Thursday, 28 December 2017

2017 New Years blog post, thingy

The last photo taken by the doomed JXD 509G 5.8G FPV Drone
(christened “Murdock”) before crashing and catching fire.
So how was your Christmas? Good-good... Right, the end of the year approaches so its time to reflect on the past twelve months (It’s tradition!) The great Vincent Price once said, “A man who limits his interests limits his life” so I try to broaden my interests when I can and when I received a Drone on my Birthday in January I thought this was going to be my latest ‘thing’ but it wasn’t to be as my brand new JXD 509G 5.8G FPV Drone crashed and caught fire on its first actual take-off! Although I was able to upload the footage of the drone (christened “Murdock”) ‘s doomed flight to my YouTube channel it marked the beginning and end of my Drone flying hobby, Arfon Jones ‘Drone Flyer’ was not to be so I became Arfon Jones ‘Turtle Owner’ instead when I became the new guardian of a Yellow Belly Slider Turtle! Already a Tortoise owner I had considered getting a terrapin someday but this idea was brought forward in 2017 when a request to re home an unwanted turtle came up on Facebook. One 12 gallon aquarium later and I am pleased to say that Gamera is settling in nicely and is an absolute joy.
Gamera the Yellow Belly Slider Turtle settling in nicely
On the subject of joy, I was also delighted that Mrs Jones who has been an aspiring writer since I first met her finally published her work this year. Strange Times in Little Happining tells of a series of mysterious murders and strange occurrences in the quiet rural town of Little Happining and I had the privilege of illustrating the cover for her. Launched at this year’s Steampunk Spring Market in Chepstow and now available on Amazon the book has been very well received with Starburst Magazine’s Andrew Pollard awarding it 9/10 and describing it, “one of the most utterly charming reads we’ve come across in many a year. Jones has penned a tale that covers classic Doctor Who ground whilst also channelling the classic whodunit stories seen on British television over the years.” She was even invited to speak at this year’s Morecambe & Vice: Crime Writing Festival in Morecambe suffice to say I am proud of her. My own work wise, when I wasn’t on the radio I was almost certainly in the studio working on several projects (the before mentioned Strange Times in Little Happining cover aside) I worked on Attic Door Productions Anthony & Cleopatra poster and Freak Town’s Slashermania and several other projects that will be unveiled in 2018.
Mr. Bernard Cribbins OBE with a Dalek
When I wasn’t working in the studio I was travelling, and if I wasn’t visiting Wimpy Bars or the last few remaining Little Chefs I was attending a movie premiere or other events ranging from the Chepstow Steampunk Spring Market, Wales Comic Con in Wrexham or Horror Con in Rotherham peddling wares and meeting people. Not only did I have the pleasure of meeting many new friends and the opportunity to catch up with old ones but also Cassandra Peterson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maddie Smith, Bernard Cribbins, Dave Prowse and Peter Purvis. Sadly in 2017 we not only lost Professor Heinz Wolff and Adam West but also June Foray, Bruce Forsyth, Carol Lee Scott, John Noakes, George Romero, Martin Landau, Roger Moore, Keith Chegwin, John Hurt, Jerry Lewis, Peter Sallis, Hugh Hefner, John Hillerman, Brian Cant, Rodney Bewes, Keith Barron, Robert Hardy, Sean Hughes, Barry Norman, Earle Hyman, Liz Dawn, Tony Booth, Don Rickles, Bill Paxton, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, John Heard, Glen Campbell, David Cassidy, Harry Dean Stanton, Miguel Ferrer, Joan Lee and Heather North.
So what interesting things did I see this year? Let us begin with...
 
Regimental Goat, Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, Caernarfon Castle- North Wales
On display at the Regimental Museum at Caernarfon Castle is the Goat present at Queen Victoria’s visit to Bangor to open the Britannia Bride across the Menai Straits on the 23rd of October 1852 along with a selection of Goat Head Pieces from various Royal Welch (old English spelling of Welsh) Fusiliers battalions.
 
The Grave of Douglas Adams, Highgate Cemetery North London
As a devotee of British comedy and Sci-fi naturally I am a fan of the late Douglas Adams, what is there not to like about the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? As for his work on Doctor Who, City of Death is one of my all time favourite stories. After his funeral was held in Santa Barbara on 16 May 2002 his ashes were placed in Highgate and since then fans from all over the world have embarked on pilgrimages to the grave stone to give thanks for his work and leave a pen in memoriam, a tribute to the great man. 





AA Sentry Box, Boduan nr. Pwllheli, North Wales
Telephone kiosks, I love them! From the icon that is the classic red K6 telephone kiosk to the sublime blue police public call box that I need not explain its appeal! As an artist, designer, retro nut and Brit I love me a kiosk! Here is another of my favoureds the classic 'AA' sentry box. Once a familiar sight on British roads these kiosks (first erected in 1912) offered shelter to the Automobile Association's patrol men on hand to offer roadside assistance, directions and first aid to motorists that needed them. By 1920, members were issued keys to the telephone boxes which could be used to call for assistance there were almost 1,000 boxes in their heyday but by the time of World War II there were only 600 boxes in existence and as progress continued to roll on their numbers dwindled and at the time of writing this only 19 sentry boxes still survive in the country eight of which have been granted Grade-II listed status. Because mobile phones are common place all the kiosks were decommissioned in 2002 including this one, AA' sentry box 580 in Boduan nr Pwllheli in North Wales, timber in construction it dates from around 1927 and it has been a regular feature throughout my life, I can't even begin to imagine how many times I have passed this in my 38 years on this planet be it as a walker, cyclist, bus passenger or motorist. Its a thing of beauty.

The Hands of Miss Jones, London Studios, Waterloo, London
If you ever find yourself outside the London Studios (situated on the South Bank next to The IBM Building and the Royal National Theatre) on the building’s outer wall you will find bronze cast of the hands of Frances de la Tour, known to modern audiences for being in the sitcom Vicious but to me she will always be Miss Jones from one of my all time favorite sitcoms, Rising Damp! Actually… she isn't the only one to feature on the walls, bronze casts of other famous people can also be located there including her co-stars Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi along with several other TV talent such as Stephen Fry, Alan Davies, Philip Schofield, Lorraine Kelly, Melvyn Bragg, Paul O'Grady and Des Lynam along with not so talented Vernon Kay...

Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Derek Jacobi , Des Lynam and Melvyn Bragg.
 

The Penguin Pool, London Zoo, London
The Penguin Pool is perhaps one the most famous and iconic buildings at the Zoo designed by the Tecton architectural firm led by Berthold Lubetkin (1901–1990) also responsible for the Zoo’s Round House.
Opened in 1934 the modernist building (now a Grade I listed building) no longer has penguins in it, they have since been relocated to new enclosure after it was discovered that its water capacity was not only too shallow for the penguins to swim in but it’s hard concrete floors gave them arthritis.


Victorian Punch and Judy puppets, The Brighton Toy and Model Museum, Brighton
Located underneath Brighton Railway Station, within its arches is the Brighton Toy andModel Museum which is well worth your time and money. Housed within its impressively vast collection of toys is a set of Punch and Judy puppets believed dating from 1890.




Eric Morecambe statue, Morecambe, Lancashire  
When Eric Morecambe died in 1984 Britain lost one of its comedic greats and the people of his hometown and namesake commemorated its famous son with this statue designed by sculptor Graham Ibbeson. The statue stands over 6ft in hight and features Eric in his famous pose wearing a pair of binoculars (he was a keen birdwatcher) and it was unveiled by the Queen in 1999. Morecambe’s top tourist attraction it was awarded a certificate of excellence by TripAdvisor in 2014 due to outstanding feedback from the thousands of tourists that adopt the famous pose alongside it for a photo (myself included). Not only that but all of Eric and Earn ‘s catchphrases can be found on the ground along with a list of all the famous guests that they had on their shows.

The Brighton "Toad in the Hole" Booth Museum, Brighton
The Booth Museum of Natural History is a fantastic museum to visit, I can’t stress how important it is that you visit this place and show them your support! They have a vast collection of wonders there along with a fantastic collection devoted to the Iguanodon, the remains of Dodos and a stuffed Thylacine. However they also have one of the most famous examples of entombed animals (animals reported to have been found alive after being encased in solid rock) there the now (in)famous mummified toad found within a hollow flint nodule, presented by Charles Dawson in 1901 in which he claimed it had been discovered by workmen in a Lewes quarry the previous year. Its authenticity has long since been debated and the fact that Charles Dawson was also the man behind the Piltdown man aside, since its initial discovery the toad has since shrunk casting further doubt as to its authenticity and it is now regarded a hoax but never the less its still worth vising it for yourself.

Well, there we go, I hope that was of interest to you!
Big plans for 2018 as I hope to not only have more adventures, see interesting things and meet more interesting people but also continue to work on many more exciting projects, publish my Monster Memories book and unveil the first phase of my newly refurbished- new-look studio!
Stick around and Happy New Year!

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Monster Memories Morsel: My First Krush-er

So did you have a good Christmas? I certainly did! Christmas 2017 was when I finally received a My Pet Monster of my very own (previous post) but Santa gave me that, Mrs Jones gave me something equally awesome!
A great little curio from the US of A that I am reasonably certain never made it to this side of the pond and I say that because A) I've never seen Krusher the “Growing Monster” ‘in the wild’ and B) it seemed that it wasn't a terribly successful toy line for Mattel in 1979 and this staggers me, because this 15 inch high green rubber figure had a great gimmick to it in that you could ‘Krush’ or mash it up and it would spring back to his original size when the air valve on its belt was turned! Amazing! Yet as I said it wasn’t a successful toy and so it is becoming harder to find (more so if you are after a boxed version) and knowing that had I been born five years earlier and on the other side of the Atlantic I would have adored this monster toy and so I wanted to add it to my collection, and that's just what happened! Thank you Mrs Jones!

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monday, 25 December 2017

A Monster Memories Christmas Special: My Pet Monster the Monster Memory that never was

"Argos... It's So Easy!"
Once upon a time (1987 to be precise) there was an eight year old boy called Arfon who was obsessed with monsters. It was a glorious time to be a fan of such things as there seemed to be no end to the ‘gross’ and creepy monster themed toys available to children across the land. There were Madballs, Boglins, Rude Ralph, The Real Ghostbusters toy line not to mention all manner of slime related toys and there ruling over them all was the king of all the monster toys, My Pet Monster! Twenty six inches in height this plush monster was produced by American Greetings Corporation’s AmToy having been designed by great toy designer James Groman the man who also designed the MadBalls range. My Pet Monster was just like the (previously mentioned) Were Bears in that it was a plush toy aimed at boys. First released in the US in 1986 it crossed the Atlantic and onto UK toy shelves the following year. Arfon saw the My Pet Monster television advert and was instantly drawn to its blue fur, horns, big hideous nose and massive fangs. The toy not only promised to be his pal but also came with breakable chains and all these factors made My Pet Monster an amazingly awesome toy to have and so he promptly added it to his Christmas list. Unlike previous Christmas gift requests such as the Evil Horde's Slime Pit, Gooper Ghost Figure or Boglins, My Pet Monster wasn’t instantly dismissed by his mother and so it was added to the list as a "wait and see" item.
Christmas 1987, with my Philmar monster Jigsaw Puzzle,
Hungry Hippos game, Perfection, Junior Scrabble and David Bellamy microscope set
(The Mask Punchbag belonged to my brother)
December 25th, Christmas day. Santa has been and Arfon received a Rattlor action figure, Hungry Hippos game, Perfection, Junior Scrabble a telescope and a David Bellamy microscope but no Pet Monster… It seemed that Santa had forgotten to include one! Although he was still extremely happy with his gifts he was a little disappointed that he didn’t have a Pet Monster of his own.
Time marched on the toy brand itself continued to be a massive hit for AmToy prompting various forms of merchandise along with smaller size variants of the character (sixteen inches and twenty inches) along with a follow up monster called My Football Monster (complete with football helmet and jersey), Beastur My Pet Monster's enemy was added to the line up as too were five smaller monster hand puppets called, My Monster Pets and naturally being the 1980’s there was a cartoon series and a direct to video live action movie released not only assuring the success of the product but also assuring its place as one of the top toys of the 1980’s. So much so that the idea never really went away and in 2001 Toymax brought him back (looking slightly different) in talking form before Vivid Imaginations released another talking version in 2009. This year marked the monster’s 30th anniversary and so Creepy Co decided to mark the occasion by releasing a My Pet Monster vinyl figure, when Arfon saw this figure it had him thinking about the present that never was and how it had somehow being assigned to the Christmas gifts list that never was along with the Sectaurs Spider-Flyer and Hero Quest board game. Then on Christmas morning 2017 he found this parcel under the tree...






...And they lived happily ever after... Merry Christmas everyone!

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


Saturday, 23 December 2017

RIP Misha the Aardvark 2008- 2017

Tragic news from London Zoo, it has been confirmed that at approximately 6am this morning a fire broke out in the Animal Adventure section of the Zoo and spread to an adjacent shop. On-site keepers and the zoo’s security team moved animals to safe locations while London Fire Brigade tackled the flames. Six people were given help at the scene for the effects of smoke inhalation and shock but sadly it has been confirmed that nine-year-old Aardvark, Misha has died with four Meerkats still unaccounted for, presumed dead. Devastating news Mrs Jones and I spent our wedding anniversary at the Gir Lion Lodge and were treated to a wonderful after-hours tour of the zoo and one of the highlights was feeding the Aardvarks (I excluded this from my last post as its meant to be a secret but given the circumstance...) I have wonderful memories of throwing insects to them as the night set in, watching them both burrowing away, they were a delight to see.
My thoughts go out to the keepers.

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Friday, 22 December 2017

New Book: Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtains- 10th Anniversary Special

Christmas is a time for ghost stories and this year our favourite ghost story Ghostwatch celebrated its 25 year and this occasion has been marked by a new book released by Rich Lawden the man responsible for the Ghostwatch:Behind the Curtains documentary which itself celebrated its 10th anniversary this year! I have been a close follower of the project since its early days and had the honour of having my work featured on both the documentary and subsequent publications and this one is no exception! My art, my name and my likeness feature within and as if that wasn’t enough it also features all new exclusive interviews with the show’s creators Director Lesley Manning, Screenwriter Stephen Volk, Producer Ruth Baumgarten, Art Director, Richard Drew, plus recollections from the family of late Executive Producer, Richard Broke reflecting on the program’s history and legacy. It’s very good and I urge you to hint about it to relatives or buy it with your Christmas money!

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world. 

The Third arfon.net Christmas staff party

Last week I was in conversation with someone, Christmas was discussed before the topic of staff parties cropped up and knowing that I was self employed I was not asked if I was going to one to which I promptly pointed out that I too, despite being a work force totalling one had a company knees up every December! It was back in 2015 when I asked myself why should I be excluded from such things just because I was self employed? Why couldn’t I let my hair down at the company’s expense and that is exactly what I have done each Christmas since! So it was off to Hooters of Nottingham for this year’s arfon.net Christmas staff party. I was shown (along with Mrs Jones, my +1) to our table by one of the Hooters girls for our eagerly awaited Christmas lunch, my favourite the boneless Hooter’s chicken wings with lemon pepper rub sauce and Mrs Jones made the most of Hooter’s Wednesday rib deal allowing a whole rack for the price of half! Christmas crackers added the festive flair to the table and for those of you keeping tabs on such things my cracker contained a plastic Christmas tree cookie cutter, a joke (“How do ducks round off a meal? Cheese and quackers!”) and of course a paper hat (yellow) which I wore. Secret Santa gift this year was a Land of the Lost Sleestak Funko Pop figure! (The joy of this bit is that I always manage to get something that I really want!) then there was the annual tradition of having a photo taken with a Hooters girl. The photo has since been pinned to a new office detail in the studio the arfon.net Christmas staff party bulletin board! Complete with crooked pinned photos and comic sans typography the bulletin board faithfully replicates a staff bulletin board found at most business premises only this one also has a hint of Hooters décor to it as it showing off photos from each party reminding staff that there is only another 365 days to go until the next one! A big thanks to everyone at Hooters of Nottingham as always for the warm welcome and for making my third staff party the Hap-Hap Happiest since the last!

The First arfon.net Christmas staff party
The Second arfon.net Christmas staff party

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world. 

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Quest for an Anteater: Happy Bliss-Mas Arfon!

Some of you will recall how last year I reported on how I had been an adopter of Chester Zoo’s Giant Anteaters Pedro and Bliss but was yet to actually see them, well I am happy to report that after 3 years I finally ‘met’ Bliss this weekend! At the start of the year I was informed by the zoo that the Giant Anteater enclosure (now with only Bliss in residence) had been relocated and that Bliss was not only enjoying her new surroundings (which she now shared with the Capybaras located opposite the Lowland tapirs) but the enclosure now had a viewing window! They admitted that it was difficult to give an exact period of the day that she was active however they had noted that she had periods of activity around midday and later in the afternoon but this could be weather dependent. Unfortunately I was unable to get away from the studio during the warmer months and put this information to good use.
 So Mrs Jones and I decided to go this weekend agreeing that just seeing her sleeping through the window would still be an improvement on the previous years so we wrapped up warm and braved the heavy rain and hailstones. We made our way to the enclosure and there she was! The most beautiful Anteater I had ever seen curled up in the corner covering her face with her massive tail, we timed it just right as we had arrived at lunch time! Having had some interaction with her keeper and her lunch she returned to the same spot to resume her nap, to the other visitors to the zoo that briefly peered through the glass these few minutes might not have seemed like anything special but to me it was Bliss!

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world. 


Verspielt

A sad post, Professor Heinz Siegfried Wolff BSc. FIEE. FIBES FRCP (hon) FRSA passed away Friday aged 89. He was the world's first bio-engineer, director of the Division of Biological Engineering at the National Institute for Medical Research and Clinical Research Centre of the Medical Research Council. He founded the Institute of Bio-engineering at Brunel University for over 30 years naming only a few of his accomplishments but perhaps he was better known to us in Britain as the face of 'The Great Egg Race' and he was also a friend. I grew up watching, 'The Great Egg Race' 'Young Scientists of the Year' and 'Great Experiments, Which Changed the World' and as a result sparked my interest in science, partly because of the fun way he presented the subject matter but mostly because he was everything I wanted from a scientist, namely a German accent, wild hair and bow tie. I had the pleasure of finally meeting the professor back in 2009 when he was invited to speak at Shrewsbury’s celebration of Darwin’s 200th anniversary where he delivered a fascinating lecture about the evolution of photography using only a box some tubing and a lens
he demonstrated the photographic process taking a photograph of an audience member before developing the photo using chemicals he mixed on stage rounding it all off making a 48 pixel camera out of a box and some Ping-Pong balls! After the lecture we chatted and stayed in contact ever since and during that time he was the first to feature in my Science Spotlight series (a series of portraits and biographical information devoted to boffins that I painted) and he also took part in my Operation Bath Duck project re-homing Scout Duck 002 of 100. Always supportive of my work and kind with his time he wrote a very kind testimonial for me about my work which I regard as one of the highlights of my career.
I was thinking about him just the other day as a Christmas card from Brunel was always one of the highlights of Christmas for me, I saved each one and will look through them again tonight, remembering the great man and what an honour it was to know him.

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Monster Memories: Atmosfear (Nightmare)







































I try (whenever possible) to create a nostalgic horror based painting in time for Halloween in the hope that it digs up some long long buried memories for you all out there. Having depicted Ghostwatch, Dr Walpurgis'Vault of Horror and more recently The Deadly Ernest Horror Show I thought this time I would move away from television and create a game based painting instead so I give you, Atmosfear!
The 1980’s and 1990’s was a tough time for board games, they suddenly found themselves competing against the highly lucrative video gaming market forcing them to devise new and exciting ideas to help sell their products, giving rise to the interactive video board game genre -games that incorporated your VHS player, giving us such games as Star Trek The Next Generation VCR board game, Dragon Strike, Hero Quest, Rap Rat and the most well known of them all Atmosfear! Atmosfear (actually called Nightmare but it was changed to Atmosfear in Europe to avoid confusion between an existing game) originated from Australia having been created by Phillip Tanner and Brett Clements of the production company A Couple 'A Cowboys and when the game was released in Australia in September 1991 it was an instant hit, selling one hundred thousand units in its first year alone (five times more than Trivial Pursuit). Backed by a heavy television and cinema marketing campaign and promotional Dance Parties the game broke all records for board games and by the mid 1990’s it was the most successful advanced board game in history and with the international acclaim it gained it became Australia’s biggest entertainment export since Crocodile Dundee!
The game itself was simple enough, which helped it’s success 3–6 players had to collect keys while trying to beat the clock however the real reason everyone played it was because of the Gatekeeper (played by Wenanty Nosul) who would appear at random intervals taunting, heckling and rewarding players as the game went on the player that collected all six keys and didn't draw their own fear card (each player was required to write their worse fears on card at the start of the game) won. As I said it was the Gatekeeper that made the game, always screaming at you, calling you a “little maggot” and demanding that you answer him each time with “Yes my Gatekeeper!” if you followed the games request to turn the lights down and the sound up and you obeyed the Gatekeeper the game was tremendous fun, and I look back on it fondly. Following on from the success of the first game three game expansions were released with each one containing a new tape featuring a new host, Baron Samedi the zombie hosted the second expansion in 1992 (again played by Wenanty Nosul) before actress Frederique Fouche played Anne de Chantraine the witch in 1993 returning as Elizabeth Bathory the vampire for the forth in 1994 sadly the Khufu the mummy expansion due for a 1995 release was cancelled due to declining sales however that wasn't the end of the Nightmare.

Halloween 2017
Armed with feedback received from players of the original game A Couple 'A Cowboys struck a deal with J. W. Spear & Sons to develop the new game and released the Harbingers game a major update of the series and within a few months of its release it become one of the top ten best selling games in the United States and the United Kingdom. It was soon followed by two more booster tapes and an add-on game called The Soul Rangers. Then after nine years of development A Couple 'A Cowboys and Flying Bark Productions released Atmosfear the Gatekeeper in 2004. Now on DVD instead of a VHS this medium offered random programming assuring new game each time and six months after its resale the game was once again a hit selling 60,000 copies then with its international success in over 18 different countries it grew to 600,000 with worldwide sales and then in 2006 eleven years after its cancellation Khufu the mummy finally had his own game with Atmosfear Khufu the Mummy. I must confess that I hadn’t realized that the series had returned and so when my stepson asked me if I had played Atmosfear we were talking about two completely different games! I thought it had a lot of promise but as impressive as the prosthetics were on the Gatekeeper it didn't really appeal to me, my heart belonged to the original. He may well have been a Gatekeeper but he wasn’t, “My Gatekeeper!”
This painting done in acyclic and pen features the Atmosfear board and pieces with the Gatekeeper leering overhead (complete with poor VHS tracking) to the side we see the other hosts Baron Samedi, Anne de Chantraine and Elizabeth Bathory while a little maggot who's turn it is throws the die- to discover his fate! Hope this painting brought it all back for you! Comment below if you ever played it!

This leads me rather neatly to a bit of news, I would like to announce that I have a book in the works! Arfon’s Monster Memories will be a personal trip down memory lane as told through my paintings (like the one featured in this post) recounting growing up as a monster fan during the Eerie Eighties and Nightmarish Nighties! Penned for 2018 I hope that the book will be a feast for the eyes and brain- Follow this site or the Facebook page for further updates or e-mail me direct at arfon@arfon.net to be kept in the loop!
Happy Halloween!

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

A Monster Memories Halloween Special: Were Bears

Happy Halloween kiddies! It’s time for a Halloween edition of Monster Memories… Last year a new toy line was introduced called Feisty Pets, seemingly innocent soft toys that turn ferocious when the back of their heads are squeezed. A video demonstrating 'Feisty Pets' went viral receiving 20 million views, 350,000 shares and 50,000 comments in just 3 days making the toy a massive hit. Although I admire the mechanics used to achieve the result and want one for myself the idea of a transforming monstrous teddy bear is not an original one, in fact it was done back in 1990 and they were called Were Bears!

My Were Bears collection before and after
Were Bears were cute plush teddy bears (named Grizzler, Howler, Gums and Fang) that measured eleven inches in height and were originally devised back in 1983 by artist George Nicholas creator of Scouse Mouse and holder of the 1985 world record for the worlds longest mural at Alder Hey Hospital. Being the 1980’s there were masses of plush toys produced but there weren't many for boys and so always thinking outside the box George joined forces with Scalextric and model train supremo's Hornby in to create a plush toy aimed at boys. Released in the UK (the concept was later sub-licensed to an American Toy brand that called them Beasty Bears) the teddy bears would ‘transform’ into a fierce looking bears or as the 1990 Argos Autumn/ Winter catalogue explained, “these ‘teddies’ change into ‘Were Bears’ by reversing the head and paws”. Each bear was sold separately and came with a story cassette narrated by Oliver Postgate telling the origin of the Were Bears. How one day in the tiny village of München-Lüncheon in the ancient Castle Casserole a toy maker called Barron Egon BaconBurger was making cuddly toys for all the poor children during a full moon when he suddenly turned into a werewolf that resulted in the teddies adopting his transforming qualities! The toys sold well and small, six inch non transforming variants were later produced along with four rival (non transforming) bears known as ‘Terror Teds’ (called Chomp, Snapper, Grunt and Munch) before a fifth Were Bear was introduced to the line up called Growler who would do just that when the badge on his chest was pressed.
Were Bears #1 November 1990
I first became aware of this line through the television adverts and Clearmark Productions/London Editions Magazines comic series which ran 7 issues. Produced by George Nicholas, Nick Reynolds, Nigel Parkinson and Julie Evans the first issue (released in November 1990) came with a free set of “Fear-some Fangs” and a chance to win a Were Bear of my very own and it retold the above origin story in comic book form. Other issues dealt with the origin of the TerrorTeds (created by the evil Witch Hazel) and their ongoing feud with the Were Bears. Now, a confession… As an 80’s kid naturally I adored He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Transformers, Gremlins, The A-Team, Garbage Pail Kids, Ghostbusters- all that good stuff and relished all the gross toys and action figures available during the 80’s they without a doubt spurred on my fascination with monsters but…. I was also into Care Bears…. Yeah, I know! What can I say? I seemed to also be attracted to the soft and cuddly side of the 1980’s. Care Bears, Get Along Gang, Smurfs, Wuzzles, Muppet Babies, Paw Paw Bears and Acorn Green I loved them all and was always after the merchandise which consisted (mostly) of plush toys only to be told, “boys don't play with those sort of toys” however I refused to listen digging my heels in standing up to this supposed ‘rule’ (ever the rebel!) as I got older this fondness for plush toys become ever tricky and by the time the Were Bears were released I was 11 and wanting plush toys made my parents wince but the idea of a cute bear that turned into the monster ticked all the right boxes for me and I had to have them. I never got Growler though, as much as I liked the howling effect I didn’t care for him so much because he stood up and so didn’t match the other bears!
An original George Nicholas!
So what became of the line? Having ceased production by the mid 1990’s a small batch of limited edition bears were produced in 2012, retaining their transforming capabilities however these bears’ eyes would light up and they would let out a scary howl when their paws were pressed! Gums was dropped from the line and replaced by Growler looking more like his fellow Were Bears and so he was added to my line-up!
Although the bears are no longer produced the brand lives on, having been re-launched on the 31st of October 2016 they now sell retro themed Were Bear merchandise on their website for fans such as myself! So before you follow the current trends check out the Were Bears, and remember as the television advert used to tell us, “Were Bears come as a great surprise, some people can’t believe their eyes! Think of scary things to do, who’s going to know it was you? Nothing can scare like a wicked were bear!”
Did you have one? Share your memories in the comments section!
Happy Halloween!

This article is respectfully dedicated to George Nicholas
 
© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

My Wind in the Willows Wall Paper (1985)

What's it been? 3 minutes since my last nostalgic ramble? ...Well blame Kid for this one, he requested it!
Right, back in 1985 when I was aged 6 we moved into our brand new house and I was allowed to pick my own wallpaper (a big responsibility!)! My Buck Rogers in the 25th century wallpaper was but a distant memory as I carefully perused through the pages of the children's wallpaper sample book mulling over what was to be the theme of my brand new room, It was a serious decision and I eventually settled on this gorgeous Wind in the Willows design (sorry about the camera glare). Produced by Cosgrove Hall in conjunction with their animated adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s classic story. Ok, it didn’t go with my He-Man and the Master of the Universe bed spread or The A-Team curtains that I had but I loved it all the same, its glorious details meant there was always something new to find during the five years it adorned the wall. That was until the addition of a baby sister resulted in the bedrooms being switched around. My brother and I were relocated into the larger room so the Wind in the Willows paper was replaced as my old room became my parents bedroom. My request to have a section of it saved went unheard and I (frustratingly) had no memento of that wall paper. That is until last year when my parents clearing out the cupboard under the stairs found (to my utter delight) various rolled up lengths and off cuts left over from 1985! I was so pleased that I now have it hanging in a 7x6 frame in the studio, aside from it reminding me of my childhood its also a glorious piece of art that in my mind and deserves to be hung up! Did anyone else out there have this on their bedroom wall? Drop me a line in the comments section and let me know if you did!


© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Happy 25th Anniversary Ghostwatch!

Our beloved Ghostwatch celebrates its 25th anniversary this Halloween and we were all set to mark this milestone however... Well, I will let Ghostwatch creator/ writer Stephen Volk explain, Well, folks, I was all geared up to appear on The One Show to talk about the 25th Anniversary of GHOSTWATCH's transmission on BBC1 on Halloween 1992. But guess what? It's trickled up to BBC Ed Poll (Editorial Policy) and they've canned the item due to sensitivities it might cause offence. Sort of ironic we should be banned by the Beeb 25 years on. The ghost is truly in the machine. "Maybe your poltergeist, eh, Dr Pascoe?" So there you have it, I don’t care what the BBC thinks! Happy 25th Birthday Ghostwatch! Long may it continue to cause offence...

 
© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

My artwork spotted at the Two Rivers pub, Chepstow!

It’s a great feeling to know that your artwork is up on someone’s wall, more so if its a public place where it can be seen by many, but imagine my surprise when my friend Andy sent me this photo last night taken at the Two Rivers pub by Chepstow!
I created this map (top) for the Waltz on the Wye Steampunk event website back in 2011 highlighting how easy it was to get to Chepstow from London, long forgotten I had no idea it was framed and on display!
Incidentally this map also highlights just how easy it is to get to this year’s Chepstow Steampunk Winter Festival which is on the 25th of November. Sadly I can’t make it but I hope to attend the next event and I think I’ll visit the Two Rivers pub as well, I understand its very nice and they have great art on the wall!





© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

I’m Back! An experience with Arnold Schwarzenegger

I told you I’d be back! So where have I been? Well, the studio mostly, completing various projects but I also (as the title and photo would suggest) met this gentleman, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger….
But first (as is often the case with me) a back story… Back in 2009 while checking my e-mails I was surprised to read, “Arnold Schwarzenegger is now following you on Twitter” I was aghast for all of 3 seconds! “THE Arnold Schwarzenegger?” I asked. Had he (for some reason) singled me out and decided to follow me on Twitter? Of course not, it was just a PR thing during his time as Governor of California, most likely off the back of those California Tourism TV ad campaigns shown in the UK that he starred in asking, “when can you start?” But for those 3 short seconds I was reminded of much I adored the guy and how there once was a time in my life when he was the only ‘current’ Hollywood actor who’s work I would go see on its initial release (an accolade perhaps only shared with Jim Carrey). As memories of care free evenings watching his movies with my brother and quoting his one liners with friends in art college came back to me I thought how amazing it would be to meet him someday, well that ‘someday' was to be the 21st of September 2017 at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham.

Event organisers An Experience With were bringing Schwarzenegger to the UK for a special black tie dinner experience celebrating the 30th anniversary of one of my all time favourite movie aliens, Predator! I remember catching it on TV one Saturday night expecting to be as entertaining as Commando (that we had watched the night before) and it was, but more so as this one had an alien in it, one with no interest in invading the planet- this one simply wanted to hunt humans for sport! I was hooked, I watched it and its equally great sequel over and over, read the comics and would draw the Predator throughout my teenage years so this event would not only present me the opportunity to meet Mr. Schwarzenegger but also raise a glass to one of my favourite aliens, this was too perfect to miss! Dressed up in our finest (Mrs Jones especially!) we arrived at the Hilton for what would be our second black tie event celebrating an alien! We made our way into a ball room which was surrounded by Arnie related replicas and props from such Terminator, T2, Conan the Barbarian and of course, Predator some of which were to be auctioned off later that evening. There was even a Predator on hand posing for photos, which I did (taking my first selfie on my new phone).

We took our seats and sipped our complimentary drinks while being entertained by top swing vocalist Robby Darin and the State 51 Swing Orchestra and they were superb, somehow managing a rare thing, playing all my favourite songs. They continued to entertain while we started on our “high-quality 3-course dinner” which starting (appropriately enough) with a starter, comprising of Parma ham with grilled peach, rocket leaves, parmesan flakes and black olive dressing followed by the main course of braised feather blade of beef with spring onion, crushed new potatoes, baton vegetables, broccoli and pan jus finished off with dessert strawberry cheesecake with fruit coulis garnished with seasonal fruits and crème chantilly and it was as delicious as it sounds. After coffee, the prize draw and auction an on screen run-through of Schwarzenegger’s incredible career and accomplishments was played before a countdown commenced introducing Arnie to the stage where he was met by a massive round of applause! When he did, it was an amazing experience, seeing the man himself in person! Just in case there were any doubts that it really was him he walked up to the end of the stage and yelled, “Get to da choppa!” which was met with an even louder cheers as he took his seat for an hour-long chat with interviewer Charlie Webster. Clearly in awe of him she asked about his amazing life, becoming the youngest person to win the Mr Universe title, winning it seven times in total, his career in Hollywood along with the making of Predator. His friendship with Danny DeVitto and his one time rivalry with Sylvester Stallone during the 1980s they would try to out do one and other, such as who had the least body fat, who was the most ripped, who had the biggest guns and killed the most people on screen and of course who made the most at the box office. It seemed at one time he tried to have more muscles than Arnie to which he quipped “Well, I say, good luck!” He also revealed Sly’s artistic side, discussing his paintings not to mention delivering a hilarious Stallone impersonation! The conversation then turned to politics and his becoming the 38th Governor of California and his pride in it being one of the largest economies in the world and No 1 in the US for clean air and water addressing another subject close to his heart the environment he raised concerns of how worldwide, seven million people are dying every year because of pollution. The hour seemed to fly by and it was time to wrap up but not until he was presented with a replica of the machete used in Predator to cut a giant 30th anniversary cake made by AB Cakes before going through to another room to meet and greet fans I followed on shortly after to meet him myself for a quick handshake and photo, before going back to my table to discuss how amazing he was with other table guests whom he had also inspired in some way over the years. We had an amazing time, many thanks to all involved especially Mr Schwarzenegger himself.

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Find me on Idol Features!

Yours truly's ramblings are now no longer confined to these pages! Some of my articles will live on in Idol Features, a site founded by Chris Charles containing a plethora of interviews with ladies in the entertainment industry. The site was originally created back in 2007 by Chris as an unnamed storage site for articles he’d written for other sites but it now lives on as a hub of information about women in entertainment and since 2011 it has been updated with content exclusively for the site and I am delighted to be added to the fold as an 'Occasional Contributor' follow this link to find out more.

Art wise I have a great many projects and commissions on the go, taking up most of my time, but fear not... I’ll be back!


© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Codename: Diablo! Premiere

 I've been out and about again, this time to Brighton with Hellbound Media's Matt Warner to attend the movie premiere of Codename: Diablo! A 'Girls with Guns' action comedy movie by Dre-YS dubbed the Russ Meyer of the 21st century! Being a fan of Russ Myer, Ted V Mikels Andy Sidaris I was intrigued by Dre's work and I had the pleasure of meeting him at the exclusive screening. As a child Dre loved to play secret agents, inspired by spy spoofs from the 60s and 70s such as Matt Helm, James Bond, Man From Uncle, The Avengers, James Coburn as Flint movies and Honey West. He loved the wacky/ tongue in cheek silliness of them all and and soon got into the Eurospy genre from the 60s such as so Dick Smart 2.007, Cazadores de espias, Con licence para matar and Mexican director Rafael Balendon's catalogue. One aspect of these movies that appealed greatly to him was that staple of the genre the 'Femme Fatale'! Women that used their sexiness to achieve their objective and complete their mission! Temptress of a thousand Faces a 1969 Chinese spy film is a particular favourite of his. When asked to name his favourite 'Femme Fatale' he listed Margaret Lee, Maura Monti and Elizabeth Campbell whom appeared in the before mentioned Eurospy films and Lily Ho who made a series of 60s spy films as Agent 009 in China. During the 80s he started getting into Russ Meyer when bunking off university lectures to go to the Scala in London when they would run three Russ Meyer films in a row once or twice a month, delighting in their ridiculous plots and other things... Ann Marie, Alaina Capri and of course Tura Satana! Armed with these influences he decided to try something that had not been done before and mixed action comedy spy spoofs with ridiculously huge boobed girl secret agents for Operation Havoc in 2009 casting Sheyla Hershey it was internationally well received and was then followed by The Blonde Squad in 2014 and now he's back with the subject of this post, Codename: Diablo!

 The movie starred Mary Madison Love, Lilly 4K and Martina Big starring as a trio of female secret agents hired  to stop an ultra sadistic villainess from taking over the world with the deadly Diablo Gun! During its production the film promised to be “'Buxotic' in every sense of the word, stating, "Codename Diablo! sets the bar for both independent film and the Action Comedy genre alike. Totally in a unique niche of it’s own, it's not many films that can claim to have invented their own genre.”  I had a great time at the premiere and I had the pleasure of meeting the film's stars Mary Madison Love and Lilly 4K along with Dolly Fox the latest recruit to O.M.E.G.A who will feature in the up and coming sequel! As for the movie, well this is a spoiler free zone so I shan't give away anything with regards to the story, but I enjoyed it. Offering some fun escapism, Dre provides a Russ Meyer/ Andy Sidaris tribute platter with a dash of Charlie’s Angels and a sprinkling of 1960's spy movies on top! If I had to compare it to anything I would say it was a cross between Ted V Mikels's Doll Squad  and Chesty Morgan's Double Agent 73/ Deadly Weapons movies.
if this sounds like the kind of movie you might enjoy then follow this link to watch the trailer, find out more- be sure tell them Arfon sent you!
The movie will be released on DVD in August followed by streaming and Download in early September.
 
 
 © Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Fourth Wedding Anniversary of Mr & Mrs Arfon Jones

It's June, it's that time again, time to report back about the day we celebrated the day we got married. For the benefit of those keeping count (and don't read titles) this was the fourth. This time Mrs Jones and I spent it in the Land of the Lions in.... London! London zoo to be exact, at the world’s oldest scientific zoo's newest exhibit that not only (decoratively) transports visitors to India’s vibrant Sasan Gir to get a little bit closer to the majestic, mighty Asiatic lions but also the chance to sleep “within roaring distance” of them!

Having long been fascinated with animals and watching copious amounts of television in my lifetime London Zoo is very familiar to me but to be perfectly honest I had never actually visited before. So finally, after 30+ years I finally had the chance to visit Jumbo the elephant's old stomping ground! We spent a hot day navigating through parties of school children seeing the wonderful array of animals the zoo has on offer. Being the nerd that I am I would stop at familiar points of interest such as the Reptile House, the Raven’s Cage (constructed in 1829), the grade two listed Penguin Pool and of course the Snowdon Aviary,
designed by and named after Lord Snowdon built in 1962 and opened to the public in 1965 it was the second largest aviary in the world but the first walk-through aviary in Britain, specially designed to allow close up views of birds. One of the things I enjoyed about the Zoo (apart from the animals of course) was the balance the zoo had between introducing new and fresh ideas and their own history. We saw Giant Galapagos Tortoises, Penguins and Lemurs but unfortunately the anteaters had been relocated to behind the giraffe house to make way for a new dinosaur attraction (leaving me with mixed emotions as I love anteaters and fibreglass dinosaurs...) and then after “oooh-ing" and "aaaaahhh-ing" over Marilyn the two-toed sloth's uncharacteristic 'speedy' constitutional around their jungle environment and the extremely photogenic otter family over at the Otter Holt we made our way to the Gir Lion Lodge to 'check-in'.


Officially opened by HM The Queen and HRH The Duke on the 17th March 2016 (the original lion terraces was also opened by them both in 1976) Land of the Lions cost £5.2m to build and is five times the size of the previous lion enclosure and as previously mentioned designed to resemble Sasan Gir, an Indian village in the heart of the Gir Forest where the last 500 wild Asiatic lions live and the attention to detail is amazing as it both entertains and highlights ZSL’s international conservation efforts to help protect this endangered species. We arrived at the nine brightly painted lodges inspired by the hotels in the Gir Forest and were greeted by the friendly keepers. We were given the Oriole Lodge equipped with en-suite toilet, basin and shower and tea making facilities and a rather nice private veranda to soak up the atmosphere and relax. But this excursion was not just about finding a place to spend the night in London! Once we had settled in, glass of complimentary Prosecco in hand we were given an exclusive after-hours tours of the Zoo offering a glimpse of what it's like at the zoo once the public have left by the friendly, knowledgeable keepers. We met Bhanu and lionesses Indi, Rubi and Heidi learning more about them, their conservation and their upkeep. Interestingly as part of the lions enrichment, sacks soaked in unwanted perfume are given to the lions with Old Spice being a particular favourite (a little discouraging as its also my favourite brand of aftershave and I was wearing it at the time...). We then made our way around the zoo and some of the enclosures and even had chance to feed Thug and Nicky the pygmy hippos before having our own delicious two-course dinner. Once we had finished our puddings we toasted our anniversary (and the birthday of another guest) we had another 'mooch' around meeting two of the zoo's nocturnal residents which I will not tell you about because its meant to be a secret... but they were delightful!

The next morning was fantastic! I normally associate the bustling sounds of cars, sirens and Ring Necked Parakeets with waking up in London so being woken to the sound of macaws, flamingos and lions was a new one on me! I had a quiet sit down on the 'private veranda' before we went to have our Full English breakfast before visiting the old elephant house to see where all the herbaceous animal's meals are prepared. Some Tapirs and gibbons followed before we went back to “oooh" and "aaaaahhh" some more at the two-toed sloth's and otters (not me you understand, but Mrs Jones, although I did make a similar sound when we briefly saw the giant anteaters roaming their enclosure before a fresh party of school children mobbed to the fence) and that was our sunset, after-dark and early morning excursion to London zoo that I highly recommend, as always I hope this was of interest!

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

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