June 15, 1990 on UK TV: Art Attack

Art_Attack-1990Art Attack is a British children’s television series revolving around art. The original, series aired on CITV between 15 June 1990 and 26 May 2007, and was presented by one of its creators, Neil Buchanan, throughout. Buchanan also wrote and produced the series, and came up with a majority of the creative ideas.

The programme was originally a TVS production, devised by two TVS employees, Neil Buchanan and Tim Edmunds. Buchanan and Edmunds met each other at Southern Television in 1978, and worked together on No. 73 and Do It!.

The first Art Attacks were a strand within No. 73, and this segment proved so popular, Nigel Pickard the executive producer of children’s programming at TVS green lit the pilot. The Art Attack pilot was shot on location at a disused swimming pool in Gillingham, Kent in 1989, and the series began the following year.

When TVS lost its franchise, Edmunds and Buchanan bought the rights to the show and TV-UK-06-15-1990produced Art Attack through their company, The Media Merchants. The Media Merchants used STV Productions (then known as “SMG Productions”), as the ITV company to get the series onto the network: this was partly down to the fact that Nigel Pickard had moved to Scottish Television. In 1993 another ex-TVS employee, Peter Urie set up a production management company, Television Support Services. Television Support Services managed all of the Media Merchants productions.

For the vast majority of its run, the show was filmed at The Maidstone Studios, Maidstone, Kent. In 1998, Disney bought the rights to produce foreign-language versions of Art Attack. Each version had a different local host for each territory, and was made in Maidstone, on a similar set to the original version. Neil Buchanan’s Big Art Attacks were retained in the international shows, as was The Head, who was dubbed by relevant local voice artists. Buchanan also produced the artwork for the foreign versions – footage of his hands creating the pieces would be voiced over by the local host, who would show the artwork in-between stages and explain what to do next. Disney ended production of the foreign shows in 2005.

ITV announced the cancellation of the series in July 2007. Until January 2014, the show was regularly repeated on CITV, usually on weekend afternoons. After the programme’s demise, many of the production team transferred to Finger Tips and Mister Maker, both recorded at The Maidstone Studios.

TV-UK-06-15-1990aThe Head, was a puppet stone bust who would humorously recap the steps needed to produce the last art piece made. After doing this, he would usually show his creation of the previous Art Attack, most times however getting it hilariously wrong and usually bursting into tears. However, on occasion, by accidentally doing part of the instructions incorrectly, he would create a different effect to that desired and be proud of his work. He would sometimes tell jokes after the Big Art Attacks. In series one, ‘The Head’ was played by Jim Sweeney, in series 2, Andrew O’Connor; and from series 3, having been redesigned as a puppet, he was voiced and operated by Francis Wright. ‘The Head’ did not appear in series 12 or 13, or in series 18 and 19. [Wikipedia]

Watch an example of the opening credits on the Vid Star YouTube Channel.

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