Monthly Archives: October 2014


A children’s story by Storysmith…

The Boogie BearIn the dark and misty plains of Macadamia there lived a boogie bear that played a small but loud trumpet from morning to night. Wherever you happened to be in the dark and misty plains you could hear the plaintive tones of this trumpet whatever you happened to be doing. Many zee horses depended on silence as it was their only weapon. They would creep up to their favourite lunch and eat him before he had the chance to discuss the whole thing. Other local creatures such as the wee wee bird would depend on silence purely because they flew constantly and never touched the ground. Hence they were constantly tired. Many other inhabitants, far too many to mention, suffered in a similar way.

In short the serenity of the dark and misty plains was totally ruined by the loud and often tuneless strains of the boogie bear’s trumpet.

One night all the creatures met up secretly to decide what to do. They considered telling the boogie bear’s parents, but then remembered they had gone away to Morgovia Minor and had never come back. (“Not surprised” said one of the wiser zee horses.) Many suggestions were made, but in the end a decision was reached.

They would jump out on the boogie bear and trip him up.

They all laughed and said things like “That will do it!” and “Brilliant!” before they set off to put their plan into action.

The boogie bear was walking through a damp clearing, playing a sad tune on his trumpet, when a bony foot came out of a bush. Before he could stop himself the unfortunate boogie bear fell flat on his face, pushing the trumpet right into his mouth.

There was perfect peace again in the dark and misty plains.

And that is why any boogie bear you ever see has a mouth shaped like a trumpet.


A children’s story by Storysmith…

PeaThere was a boy who left a single pea on his plate called Simon. (The boy, not the pea…)

Not wishing to offend it in any way, Simon took the pea up to his bedroom and made a nest out of shredded homework for it. As far as he could see the pea seemed grateful, as much as peas are, and they both fell asleep to rest and dream dreams.

“Simon, are you never coming downstairs? Your rice crispies are barely audible…” This accompanied by an urgent knocking at his door.

The fact was, Simon couldn’t come downstairs – his highly spoilt and comfortable pea had grown rather large during the night and was leaning menacingly against the door.

“Um… be down in a minute…” Simon mumbled, beginning to regret that he had got involved in peas generally, and this one in particular.

Simon made up his mind to confront the pea, and show him who was boss – after all, the pea, for all its largeness and greenness, didn’t have any arms and legs, and would probably end up squilched if it came to it. Simon grasped it like a giant beach ball and glared into its horrible green face. “How did this happen?” he demanded. “How did you end up like this?”

“END up like this? END up? I haven’t started yet. Wait and see…” the pea replied, and then he let himself down by sticking out a revolting green tongue and saying “So there.”

Simon decided to hit the pea with his cricket bat which was near at hand, and in the ensuing confusion he escaped from the bedroom and headed for the kitchen.

“All ok?” Said his mother, scrudging his hair in that irritating way of hers.

“Fine” replied Simon, “Apart from a gigantic evil and very green pea threatening me in my bedroom.”

“Of course.” said his mother, “more milk?”

Clearly this was Simon’s battle, so he returned to his room, only stopping to borrow a rolling pin from the cookery department.

Pushing the bedroom door open was a problem in itself. Every time he applied pressure there was a squelchy sound, and dollops of green gunk edged their way under the door. When he finally got in, there was one of those moments in films where you see a terrified face in close-up, with a dreadful groaning noise shaking the room, leaving the viewer in no doubt that something is amiss.

The rogue pea had filled the entire room, and as Simon pushed on the door its squidgy face caved in, making it’s threatening expression even more worrying.

Thinking about his bedroom, and how nice it used to be, and how many very special things he had in it (including, although he would never admit it, Barney the Bear) he made a rapid decision to protect his space, and hit the pea with the rolling pin.

“Yooooooooooow!” Screamed the pea, ” and what’s more…yoooooow…”

In a moment it had reduced itself, and was heading towards the window. ” I’m going to contact the mother ship. I’m going to take over the world! You see if I don’t!”

” oh no you’re not” said Simon, “Don’t be silly. Come and sit down.”

And the two companions talked until it was nearly time for supper. By that time the pea had learned to behave, had reduced in size a great deal, and was happy to accompany his new friend, in his pocket, to the dinner table.

“Peas Simon?” Said his mother, and then she said “Did you hear a small but very worried scream? Wonder what that was…”


Robert Duncan finds he has time on his hands…

waiting at airports

                  Boarding at last!

Too hot. Wishing I’d dressed differently. Carrying too many bits and pieces. Still irritated that I had driven into the long term car park instead of the short term, and had been faced with a long walk or a bus ride until a kindly foreign man told me where to go ( in the politest possible way.) and I wasn’t even in the terminal yet ( the relevance of the word terminal was beginning to dawn on me) and because I’d left home impossibly early, managing to awaken my gorgeous wife to a sleepy good morning (considers not going on my little trip) I was now a whole hour early. It was the M25’s fault. Behaving perfectly like that, and proving it could be a fast road, just like other motorways.

After tapping every ounce of technology I possess, which is virtually none, I actually checked in on a machine! So there! I’m the man! Ok, I put my passport in the wrong way up, then in the wrong slot, by which time the machine was showing signs of irritation – the sort of reaction I often get from the lady in my satnav.

Onward to security, where I manage to persuade them that my tiny bottle of moisturiser isn’t an offensive weapon, remove my belt and tell them my trousers could well fall down, and I’m in.

Things are looking up. A large cappuccino and a Danish help pass a bit of time, and realising I am still an hour too early I decide to write this thing. And that brings you right up to date. To the minute. So how shall I finish this piece? Chat about how I’m going to walk around Dixon’s and play with some pointless gadgets? Walk round Boots to find more dangerous liquids to use in my quest for world domination? Smith’s for a pointless magazine I’ll never read, or a crossword book I won’t be able to do?

No, I’ll probably just sit here and have another cappuccino, to stop them from demanding my table back.

Us international types eh?


The first of an occasional series of children’s stories by Storysmith…

StorysmithOur picture shows Storysmith – that’s him in the cloak. His entire aim in life is to create original short stories for kids. And if you’re going to have an entire aim, it probably couldn’t get much better than that. He begins…

A good king had an argument with a bad king who owned a country right next door. “Keep out of my country or else…” The good king shouted.

The bad king stormed away, not waiting to hear the rest of the sentence which was in fact, “Keep out of my country or else come in for a cup of tea.”

The bad king returned to his own country and vowed to get vengeance on his sworn enemy.

“I shall …I shall…” he said to his court and anyone else who would listen. “I shall…”

Everybody stopped listening because they knew he probably wouldn’t.

The very next day the bad king was staring out of his palace window at the dewy dawn when his perfectly manicured lawn began to shake, crumble and erupt. Carefully tended rose beds flew into the morning air, and dreamy arbours collapsed. As the bad king watched the snowy tip of a mountain appeared, rapidly followed by the rest of the mountain.

“Goodness me,” cried the bad king, “This will prove to my sworn enemy that my land is far more fabulous than his! My very own mountain!”

As excitement gripped him, he came to a momentous decision. “I shall climb my mountain, put a flag on top of it and… and…” He paused. “And put my tongue out at him from the lofty heights!”

Servants were summoned, mountaineering shops were called, and the bad king assembled all the equipment he needed to climb the lofty peak.

All the people in the land assembled to watch their king set out on his journey. With a mighty wave and a cry of long live something or other (they couldn’t hear properly) he was off.

He scaled sheer rock faces, slept huddled against the wind in rough crevices, and gingerly balanced on worrying precipices. He struggled against all odds and sure enough, three days later, on the point of exhaustion, he was within reach of the pinnacle.

Just at that moment the good king appeared at the summit, and drove a flag into the thick snow.

“What?” cried the bad king, “How dare you! This is my mountain. How did you get up here so fast?”

“Simple” said the good king with a winning smile on his face, “I used the staircase on the other side.”


Ideas that were going to make me rich and famous number 2301…

cupboard love

Click to read my flipbook (in a new window / page)

During a very lively and creative time in my life, fresh from my theatrical success with Cluedo and other earth shattering ideas, I came up with Cupboard Love. What’s that? I hear you both say…

Cupboard Love was a series of ten little books for children, the same in stature as Mr Men books. Well, I thought if it’s good enough for Roger Hargreaves it’s good enough for me. I never seriously tried to get them published in the traditional way, because I knew all about printing and marketing – and the rewards would be immense compared with the snivelling amount a publisher would grudgingly pass over for all my immense efforts. So developing a brochure and even a point of sale unit was on the cards. All I had to do now was write them.

The ten adventures concern different containers you find in the average home. An aerosol. A jam jar. A jerry can. Get the gist? They would all inter-relate, and turn up in each other’s adventures – so for instance the jam jar who’d secretly got into body building, would rescue the squirter who was trapped under a large tin tray. And the bag would have a failing stage act with the tub, until they went away to the mountains to write some new jokes, like ‘how do you get toothpaste across town?’ ‘By tube…’ Excellent stuff like that. And the oil drum who helped the parcel unwrap himself to find out what he contained…  By now you’re probably thinking ‘how come I’ve got this far in life without reading these classics?’ It’s quite simple – they never got anywhere. Sad but true.

I still have some proof copies, and my little boy refuses to go to bye byes like a goodie unless I have read him one of them – so they can’t be too bad.

His favourite, which you can read here, complete with groovy page-turning thingy, is Jerry Can. The plot is fairly standard stuff – boy meets aerosol, boy takes her dancing, boy stands on toe of angry crate, that sort of thing…

The best bit according to him is when the crate challenges the jerry can to a can can contest which the jerry can wins easily. Reason? Nobody can can can like a jerry can can can can. He often says this for no apparent reason from the back seat of the car…

I have done plenty of book cartoons as you can see on my website. Here we go again but Cupboard Love is among the best. Line and watercolour. Not a computer in sight.

Why did they fail so totally? Maybe they didn’t – if my little man loves them and laughs at them nearly every night before the final cuddle…


Drawing for my supper…

I was asked along to this great event in order to record all the happenings in my daft cartoon style. Double tempted because not only was I to be put up in a glitzy hotel with dinner, but I was promised a list of the email addresses of the delegates – every single person of any consequence in the event organisers world. This meant I could email them afterwards, attach a few wise, witty and relevant cartoons, and tell them I was cheap and available for conferences anywhere, stressing that I don’t do caricatures because the more accurate I am, the more insulted the subject becomes.

Great Venue


Anyway, the event was mainly people talking one to one behind loads of screens for privacy, a bit like speed dating or, as one of my cartoons pointed out, prison visiting. I found a table where I would be noticed and, coffee and bikkies at the ready, started to draw my particular brand of conference cartoons.

By lunchtime on the first day I had done twelve mono cartoons which onlookers seemed to like, inspiring me to do another ten before I repaired to my lovely hotel room to prepare for dinner. Preprandial drinks were mentioned so I was there. Walking in I was grabbed by a bush (please re-read that sentence) and was welcomed by a gold sprayed girl in an enormous dress with dozens of glasses of sparkling variety encircling it. “Does that come off?” I asked . “The gold paint or the dress?” She replied. I liked her.

Well to cut a long story short if it’s not too late, aliens arrived, along with other girls disguised as various bits of furniture, before we all went through to dinner. Unsurprisingly a large cake was wheeled in, and a Marilyn Monroe lookalike popped out and sang happy birthday in the ‘happy birthday Mr. President’ style.

Those of you who know me really well (or as well as they want to) will know that I love, and am totally bewildered by, magicians. We had one at our wedding but he refused to saw Cathy in half. Never mind, knowing my luck I’d get the half that eats..

So, there was a magician there and he went from table to table, doing close-up magic. Two things totally blew me away – he borrowed a fiver from me and then made it hover between his open hands. How did he do that? Just when I was getting over this bit of genius he wrapped one of our bottles of wine in a serviette, put a pound coin under it, and when he lifted the bottle again the pound had disappeared. I rated his talent more than that, but then he gripped the neck of the wrapped bottle, pushed it through our solid table, and pulled it back again. Staggering…

Plumber emerging from cake - all we could get at short notice

After that we all made several wine bottles disappear.

The next day I did some more original and highly whimsical cartoons (the table girls added to my inspiration) and my work there was done. The hotel desk lot very kindly photocopied my efforts and I was able to present the organisers with 45 conference cartoons, which they can use copyright-free for ever more, on websites, mailers and all that.

Great time. A well organised event. But then, why wouldn’t it be, with all those conference organisers around?


Fair? After spending all that…unfair…

I think I’ve got too much imagination to enjoy big rides at fairs. The teacups scare the hell out of me. But when our local fair arrives they stay up all night putting up things that whirl round at such a speed that if the bolt was slightly loose the car (the one I’d be sitting in obviously) would end up about two towns away, or in the middle of the motorway. And the ride that flies round like a kid’s windmill, except that it’s about four stories high, would probably see me off when I was waiting in the queue. Even standing underneath you are still conscious that the whole thing is held up by some lumps of 4×2 hammered into position on a road that could develop potholes if there happened to be a light shower of rain. Result? Unwelcome guests in the top floor of the estate agents two blocks away. Not for me.

And luckily not for my ward Sam or my little boy either. Deep in his genetic mix he has inherited a great fear of these things, so horror rides are out of the question. Instead, at last Friday’s visit to the fair, we stuck to ambling through the crowds on what was a delightful warm evening, and stopping off to test our prowess on the shooting stalls. Sam proved to be rather good at these things and won a train set for Jamie, which miraculously still works, little light and all. I had a reasonable go at darts and won a Minion which now sits where it landed at home, watching the train go round. And every time I try to win something on those machines that grab a Snoopy with a fiver round its neck, and then drop it at the vitalis momentum. By the time I realise I am never going to get it I have spent about fifteen quid. Cheaper to smash the glass, claim the Snoopy, and pay up for the damage.

Hungry, fifty quid down, we head for the hotdog stand. This curious establishment not only sells this worrying product, but has many other delights unique to fairgrounds. Toffee apples. Where else do you see them anymore? And great chunks of honeycomb. Cathy and I decided we would happily chew on that for the rest of our lives. And candy floss! Just to stand there and watch the lady swirling the stick round as the floss builds is to see Heaven. Trouble is, small beards and candy floss don’t mix.

Unhappy that we’ve only spent £65 we return to the shooting. Sam is convinced they bend the rifles but wins anyway. Anything from the bottom shelf. I suggest that he shoots the grumpy lady taking the money, and perhaps her husband will reward us anything from the top shelf.

Tired but happy, as these stories always end up, we walk home, big soft toy dogs under our arms, chewing the rest of the toffee apples and honeycomb, naming the new goldfish and letting the beautiful balloons go into the night sky as the sound of music and laughter fades into memory. Actually we went to the car, I grumbled about the cost, and Jamie was furious that his train needed batteries. Not sure if anyone said it was all great fun or not…

Fairground cups


Robert Duncan completes his four minute epic, and makes Ben Hur look like a short story…

DSC06435Soundtrack time, and my friend Tim Rice had agreed to do the voiceover – but he is a busy man and it was difficult to pin him down. So I made the earth shattering decision to narrate it myself. I spent a very satisfying few hours at Black Frog Studios under the kindly and patient direction of Steve, and came away with a pretty good vocal track. No music. No effects. But more of that later…

Back to Alan for yet another day of experimenting with techniques. In our business life he very often films me drawing mono cartoons and then makes the results go at ever changing speeds to fit the dialogue. So the section of the Jumblies when Edward Lear lists the things they picked up on the island covered in trees ( An owl and a useful cart, and a pound of rice and a cranberry tart, and a hive of silvery bees…) was home territory for us. Alan’s filming of this is totally faultless – every object is being drawn just as it is mentioned vocally, and the camera pulls out in a random way to frame every element perfectly.

More problems…the poem demands that the sieve goes round and round (and everyone cried
‘You’ll all be drowned…’) and I found it difficult mastering the inter-relationship of the four Jumblies, their tobacco pipe mast and their crockery jar. So I came up with an answer as I lay awake at about 3.30 in the morning. I made a clay model of the sieve and its contents, and took twenty four photographs of it revolving. I then traced the resulting pictures and voila! (or something…) Job done. That took care of ten seconds. Alan then placed them on a piece of film of the sea that I had taken with my iPhone, and for about the hundredth time showed off his talent, commitment and patience by moving the resulting spinning sieve to follow the flow of the waves. We decided we should use the drawings in their transparent state and not colour them, because otherwise it would appear as a rather bad bit of animation as opposed to a simple sketch idea. Happy with that, we decided to use the drawings again in a flick book. I made this out of photocopies and, amazingly, we filmed it in one take.

We were flying now. The Jumblies wrapped their feet in pinky paper all folded neat, so we did just that – me drawing the feet on pinky paper and then folding it up. We dragged on pieces of lined paper and used them at angles over the main scene. We screwed them up and pushed them away. We used paper with the serrations you get when you tear it off a wiro-binding. We even drew a section on an iPad but it never made the final edit because we didn’t think it was quite in the spirit of the thing.

In short, we drew and filmed loads of material, using every visual gimmick we could think of, and gradually assembled what we considered to be the best bits. Walt Disney probably did the same thing…

With the visuals nearly ready we set about adding sound effects to the narration. Lots of thunder and splashing waves. A coppery gong that Alan found seemed ideal for the bit that demanded a coppery gong. And all was complete, but sounded somewhat empty.

Music – that was the answer! A morning spent listening to library tracks left us unimpressed, and I finally had a golden moment… I remembered that I had bought an iPad app for two quid, with all the musical instruments you could possibly imagine. Trouble was, I hadn’t played a musical instrument since prep school, and then my piano sounded like a bad impersonation of Les Dawson. But what the hell? Let’s try it. After all, the Jumblies had sort of grown organically. Thorough examination of the app revealed that choral voices were a possibility, and could be played on a keyboard (which happened to be in the app) like any other instrument. “Keep it in fours” I said and, as Alan ran our movie, I played along in real time. Double tracking the result with percussion (which included whistles) completed the symphony. Thumping drums taking us through the end titles was the final icing.

Tim Rice said later that the music went well with the narrative. So there.

My darling wife Cathy, who knew I’d been missing for ages, but didn’t know what Alan and I were doing, was totally impressed with what we had produced, and came up with the idea of entering the Jumblies in film festivals. The amazing result is that we not only won a Diamond award at the IAC Film Festival, but we won Best Animation too. We went on to win awards in Colorado, Prague and St.Petersburg.

Are we chuffed? Damn right we are! We had a lovely weekend getting the IAC Award in
Chesterfield with Cathy and Alan’s fab wife Anne, and came back thinking the whole thing was
totally worth it… and what could we do with the Owl and the Pussycat?

Who knows?

Probably nothing – but I’ll try not to spill cider all over it…

Watch the Jumblies now. Bet you can’t wait:


Robert Duncan on losing sleep because of his Jumblies thingy…

In about 1963 I got really fascinated by the nonsense poems of Edward Lear – you know, the Owl and the Pussycat, the Dong with a Luminous Nose, his non-rude limericks…and especially The Jumblies. They went to sea in a sieve they did…

Jumblies Promo still

Still image from the Jumblies video – click to watch (in new tab/window)

Because of a lack of career, and mainly complete idleness, I decided to put my energies into something else apart from chatting up women down the high street, and make an animated film. This was before the days of computers, and there was no alternative but to do exactly what Walt Disney was doing rather well with his three hundred animators, and draw the thing frame by frame.

Carefully painted backgrounds and loads of cellophane (or cells) painted on the back with slow drying poster colour. At twenty five of these per second it looked like becoming a long job, but I persevered and finally ended up with enough of my Jumblies translation to last at least forty seconds. My big mistake was filming the thing frame by frame on a mate’s 8mm movie camera. This cutting edge equipment was fine for him to be seen showing off on water skis in some far-flung bay, but wasn’t exactly of, let’s say, Wallace and Gromit standard.

But to see my rather indifferent cartoons springing to life on my pinned up sheet was enough to get me dragging round every long suffering friend to view the production.

A spilt glass of cider into the box that contained my life’s work, the cells, was enough to send me back to peacefully spending my mornings in bed, with occasional appearances to demand bacon and eggs, cider or Clearasil.

But the memory of the Jumblies stuck, and about the middle of last year I suddenly realised I could still recite it verbatim. I couldn’t get it out of my mind, and found myself waking up in the middle of the night planning how it should be filmed to the full satisfaction of Mr Lear. On holiday I bought a notebook and started on a storyboard to recreate this masterpiece of the nineteenth century. This time I turned down the notion of thousands of cells, and proceeded to develop a mix-and-match series of visual ideas to tell the timeless story in my current style.

My friend and associate Alan Fenemore, who has shown remarkable patience with me during our frequent speed animation productions, was only too happy to become involved – even when I told him there would never be any money in it, and it was a labour of love. The piece was to be four minutes long, and would be in what I laughingly called mixed media.

Day one, and I arrived at the studio with all my watercolour equipment, determined that this should be the way to go. Now Alan is a very patient man, and he dutifully filmed all my early efforts to get a painty look that we were both happy with. I could waste paragraphs on this, but it’s probably more succinct to say that it just didn’t work. It was wet, splodgy and reflective – and a very uneasy start to the project.

Deep in the night I realised that pastels were probably the way to go, and called in at my local art shop on the way to Alan’s studio for our second day of creative madness. I was beginning to think this probably wouldn’t work either, but then I sketched out a rather good stormy background. Alan filmed this on a static camera from above, and also caught the action on a handheld mini-camera. This nice piece of film ended up as the pre-title intro to the final piece. But my problems weren’t over. As a professional cartoonist I knew myself well enough to know that I couldn’t produce really good stuff without my hand leaning on the surface I was drawing on. Result? I started to smear the pastels on my background when I added the figures and the inevitable sieve.

So, to cut a long story short if it’s not too late, it was all about fixative and waiting ages before it was dry enough to draw on. Alan was still practising his legendary patience, but I couldn’t help thinking that this could start wearing a little thin. I had colour copies made of my pastel background and then drew my detail as Alan kept filming. I used markers, pencils, crayons, Pentel sign pens (my pen of choice since the sixties) and even a Biro.
By this time we had collected a load of footage, mostly useless (or repetitive) and we had probably only got to the end of the first verse of the poem.


Watch what I’m on about: