Chances are, anyone growing up in the late 1970s through to the early 1990s will have happy memories of at least one Cosgrove Hall production.

The animation house was responsible for a series of children’s television classics, ranging from early hits Jamie And His Magic Torch and Chorlton And The Wheelies to the sophisticated comedy of cult classics Danger Mouse and Count Duckula – not forgetting their ground-breaking take on Kenneth Grahame’s Wind In The Willows in the 1980s.

Chorlton-based Cosgrove Hall was wound down by ITV in 2009.

But television fans should rejoice that, despite the loss of co-founder Mark Hall from cancer in 2011, company founder Brian Cosgrove is back in the television business as executive producer of Cosgrove Hall Fitzpatrick Entertainment.

He will be talking about his new projects as a special guest at this month’s Brighton-based arts and media event The Space.

“We are quite enjoying ourselves,” says Cosgrove. “We hope it’s the start of something big.”

The plan seems to be to follow the original Cosgrove Hall prototype of starting small and expanding as the projects start to grow.

At its height in the 1980s, Cosgrove Hall had 250 artists and designers working on model shows and edging into computer-generated imagery. Over the years its staff included New Order frontman Bernard Sumner, Stone Roses guitarist John Squire, and Peter Saunders, founder of MacKinnon And Saunders, which went on to animate the international hit movies Fantastic Mr Fox, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride, as well as children’s TV favourites Bob The Builder and Rastamouse.

“We generated a number of quite talented people from Cosgrove Hall,” says Cosgrove. “They have all gone on and worked in the business – and some of them will be helping us in our new venture. It was like a great big art school.

“One of the great pleasures was seeing people develop by letting them progress from designers to producers and makers.”

He credits that freedom to allow young designers to develop as part of Cosgrove Hall’s success.

“At the time of Danger Mouse, the BBC were doing some lovely gentle children’s programmes,” says Cosgrove. “But a bunch of guys just out of art school wanted to do something a bit dafter.

“When we were working with Thames Television, anything we did went out on the box – there was no critical screening, they trusted us. We made films for ourselves, we put humour in that made us smile. I’ve got a grandson now who is six and he’s been watching Danger Mouse. The shows have survived because the children like the humour in there.”

Count Duckula, the beloved vegetarian, feathered vampire, arose from a chance visit by a television executive to the Cosgrove Hall offices.

“We put Duckula into a one-off Danger Mouse episode as this crazy vampire duck from Transylvania,” remembers Cosgrove. “He seemed like a funny idea.

“We were selling Danger Mouse to Nickelodeon in the US, which was a cable channel then. The head of the company was looking around the offices when she saw a drawing of Duckula on a board and decided she wanted him – she had no doubts at all.”

Duckula became a co-production with Nickelodeon and saw many of the comic vocal talents of Danger Mouse – including Cosgrove’s close friend David Jason – return to the recording studio.

Cosgrove Hall also made material for older audiences, creating the deliberately shonky Captain Kremmen animations as part of anarchic DJ Kenny Everett’s television show.

“I remember getting stuff out of Kenny Everett for Captain Kremmen was incredibly difficult,” says Cosgrove. “Many times I had to send a director down to watch him in his front room while he made the soundtrack – he would only do it when the pressure was on. “It was a wonderful experience. He was surrounded by records with all sorts of noises on and would be ad-libbing while putting a disc on. You would end up with this wonderful radio show. He was a very talented man. It was a pleasure to know him.”

Cosgrove admits some of the characteristic elements of early hit Chorlton And The Wheelies were down to keeping budgets low and animation simple.

“Mark [Hall] and I were students just out of college – we weren’t really trained,” says Cosgrove. “One of the time-consuming elements of making model shows was when characters are walking around – it all takes time placing one foot in front of the other.

“We came up with the idea that the main characters should roll around on wheels as they were easier to animate.”

Similarly Fenella The Kettle Witch moved around by sinking into the ground – a method obtained by making figures with different body lengths.

“It was like being at art school where you didn’t have money to make projects,” remembers Cosgrove. “You had to use your initiative to make an animated film that didn’t take a lot of time and money.

“I remember we once had a Latin American dancing duck, which we made swim around on a table by simply cutting off its bottom half as if it was paddling away below the waterline!”

Their cutting-edge ideas for puppetry and model work came from studying Czech productions of animated folk tales, and experimenting with materials – changing from malleable but easily broken brass to steel wire and developing new joints to help characters move. They culminated in the classic Wind In The Willows models, many of which were made by Peter Saunders.

“He had a knack for developing what was right for a puppet,” says Cosgrove. “They finished up quite complex. Where we had started making shows with carved wooden heads, we finished with heads that were engineered and built up with layers of plastic and film.

“The puppets could close their eyes and move their eyebrows, mouths and cheeks. They could start depicting real acting.”

What makes it even more amazing is that in the early days of model animation there was no video recording equipment available, meaning often Cosgrove Hall animators had to remember sequences of complex movements without being able to refer backwards.

Cosgrove is now in what he refers to as his favourite period of making new work: the design and planning. “I find great pleasure in building teams,” he says. “It’s surprising what a designer can offer once you’ve put your own ideas down.

“We are starting with young children’s shows, designing everything, writing the stories, recording the tracks and designing the characters.

“Our first one is called Pip! and is about a couple of children living in a seaside town and the adventures they get up to there.”

David Jason is back voicing the sea captain in the series. He is also a non-executive director of the new company, having first worked with Cosgrove as “a jobbing actor” and developing a long friendship.

Cosgrove claims to have nine more ideas in development, including The Hero Gliffix about a team of four crime-solving dogs, which has more in common with Danger Mouse.

“A lot of entertainment shows follow a rather bland line,” says Cosgrove. “There doesn’t seem to be enough bravery. “I’ve got a lot of time for someone like Mark Gatiss. He made The League Of Gentlemen – full of strange people, pushing boundaries – but has now gone on to write books and produce something like his reimagining of Sherlock, which is quite brilliant.”

  • Also appearing at The Space is Oscar-nominated film editor Terry Rawlings, who will be talking to Lisa Holloway about his work.