- Drawn By:
- Michael Armstrong
- The Minotaur, 1958
- Pet Seal / Hand Drawn Cartoon
- Floppy would like to be available for production
Floppy first made an appearance in a screenplay for an unrealised animated film, The Minotaur, written by Armstrong in 1958.
In 1957 Armstrong had transferred from the Stowmarket Grammar School to the Harrow County School for Boys and it was here that his passion to make films, especially animated films, led him to create The Animation Society in which he was joined by a tiny but like-minded group of schoolfellows. Although none of them could actually draw very well, one of them did own an 8mm Bell & Howell camera. Building their own multiplane attachment and working with cels shot against detached backgrounds they made a few successful if extremely brief animation tests.
Having employed stop-motion techniques in their first film in 1959, Black Magic, Armstrong incorporated an animated ending into his second effort in 1960 as writer, director, producer and star in The Gay Ghost (In the days before the word 'gay' had other connotations). To accompany a screening of their efforts at the Harrow Gayton Fair, they made filmed ads to promote local shops and business and one of these contained a few moments of full cel multiplane animation.
Excited by their initial progress in this field, Armstrong's creative if over-ambitious aspirations to emulate one of his heroes, Walt Disney, led him to write two screenplays intended for animation: Beauty And The Beast and The Minotaur.
Despite derivative and crude artwork where all the human characters seem to have abnormally long legs, both scripts were written blissfully unaware of the animation problems they would have presented to an experienced professional studio let alone a tiny group of schoolboys.
Predictably, neither film was made. The screenplays, however, have survived and warrant, possibly, a certain curiosity value - especially The Minotaur in which Armstrong first created the character of Ariadne's pet seal, Floppy.
In the screenplay of The Minotaur, Floppy's mischievous personality is far different from the bewildered innocent he would become years later when revived by Armstrong as an alter ego in the published comic strips, The World Of Floppy and Floppy In Hollywood.
Armstrong recollects: “I've never really understood quite why Floppy continued cropping up throughout my life. Somehow, he seemed to take on an identity of his own - it was nothing to do with the character in The Minotaur nor was it ever a conscious decision on my part to use him for anything in particular. It's just - somehow, he'd always manage to turn up at the right time in the right place - and, I guess, that's how you get on in show biz, folks!”
Apart from appearing on a few personal Christmas cards, Floppy's appearances declined until 1968 when Armstrong was invited by the editor, Robin Bean, to write for the magazine, Films And Filming. [Shortly to appear in the Vault - Film Journalism]
It was Bean, chancing on some of Armstrong's early cartoon drawings, who suggested creating a comic strip for the Floppy character with which to satirise the film industry.
The result was The World Of Floppy.
Unfortunately, the publisher's personal aversion to comic strips of any kind meant its appearance in the magazine tended to be somewhat sporadic.
In the meantime, Floppy found himself a role as mascot and icon for Igloo Films, a film production company Armstrong and Bean formed for a brief period with actress, Jane Blackburn. Unfortunately, as so often happens when creative people form production companies, individual professional commitments prevented any time being spent developing intended projects with the result that the company continued lying dormant until it was eventually wound up a couple of years later.
In 1980, Films And Filming ceased publication when the publisher committed suicide and his publishing house Hansom Books was put into liquidation.
In 1981, Robin Bean found himself a new publisher in Anthony Churchill and started up the magazine, Films. He invited Armstrong to edit the video pages and re-published The World Of Floppy comic strips, asking Armstrong to create yet more. Armstrong obliged on a somewhat irregular basis due to other commitments until he moved to live in Los Angeles in 1984.
In 1985, the steadily deteriorating relationship between Bean and Churchill resulted in Films magazine folding. Bean immediately went ahead setting up a new magazine, Movie Scene, this time publishing it himself. He contacted Armstrong in L.A. once more asking for a regular Floppy comic strip based on the character's adventures in Hollywood. Armstrong obliged with Floppy In Hollywood, which continued until the magazine's collapse a year later in 1986.
Movie Scene proved to be Bean's last magazine as editor. Demoralised and with ailing health, he died five years later in 1992 at the age of 53.
In July 1999, Armstrong published the first issue of a promotional brochure for actors' showcases he was producing through his training-based company, Armstrong Arts. To lighten the mood of this monthly brochure entitled The Grapevine, he created a show biz crossword and re-printed the Floppy cartoon strips, The World Of Floppy.
Within six months, The Grapevine had grown into a fully-fledged trade magazine and Armstrong had run out of Floppy strips. He solved the problem by sending Floppy on a holiday to L.A. which enabled him to re-publish Floppy In Hollywood.
Again, running out of old strips to publish, he brought Floppy back to the U.K. and started drawing a new strip every month in which old characters like Twitter the publicist, Z the studio executive and Flurg the creative writer were joined by new characters, theatre impresario Macaroon McThistle and actor, Sammy Skunk (like Flurg, a childhood creation pre-dating Floppy).
By the end of 2000, despite The Grapevine's popularity and continuing expansion, it was becoming more and more impossible to produce, as those responsible were now heavily involved in the theatrical activities of Armstrong Arts. The magazine was, consequently, put on hold, formed as a separate independent company and re-structured on a commercial footing for intended re-launch at a later date.
As a result, in June 2001, Floppy went into retirement - although, if his past career is anything to go by, he may already be planning to stage a comeback. Keep watching this website...<< Introduction Floppy In Hollywood >>