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Gareth Jones and Violet Berlin Interview

Q: How long have you been involved in TV, and at what age did you start?

GARETH: My career as a presenter began in 1985 I was 24 when I first appeared on-screen, I was a VJ (Video Jockey) for a pioneering young Satellite TV Music Channel called Music Box.

VIOLET: I first appeared on TV on the Wide Awake Club, as a germ in a sketch with Carol Vorderman. I used to write for that show, and Wacaday, and appear on them now and then. But my first presenter job was on The Cool Cube a kids show on BskyB in 1989, I was 21.

Is it more fun to present children’s TV than normal TV? Which parts do you most enjoy?

GARETH: I enjoy both just as much, I am equally at home hosting Tomorrow’s World or How2, the only difference that I can perceive between the two genres is that when I do “adult” shows, I have to talk more slowly, so that the grown ups can keep up!

VIOLET: I’d go along with what Gareth says. They are both enjoyable in different ways.

Although you present the programmes, how much of the background work do you also do? (For GamePad, did Violet have to write the reviews herself, and did Gareth have to research loads of How 2 facts.

VIOLET: we both contribute behind the scenes to most of the shows we’re involved with. The extent depends on the shows. As far as GamePad goes, I wrote all the episodes of all the series, although I do have a reviewing team as back up, as it would be impossible for any individual to play that many games (properly) every week.

GARETH: Neither of us are the kind of people who ‘just turn up and read the words’. Our involvement in the behind the scenes depends on the show. For instance, there’s a huge research team behind How2, The Big Bang (the CiTV show that Violet and I presented together) and Tomorrow’s World, but there are still complete items on all those shows which came from me or Violet or both of us, all the way from start to finish. I’m particularly pleased with a piece I did for ITV1’s “Speed Sunday” recently where I reported on the Le Mans 24 Race, and not only came up with the story, wrote the story and presented the piece, but I even set up all the shots operated the camera and even edited it myself!

How long does it you take to record one half-hour episode of a tv programme?

GARETH: It’s difficult to say, it varies from programme to programme. For How 2 we record a programme and a half a day, (each show is only 17 mins long) For Game Pad we record the links (Violet’s studio bits) for 7 programmes in a day, but all the other stuff, the reviews, the Crash Courses, interviews and features take lots of time. Basically we make 20 programmes over 6 months.

VIOLET: When we recorded The Big Bang together, we’d record 10 shows in Leeds, on and off for about 6 weeks, a combination of studio and location filming. It’s odd, though, as when we see those shows being repeated at the moment on Discovery Kids, you remember that short period of your life in such detail. The same is true for GamePad, and even 15 year old episodes of Bad Influence! I guess the video triggers the memory.

Q: If you’re on TV presenting on a Saturday morning show, when the cartoons come on are you allowed to stop and watch them or do you have to keep working?

GARETH: We watch the beginning and end of the cartoon beforehand so we know how it starts and ends making it easier to link into and refer back to, but during the show we don’t get the time to watch the whole thing as you are usually running across a field or the studio in order to set up for the next item.

VIOLET: When I started in TV, presenting a live Saturday and Sunday magazine show, I actually did the show for a whole year without seeing a single one of the cartoons in the show. What a con, eh? We were kept too busy!

(80s Cartoon Related Questions)

If you were having a dinner party, which cartoon characters would you invite and why?

GARETH: can I have Tank Girl? I know she is a comic book character, but she did appear in cartoon form albeit briefly in the movie. Why would we have her over? well because she does her own thing, I love rebels, and she reminds me of Violet.

VIOLET: That’s easy… Dexter (of Dexter’s Lab) as he would bring some great gadgets; Rober Rabbit, as he would make me laugh my socks off; and Daffy Duck as he’d fit right in with his lisp.

How may cartoon theme tunes do you know, and which is your favourite?

VIOLET: What, you want us to list them ALL!? That ain’t going to happen, but my favourite is definitely the Pinky & The Brain tune, although I’ve a soft spot for singing the words to Tiny Toon Adventures.

GARETH: I’m quite fond of the version of the Spiderman theme recorded by “They Might Be Giants” “Spider-man’s masterplan build his own Spider-Clan, In the woods with the troops, fighting for special interest groups – Hey There, there goes the Spider-Man

Are there any cartoons you watch nowadays, or have on video/dvd, and either watch with your little ‘uns or for your own amusement?

GARETH: Ivor The Engine (in on the Welsh ticket), The Clangers, (we like space stuff) and Wallace & Grommet, (beautifully made). As you can probably tell Violet & I have 2 children under the age of 5.

VIOLET: We also have a few Pinky & The Brain/Animaniacs videos, purely for my own amusement – I think Pinky & The Brain is my favourite cartoon ever, and this is from someone who used to watch Cartoon Network like a big-eyed animé hawk.

You MUST have watched The Muppets. Which is your favourite Muppet and do you remember any particularly funny moments?

Violet: I always loved Kermit’s nephew, Robin, singing “Halfway up the stairs”

GARETH: Animal the drummer, ahhhhh such anger and violence.

When I was 6, I really was petrified of a few theme tunes. When you were young, were there any cartoons or TV programmes that you found really scary?

Violet: Doctor Who, like everyone else my age really. There are images of giant slugs and half-man half-vegetation monsters burnt into my memory.

GARETH: I don’t remember being scared of any themes, but I have to admit to being haunted by some of the atmospheric space sounds forma pre Gerry Anderson puppet show called Space Patrol. Dooo Dee Dooo-Deee, Dooo Dee Dooo-Deee, Dooo Dee Dooo-Deee I can hear it now 40 years later.

Would you ever consider doing a voice for a character in a cartoon and which character would you most be like?

GARETH: I would love to do a voice for a character. I did narrate and do character voices once for a pilot for a Welsh language production once, not exactly an animation, but using live guinea pigs, gerbils and rats, rather like Hammy Hamsters Tale’s of the Riverbank. I loved it (In fact there is a sample on my web site www.garethjones.tv look in the audio gallery section. It’s called Straeon Pentre Twtle . Am I like any cartoon character? well I’ve always reckoned that I look rather like Plug from The Bash Street Kids.

VIOLET: It’s one of my ambitions. I reckon my voice is already like a cartoon character, so I’d love to actually be one. Having said that, I don’t think there’s any character already like me, and I have to agree that Gareth does a great impression of Plug.

Cartoon physics laws dictate that, when crossing a wide open space, it’s only when you realise there’s no floor that you fall. They also dictate that you run faster if you lean the opposite way first. How true do you think these are?

GARETH; Ah, yes “Ye canne change the laws of physics”. Actually I don’t believe that you fall when you realise, it’s just that you realise at about the same time as your forward vector is diminished enough so you are standing still. Gravity was always pulling, you just don’t notice (in cartoons) because you had a forward velocity. This is the scientific rule observed when you fire a gun, the bullet is always falling toward the ground, its just that because it is travelling forward sooo quickly it covers a larger distance (if it doesn’t hit something) before it hits the ground.
Simple innit?

VIOLET: When I was 21 I was skiing down a slope (filming for Wacaday with Tim Mallet) when there was a problem and I – basically – head-butted a mountain. I can vividly remember, as I lifted my bloody head off the ice (had to have 10 stitches in my forehead) that the first thought that entered my brain was “Ow, that hurt beyond believe. That REALLY hurt. Why didn’t it go doy-oy-oy-oing with tweeting birds round it like in a cartoon”

With the success of Toy Story, Shrek 2 and Shark Tale, and with animatory techniques getting better and better, do you think all films will eventually be animated or will there always be a place for real actors?

GARETH: Film makers will always use the device best suited to achieving the ultimate aim of telling the story. Sometimes that will mean Computer Generated Imagery; sometimes that will mean live action. More often than not it will mean both, and you won’t be able to tell where the CGI starts and where the live action finishes.

Finally, quick decisions on the following “Who would win in a fight?”.

Taz or Gossamer (the big hairy orange monster from Bugs Bunny)

Gareth: Taz – he reminds me of my big brother, devour everything!

Sylvester the Cat or Wile E Coyote.

Violet: How can it be possible to choose? The spectators would be the real winners.

Spiderman or Batman

GARETH: Er, neither, instead can I suggest millionaire industrialist and alcoholic ex ‘Nam veteran Tony Stark alias the Original Iron Man. I like a hero with flaws, serious flaws.

He-Man or Lion-o

Violet: He-Man, obviously, by the power of Greyskull.

Captain Caveman or Hong Kong Phooey.

Violet: Hong Kong Phooey, as Captain Caveman is too primitive.

Danger Mouse or Earthworm Jim

GARETH: Lumbricus James every time, daft as a bottle of chips, where as the Hazardous Ratlet was simply inept.

VIOLET: I really used to love Dangermouse, so I have to disagree with Gareth. Especially as – at the end of the fight – a cow will fall on Earthworm Jim’s head, like it did at the end of the Mega Drive game. Or did I dream that?

Roobarb or Dougal from the Magic Roundabout

Violet: Roobarb in this case, although I reckon Gromit is the top cartoon dog.

GARETH: Yep Roobarb, I just loved the way his outline boiled, and a Grrrrrreat voice.


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