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 there was even a version for the PC called Atmosfear: The Third Dimension. 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 M√ľnchen-L√ľncheon 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.


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