The three-part series certainly evokes a well- defined subterranean Bogey world of slime, grime, grotesquerie and gloom. Its inspiration, apart from the book, was an unspecified northern industrial landscape in mid-winter, contrasting sharply with the wholesome, homogenised world of the ‘Dry Cleaners,’ ie human beings, whom the Bogey men and women seek to spook. Production designer Frank Walsh, who also worked on the film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and recently completed work on the film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, had his work cut out masterminding the whole project from London when all the CGI work was done in Montreal, the home of co-producer Gala Films. ‘To be honest it was a bit of a logistical nightmare ensuring that the CGI side in Canada followed my template and kept the look of Bogeydom consistent,’ he says. ‘Obviously, they needed massive amounts of reference, not being familiar with the grimy North of England setting I had devised. I had to make up sample panels of wallpaper and curtains so they knew exactly what was required.’
The story switches constantly between the underground Bogeydom and the above ground world of the Dry Cleaners, heralded on-screen each time by a descending curtain of green slime. ‘We wanted the two worlds, above and below ground, to be in sympathy with one another,’ explained Walsh, ‘so we took a lot of the colour out of the Dry Cleaner world lest it look too bright by contrast. The director wanted a sense of continuity and reality, not something that looked too cartoonish. Even though the story is pretty far-fetched, it had to be believable on some level.
‘The original book was our bible. I knew it already, of course, and because it had such a strong identity and reputation it was a real challenge to take Briggs’ images and translate them into a three-dimensional environment,’ adds Walsh.
Briggs himself was not involved in the production, but is thought to be pleased with the outcome. After so long a wait, you can imagine he must feel relieved that a screen version has finally come to fruition. However, despite writer Mark Haddon’s best efforts, there is a sense of having inflated something small, but perfectly formed out of all proportion. Good as the animation is, you sit and wait in vain for something exciting to happen.
The same was certainly not true of the superior Shoebox Zoo, in which the young heroine’s adventures with her miniature animal friends were varied and captivating in the great tradition of The Lord of the Rings and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. However brilliant the graphic work on any piece of animation, its success will always stand or fall on the basic narrative structure.
Fungus the Bogeyman launches on BBC 1 on 28 November