Cosgrove Hall was a British animation studio, named after its founders Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall, which started in 1976 and eventually wound up in 2008. During this time, they produced numerous animated tv series including Danger Mouse (1981-92), The Wind in the Willows (1984-7), Count Duckula (1988-93), the 2003-8 revival of Postman Pat and several tv adaptations of Terry Pratchett books.
In anticipation of Steven Spielbergs live-action version of the story The BFG (2016), I was interested to check out the earlier film. Made just before Dahls death, The BFG premiered on the UKs ITV channel, although has not been seen widely since or gained a high profile. Cosgrove Halls animation is plain and unpretentiously simple. Clearly, the film has been made on a lower budget and so backgrounds are often static but for the characters and elements moving in the foreground. One of the minus points is also a cheap synthesizer score of the era, which strains away with banal cues.
Despite its limitations, The BFG starts supremely well. Brian Cosgrove creates a fantastic sense of mystery and awe as Sophie looks out her window to see the giant phantom shape moving through the streets and then very mysteriously taking what looks like a yard glass and blowing glowing green mist into peoples windows. After being seen, she hides under the blankets only to be snatched up by a giant hand as she looks out whereupon the giant leaps across the landscape and then simply up into the sky towards the Moon carrying her. This creates a fascinating mysteriousness, which the film then proceeds to subvert by contrarily revealing the giant to be a fuddy old man (given a gleeful voicing from David Jason in a provincial accent amid lots of puns).
The film is sweetly engaging and Sophies eventual upsurge at the end heartfelt. It often feels a film that is pitched down to the single digit age groups, which is fine, although you feel that it is also a story that could easily have been sold to older audiences too. It labours under the common misapprehension that many childrens films do that children are interested in songs and so we get several of these at various interludes, most notably the extended song and nonsense frolics in the whizzpoppers scene. There is the odd moment it drags, while the middle feels padded with ventures to the land of dreams, which is represented only by animated patterns. The film is also extremely faithful to the Roald Dahl story about the only noticeable difference is where Cosgrove Hall have censored some of Dahls more bawdy humour, like how the whizzpoppers are meant to travel downwards and lift one up on farts as opposed to burps.
The film starts to win its charms with the introduction of the character of The Queen, who is given a spot-on voicing by Angela Thorne. There is a perfect drollery to the scenes of her politely dealing with the giant and then the British military wheeling into operation (even if it perhaps reveals Roald Dahl or at least Cosgrove Hall as closet monarchists, believing that all things can be solved by the benevolent order of a well-run monarchy The Queen even being so compassionate as to offer poor homeless orphan Sophie to come and stay at Buckingham Palace. Like you could see that ever happening in the real world!). On the other hand, it makes The BFG such a distinctively British work that I wonder how well this is going to work for Steven Spielberg when it comes to his live-action remake. I am not sure I can exactly see Spielberg holding a benevolent belief in QEII or else that the story would work as effectively when she invariably gets replaced by the US President.
Other Roald Dahl screen works are:- the short-lived anthology tv series Way Out (1961), which Dahl wrote for and hosted; the screenplays for the James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968); the childrens classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971); the psycho-thriller The Night Digger (1971); the tv series Tales of the Unexpected (1979-81), an anthology series adapting Dahls macabre tales; and adaptations of The Witches (1990), James and the Giant Peach (1996), Matilda (1996), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009).
Full film available online here:-