Dare is set to live again thanks to the latest CGI technology.
Anthony Clarke takes a look at what we can expect from the new
Dare is about to be launched as a CGI TV hero. But the "pilot
of the future" and his space-bound adventures actually started
life over 50 years ago on the front page of The Eagle. Launched
in April 1950, the fantastically popular comic was the brainchild
of the Rev Marcus Morris who also editored the weekly for
the first ten years of its existence. But it was chief artist
Frank Hampson who created the comic's trademark, the square-jawed
and very British SF hero Dan Dare.
success was never planned - by his own admission Hampson had
no clear idea where the opening installment of the strip was
going to lead. But despite this, many of the elements within
the story survived up until its initial demise in 1966.
story opens with a starving Earth and a failed attempt to
reach Venus where it is hoped food will be found. Dare thinks
he knows what is going wrong and sets off to Venus which turns
out to be a divided planet: the North inhabited by the ruthless
Treens; the South occupied by the peace-loving Therons. Also
on Venus are the Atlantines; Earth people abducted by Treens
many thousands of years ago and kept as slaves. The Venus
story was incredibly long by any standards - 77 issues - but
made Dare a national hero.
story of the Eagle's sad decline is long and involved but
Dare's popularity has lived on and now a whole new generation
will soon get to see him in action thanks to the wonders of
CGI - but the 26-part animated TV series almost didn't happen.
£14m UK-financed show, which has just been completed in the
US, suffered a major production problem. The TV-revival was
originally being handled by Netter Digital but the company
went bankrupt early this year leaving the project only half
completed. Fortunately Dan Dare's production was transferred
to Foundation Imaging which completed the work on the 26 episode
the problems with the midstream hand over the quality of the
animation actually improved. Part of the problem with the
Netter's original work was that the company had used a digital
facial capture system for the dialogue which does not have
the same range of expressions that much of Foundation's hand-keyed
facial performances contain. Also, Netter's motion capture
hardware, actor direction and motion data filtering software
were not up to the same standard as Foundation Imaging's setup.
Frewin, owner of the Dan Dare Corporation, believes that Dan
Dare will prove to be as popular with today's media-savvy
pre-teen audience as he was with the post-war generation that
made him famous. "We market tested Dan with young people.
The minute we got to the point when they began to say, 'Dan
is cool', we knew we had arrived."
Greg Ellis voices Dare, while Robbie Coltrane, Tim Curry and
Charles Dance flesh out the remainder of the key human roles.
Rob Paulsen plays arch villain the Mekon. The theme song is
performed by Elton John and if the show proves a success a
live-action film could follow.