a magical world

Intrusive: Elements from the magical world seep into our own

Liminal: The story is set in our world. Magical elements are accepted as opposed to being surprising

We find elements of Portal Quest fantasy (Kevin and the Computer Game, Kevin and the Big Lizard, Kevin and the Baked Beanstalk). We also find elements of Intrusive fantasy (Kevin and the Genie, Kevin and the Boogie Woogie Bogeyman, Kevin and the Recipe Book, Kevin and the Ghosts, Kevin and the Goblet of Eternal Life). However we have a crossover with Kevin and the Vikings, where the hero is transported through a portal, but then returns to the real world with the magical elements escaping and following him to create an Intrusive fantasy. And then of course, every episode borders on the Liminal. Throughout his adventures, we are reminded that Kevin is an ordinary boy who wants an ordinary life, and whilst he sees the fantastic elements as an annoyance, he does not seem particularly surprised by them.

Pre-Production material for Kevin and the Beanstalk and Kevin Saves the World episodes

Pre-Production material for Kevin and the Beanstalk and Kevin Saves the World episodes

It should be noted that Mendlesohn specifically states that her book applies to literary fantasy, and does not consider television and film. So perhaps we should not categorise Kevin Saves the World in this way. Instead of categories, we can look at sub themes. There are clearly influences from legends (Kevin and the Big Lizard, Kevin and the Goblet of Eternal Life), fairy-tales (Kevin and the Genie, Kevin and the Baked Beanstalk), folklore (Kevin and the Boogie Woogie Bogeyman, Kevin’s Christmas Treat), mythology (Kevin and the Vikings), and even the supernatural (Kevin and the Recipe Book, Kevin and the Ghosts, Kevin and the Seven Deadly Drop-Ins). Alongside these influences, we also see an element of popular culture – the Kevin and the Goblet of Eternal Life storyboards and scripts pose more than one similarity to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!

Whichever way we choose to define or categorise the episodes of Kevin Saves the World, it is apparent that the series as a whole combines a number of influences from which its roots stem. However, at the end of each episode Kevin, much to his relief, is able to return to the real world and resume his ordinary life… Until the next adventure!

Archive resources and freebies!

Archive resources and freebies!

The Kevin Saves the World series is now catalogued as part of the Bob Godfrey Collection. View it via the UCA Archives and Special Collections Online Catalogue.

Kevin Saves the World images copyright Bob Godfrey and Daniel Postgate.
All images are for educational purposes only.

Hannah Ratford, Archive Cataloguer

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“What a terrible mess. Kevin, what have you been doing?”

Cataloguing Kevin Saves the World

We are continuously working behind the scenes and making additions to the UCA Archives and Special Collections catalogue. The catalogue was recently updated online to include the newly catalogued series Kevin Saves the World, a children’s animated series based on a book of the same name by author Daniel Postgate. One of the larger series of the Bob Godfrey Archive, Kevin Saves the World comprises some 38 boxes of animation material, including correspondence, pencil drawings, acetate cels, dope sheets, sound recordings, scripts, and storyboards to name a few!

Material from Kevin and the Genie

Material from Kevin and the Genie

An initial delve into the boxes suggested that there were five animated shorts that formed the series: Kevin Saves the World, Kevin and the Computer Game, Kevin and the Big Lizard, Kevin and the Genie, and Kevin and the Bogeyman. There was pre-production and production material for these episodes. The scripts and storyboards provided information on the content of each episode, and some title scenes revealed the credits of the animations. Interestingly, the titles were in both English and Norwegian. These revealed that the series was produced by Bob Godfrey Films and Kine Aune and supported by the Norwegian Film Institute and the Nordisk Film & T.V. Fund.

Progress was being made. The key individuals and organisations behind the series and the synopsis of each episode were now known. However, there was still little contextual information about the series. When the last couple of boxes of material were sorted through, things got a little more complicated. There was evidence of other episodes previously unknown about – Kevin’s Christmas Treat, Kevin and the Recipe Book, and Kevin and the Ghosts. Not long after this discovery, an entire box full of correspondence and scripts was discovered. Sifting through this material created a more complete picture of the production of the series.

Just a small selection from the Kevin Saves the World scripts

Just a small selection from the Kevin Saves the World scripts

In total 14 episodes were found to have pre-production material (scripts and storyboards). There was partial production material for 2 of the episodes, and full production material for 5 of the episodes. The correspondence records revealed that a longer series of around 12-13 episodes was originally planned. However, it proved difficult to find broadcasters who were willing to broadcast animated shorts of only 5 minutes. The series also faced funding difficulties, which explains the halt in production and the presence of only pre-production material for a majority of the episodes. The first five episodes were broadcast in Norway, where some of the available funding had been sourced.

Using the information gathered, the series catalogue structure fell into place. A ‘series’ record was created for Kevin Saves the World. Each individual episode was then arranged underneath this with its own ‘sub-series’ record. Under these records, the material was arranged into pre-production and production material, where it existed. Correspondence had its own ‘sub-series’ record, as the material covered the contents of multiple episodes and was relevant to the series as a whole. Correspondence was then arranged into different ‘files’ according to their original order. Find out more about the structure of the catalogue by viewing this presentation.

Kevin Saves the World Catalogue Screenshot

Kevin Saves the World Catalogue Screenshot

After arranging a structure, further contextual information is added to the records in the form of authority files. Relevant names of people and organisations involved with the series are created in the authorities database and linked to the records, so that names may be cross-searched by users. Subject terms are also applied to identify key themes and subjects within the material.

Kevin Saves the World Authority Names Screenshot

Kevin Saves the World Authority Names Screenshot

The Kevin Saves the World series is now available to view on the UCA Archives and Special Collections Online Catalogue.

Kevin Saves the World images copyright Bob Godfrey and Daniel Postgate. All images are for educational purposes only.

Hannah Ratford, Archive Cataloguer

Ways of using Animation Archives in Studio Practice

Adam Sharp, Producer from A&BTV explains how the archives of Roobarb, created by Grange Calveley and animated by Bob Godfrey, helped to develop a new series, Roobarb and Custard

 

Bob Godfrey logo 001resize

 

‘Roobarb was created by Grange Calveley in the early 1970’s. Grange’s first sketch of Roobarb (on top of a piano with a brush) encapsulates beautifully the concept and character of the show – based entirely on Grange’s own pet dog.

 

From this early drawing, Grange wrote the entire 30 episode series.

 

Grange worked with animation director, Bob Godfrey, to create a test animation of what would later become episode 1 and set about getting a commission from the BBC. Once commissioned a team of animators, including students from St Martin’s started to draw the series. There was no style-guide as such other than employing the wobble or boiling effect, which was both economically and logistically pragmatic.

 

The series was a critical and commercial success garnering awards and a massive audience of 7 million within weeks of first transmission.

 

Unfortunately, all the original artwork for the 1974 series was lost in a studio fire in the 1980’s.

 

In creating a new show 30 years later, we decided we had to go back to the original episodes to help create the style-guide using screen grabs. Interestingly the TX quality of the original shows is nowadays deemed substandard and would not pass QC. There were discussions at the time to bring the animation bang up to date and clean the entire look and feel up. We decided however to take the best elements of the original series and retain the loose style and boiling effect in order to make the new series look and feel as much as possible like a natural progression from the original show.

 

Grange had already written the 39 new episodes. Each script starts with a sketch / image of what Grange is trying to portray in that particular story. These and other images that Grange creates at this stage are used to convey a look and feel for the finished animation – a pre-storyboard guide. It was imperative that we found a new animation team that;

  • Understood the history and heritage of the characters involved
  • Could work with us and the original series screen grabs to create the style-guide
  • Understood the humour and subtleties of Grange’s writing and characters

 

After a long and exhaustive, global search we landed with Gerard O’Rourke’s Dublin-based, Monster Animation. Gerard’s animation director Jason Tammemagi was then tasked with the new series.

The style sheets and storyboards were then used in a relatively straight-forward manner to create the new show with Flash. The only real issues were then deciding on how much of a wobble to include and how the marker-pen colour changes could be implemented best.

The new series “Roobarb and Custard Too” was first broadcast to critical acclaim in 2005 on Channel 5’s Milkshake strand and continues to be shown today.

For more information go to http://www.roobarbandcustard.tv’

Images of the storyboards produced from the original archives of Roobarb are available to internal students and researchers to UCA http://imagebank.ucreative.ac.uk/?c=535

The Bob Godfrey Studio Archive catalogue can be found here http://archives.ucreative.ac.uk/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=BG&pos=1