Danger Mouse creator celebrates cartoon hero's 30th anniversary (with audio)
Meet Brian Cosgrove, the creator of renowned children's animations including Danger Mouse, which marks its 30th anniversary this year. Emma Mayoh reports
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You wouldn’t think a little white mouse with a black eye patch would have so much of an impact,’ said Brian Cosgrove, creator of iconic cartoon character Danger Mouse. ‘But it was something that ended up broadcasting all over the world; it was even done in Mandarin which was pretty funny to see.
‘When it was happening we didn’t realise the effect it had because you’re just getting on and enjoying what you’re doing. It is just crazy when I think back.’
In fact, when a screening of the white mouse and his timid sidekick Penfold was delayed in New York for a public broadcast by the city’s then mayor, Ed Koch, there was uproar. Stories featured in the New York Times and before you knew it the duo were back in their Saturday morning slot. Brian, the modest co-head of Cosgrove Hall Productions, can not believe the success he and friend Mark Hall have had.
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As well as Danger Mouse, the Manchester-based studio created vegetarian vampire Count Duckula, Jamie and his Magic Torch, feature film The BFG and the lively characters in the hugely successful series Wind in the Willows, featuring David Jason.
Over the years their work won several BAFTAS and international EMMY accolades and the animated characters were voiced by famous actors including Whoopi Goldberg, Joanna Lumley, Terry Scott and Jane Horrocks.
‘We just had the most incredible time and worked with brilliant people,’ said Brian, 76, who lives in Brindley, near Nantwich. ‘It took me a while to come up with Penfold. Once I did Mark told me I’d drawn my brother, Dennis, who was the editor of the Sunday Express in the north at the time. Everyone he worked with used to call him Penfold. I think he liked it really though.’
Brian’s fascination with drawing and animation started as a five-year-old growing up in Gorton. The obsession continued and he spent most days watching cartoons at a theatre in Manchester - he even courted his wife Angela there. He then studied at the Manchester School of Art and after a short time working for a graphic design company, he set up Cosgrove Hall with friend Mark.
‘They were exciting times,’ said Brian. ‘Working at the studios was like being at art school because we were all students learning the trade. The business just grew like topsy.
‘We’d be coming up with all of these ideas, they were crazy really. I mean a vegetarian vampire? We tried to tell the London bosses we were very busy but we were having a ball. They were grand times.’
Brian, who also sculpts, retired eight years ago and started producing art works, including some which take inspiration from original Danger Mouse stills. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first broadcast of the popular series and to celebrate Brian will be exhibiting some of his works at a London gallery - although he also hopes to stage an exhibition closer to home - and is selling some of the original stills.
He said: ‘I get so much enjoyment out of it and I didn’t expect there to be the interest there has been in it. My head is still full of the ideas.‘I’ve been really lucky to have all these years of such fun. I feel that one of the things that Mark and I did was leave people with lasting, happy memories. Hopefully when people see the paintings and stills, it will bring them back to life.’