The Technicalities of Postman Pat

Postman Pat and Mrs Goggins

Postman Pat and Mrs Goggins

In early 1979 Ivor Wood was coming to the end of the lengthy pre-production and concept design process of Postman Pat. Scripts were honed and budgets were agreed. It was now Ivor’s job, at his newly formed Woodland Animations, to create the world and characters that would inhabit and bring to life John Cunliffe’s stories.

Whilst looking through the Written Archives at the BBC I stumbled across this ingenious and remarkable letter that Ivor had written to, the then Executive Producer for Childrens BBC, Cynthia Felgate. Whilst I am unsure as to what the preceding letter had outlined, it appears to have mentioned the fact that within the scripts there was a lot of action regarding roaming cattle and wildlife. This is something Ivor wasn’t so keen to encourage as he details in his reply:

My first reaction was one of complete misery; How on earth does one animate herds of cows, ducks playing on water, herons and hawks flying, lambs frisking in a field, not to mention the hens…

However…

Having read and reread the material, I laid the project to rest and, whilst going about my business, gave the matter much thought.

And much thought he did indeed give it. Ever the optimist and always willing to create the best possible solution to problems, Ivor came up with some very clever ideas on how to overcome this horrendous obstacle:

Mountains, valleys, lakes, woods and farmland: If the landscape is a wide extensive and extensible set, the human figures will have to be rather small. This in puppet form makes rather unmanageable or stiff animation, not to mention coping with the cat who will be minute.

If you wish to maintain this “rolling hills into the distance” atmosphere and keep characters to a manageable size, a little cheating will be necessary. I suggest that we use either very simple one tone segments that fit like a theatre set…

Now this is pretty much what was created in the show we know and love. A simple yet effective use of forced perspective, something film makers and set designers have been using for years and years. However Ivor doesn’t give up there and goes onto outline another idea….

Or maybe a back projection for the far distance with the foreground in true decor style.

Example of the back projection for Postman Pat sets by Ivor Wood

Example of the back projection for Postman Pat sets by Ivor Wood

Now this is a bit ‘out there’ but nothing compared to the other idea he had to alleviate the need for flocks and herds of animals:

No amount of animation could possibly compete with nature, therefore would it be possible to introduce ‘Motorised Photography’ – the still camera that can take up to 5 frames per second (with a special magazine: 250 frames before reloading).

These running sequences could then be put onto 16m/m film, each photo linked by quick or slow cross-dissolves, giving a motion effect with maybe a freeze frame start and finish to underline the switch from animation – real photography – back to animation.

Note: Motorised Photography would be less expensive than a camera crew using 16m/m. But there is a snag – ie how long do you wait for the ducks or the heron?

…Amazing! It’s certainly creative but wow what a headache if the BBC had said yes. Drawbacks that spring to my mind are endless, adding a further stop-motion element to an animators schedule that relied on them not only animating the puppets but also making sure the live action footage was being held at the right frame each time. The ability of photographing animals doing exactly the right thing and making sure all perspectives etc were correct…the list goes on. If this was put into practice it would turn into the puppet animation working around the ‘live action’ due to that fact that animals aren’t always going to do exactly what you tell them. This could have led to long pauses and stilted action.

It certainly was ambitious but something tells me that Ivor’s complex wording and subtle negativities were all part of the plan to put the BBC off doing anything over complicated. I’ll leave you with Ivor’s last paragraph and see what you think.

I really think that this project is in need of a style to express itself without giving nightmares to the animator. (Is this wishful thinking on my behalf?).

All quotes and ‘back projector illustration’ are from a letter written by Ivor Wood to Cynthia Felgate at Children’s BBC. The letter is dated 8th February 1979 and permission has been granted to the author by the BBC Written Archives.
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Pat and Parsley make Radio Times Top 50

Happy New Year to one and all and what a start to the year. This week The Radio Times announced the Top 50 Greatest Children’s TV Shows of all time and you guessed it Ivor’s work makes not 1 but 3 appearances!

RadioTimes Front Cover - 13-19 January 2018

After all these years Postman Pat is still grabbing the headlines and holding the front page! Firstly it’s so great to see a couple of early publicity shots both on the cover and inside from Series 2. The latter being a great picture from the “Postman Pat Follows a Trail” episode. As you’ll find out below Postman Pat comes 26 out of 50 in the poll so just under halfway. A true testament to Ivor’s endearing work. Also following close behind is The Adventures of Parsley at no. 27. If I’m being honest an odd choice compared to that of the original Herbs or perhaps even The Wombles or Magic Roundabout but nonetheless Ivor’s work once more takes centre stage.

Radio Times - Top 50 Greatest Children's TV Shows - 13-19 January 2018

Radio Times – Top 50 Greatest Children’s TV Shows – 13-19 January 2018

Radio Times - Top 50 Greatest Children's TV Shows - 13-19 January 2018

Radio Times – Top 50 Greatest Children’s TV Shows – 13-19 January 2018

As if this wasn’t enough The Magic Roundabout even gets a little mention from Radio Times Editor Alison Graham. Placing it no. 2 in her Top 5 speaking about how it was “adored by all the family…thanks to Eric Thompson’s charming funny, knowing, surreal narration”.  Not only is Ivor represented through his shows but it is worth pointing out that it’s his whole career that is celebrated from start to finish. The Magic Roundabout being his first creation and Postman Pat Series 2 being the last thing he ever did. Just goes to show that Ivor’s talent and dedication never wavered throughout his 30+ year career, still enabling him to deliver timeless shows time and time again.

With a panel of experts from all fields of Children’s TV including Noel Edmonds, Peter Purves, Joe Godwin and David Walliams it’s so great to see Ivor’s work being celebrated once more. It’s also a lovely segway into what I hope will be a good few months celebrating everyones favourite postman. I’ve finally got all the permissions I need to write up the next few articles so I look forward to sharing lot’s of new things with you in the coming weeks.

 

IVOR WOOD AT MANCHESTER ANIMATION FESTIVAL – PART 2

Merry Christmas everybody! As a Christmas gift to you please find a link and the film below of ‘The World of Ivor Wood at Manchester Animation Festival’. In case you missed out on last times post, Joseph Wallace,Ivor’s wife Josiane and I recently got together to talk about Ivor’s career at this years Manchester Animation Festival curated by Steve Henderson. It was a pleasure to see such a packed theatre and to spread some light on the plethora of work that Ivor accomplished over his career.

Sadly there was no professional filming at the event so you’ll have to do with my camera and my good friend Rach’s phone. The camera stopped a couple of times so you’ll see a couple of cuts and change of angle towards the end. Please bear with.

Hope you enjoy the talk below:

Ivor Wood at Manchester Animation Festival – Part 1

Thanks so much for everyones amazing support and excitement about The World of Ivor Wood panel at this years Manchester Animation Festival. As you’ll all know last Thursday at 10am myself, Joseph Wallace and Josiane Wood sat with festival host Steve Henderson and embarked on an hour long presentation remembering all the amazing work that Ivor produced over his long and illustrious career.

The World of Ivor Wood panel at Manchester Animation Festival 2017

The World of Ivor Wood panel at Manchester Animation Festival 2017 – (From LtoR) Joseph Wallace, Josiane Wood, Tom Sanders and Steve Henderson

To say we were nervous would be a understatement. We all remarked that it was like the night before an exam on the Wednesday evening. All that myself and Joseph had learnt and all that Josiane had experienced was being put to the test. As the room on Thursday started to fill up we were overwhelmed by the turn out. None of us knew what to expect and to see so many eager people flooding into Cinema 1 was just awesome, in the true sense of the word.

Postman Pat and Jess and the original Jess the Cat - Manchester Animation Festival 2017

Postman Pat and Jess and the original Jess the Cat – Manchester Animation Festival 2017

As well as us at the front we were joined by some of Ivor’s best loved creations. On loan from Mackinnon and Saunders, the leading puppet creators in the UK, were the original Jess the Cat, some of Ivor’s head design explorations and Pat and Jess from the new series of the show. Last but by no means least we had the mighty Parsely from The Herbs join us, only revealing himself when his show came up in conversation, much to the audiences delight.

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The World of Ivor Wood panel at Manchester Animation Festival 2017 – Charlie Chalk presentation

The talk lasted longer than expected, stretching over the scheduled hour as we poured over Ivor’s career. Everything from his days at La Comete and The Magic Roundabout, through to The Wombles and Paddington and finally finishing with Woodlands creations, Postman Pat and Charlie Chalk. Along the way we peppered our slides with never before seen backstage photographs, stills from the shows and clips from Ivor’s work with the famed Ronald Searle. It was a pure delight seeing the array of projects up on the BIG screen and great to share some stories from Ivor’s career with a new audience.

As the panel ended it was a pleasure to meet people who follow the blog and others who beamed with surprise at the fact one man produced so many iconic shows in his lifetime. Everyone was reminiscing about their childhood, remembering with fondness how the shows were the highlight of their afternoons. Many even saying that it was Ivor’s work that propelled them into animation.

No sooner had the talk finished than Joseph Wallace’s retrospective started up in the adjacent cinema. A comprehensive collection of an episode of all of Ivor’s shows (sadly apart from The Magic Roundabout due to complicated rights). This went down a storm with many of the talks audience sitting down once more for a trip down memory lane.

Meet The Herbs at Manchester Animation Festival 2017

Meet The Herbs at Manchester Animation Festival 2017 – (LtoR) Parsely, Sage, Sir Basil and Dill

As if that wasn’t enough of an Ivor Wood packed morning, we had one more surprise in store for the plucky festival goer…Meet The Herbs. At 1pm the doors were opened into the event space and in flocked a mass of people all eager to catch a glimpse and selfie with The Herbs puppets. The reaction to seeing these puppets in ‘the flesh’ was again slightly overwhelming. People were chattering away, remembering episodes and asking questions. It was so wonderful to see how a show first broadcast in the 1960s was still relevant and just as fondly thought of as it was back then.

For me the opportunity to do a panel of this sort on Ivor Wood’s work was truly special. It was the first one of it’s kind dedicated to Ivor and one that was much overdue. I feel it helped to gain a larger and more appreciative audience to Ivor’s work and most importantly help people join the dots and link together all the shows that he created and the fact that it was his creative mind that formed them all.

This is only part 1 of my report on The World of Ivor Wood at Manchester Animation Festival as there is so much more to discuss and share with you. This includes a videoing of the entire talk by a good friend of mine, Rachel Crook. I’m editing it down as we speak so expect that in the coming weeks. For now I hope you enjoy the above and all the images that come with it.

Thanks again for everyones support on the blog, as if it wasn’t for your keen interest this panel would have been a lot harder to make happen.

Meet The Herbs Puppets

The wait is finally over, here is some VERY exciting news that I’ve been waiting to tell you about for a loooong time. A while ago I was put in touch with Michael Bond’s daughter Karen in the prospect of learning more about Paddington and Michael’s work with Ivor. A call led to her telling me that she had just received a lot of old promo material for Paddington from their copyrighters as they were having a huge clear-out. She explained that there were a few boxes that she thought contained all the puppets from Ivor’s The Herbs series. No sooner had she said this, we’d arranged to meet up and delve into those boxes.

So myself and fellow researcher Joseph Wallace headed into London and below is what we found…

The Herbs puppets - Created by Ivor Wood

The Herbs puppets – Created by Ivor Wood – Parsley, Sage, Dill, Lady Rosemary, Sir Basil, Tarragon, The Onion Family

The Herbs puppets - Created by Ivor Wood

Parsley the Lion and Dill the Dog. Original Herbs puppets created by Ivor Wood.

I think you’ll agree it was an amazing discovery and totally unexpected. The majority of the puppets were there: Sir Basil, Parsley the Lion, Dill the Dog, Sage the Owl, Tarragon Dragon, Lady Rosemary and the gaggle of little Chives. They all seemed in fine condition bearing in mind their age and it was so great to see Ivor’s craftsmen-ship had served to stand the test of time.

Each puppet was lovingly wrapped up in tissue paper and having no prior knowledge as to who we were going to unwrap next it was like Christmas day. As you’ll see each puppet was still able to hold it’s own weight and the majority of their joints were still supple and easy to move. Sir basil was missing his iconic monocle and Parsley’s mane was looking a tad deflated but overall pleasing to see they were all in one piece and being looked after.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be delving into look at the puppets a bit more and have some close up photos of how the puppets were constructed and theories on when they were last used and comparisons to how they looked back in the day.

But thats not all!. 

At Manchester Animation Festival on 16th November you’ll be able to actually meet the puppets themselves. We are getting special permission to take them up to Manchester and let you all take a real life look at them. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity as they have never ever been publicly shown before so get yourself a pass if you can and come meet The Herbs. Myself, Joseph and Ivor’s wife Josiane will also be there to answer all your questions too. You can get tickets and read more about the event here:

http://www.manchesteranimationfestival.co.uk/events/meet-the-herbs/

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Ivor Wood at Manchester Animation Festival

Ivor Wood animating The Wombles - 1970-72

Ivor Wood animating The Wombles (Orinoco, Wellington and Tobermory – 1970-72

Good day to you all. I have some VERY exciting news! As you’ve probably gathered from the title of the post Ivor Wood is being celebrated at the one and only Manchester Animation Festival. Together with organiser Steve Henderson we’ve looked to put together an hour long conversation all about Ivor and his lifetime of work. Along with myself, I’ll be joined by Ivor’s wife Josiane and fellow researcher Joseph Wallace to answer all your questions and celebrate all of Ivor’s grand achievements spanning his whole career from The Magic Roundabout all the way through to Charlie Chalk.

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The event will be happening as part of the 3 day Manchester Animation Festival between the 14th and 16th November 2017. The actual ‘in conversation’ will be happening at 10.15 on 16th November at HOME in Manchester. You can find out more about the speakers and the event in the link below and also you’ll find a link to purchase your tickets!

http://www.manchesteranimationfestival.co.uk/events/world-ivor-wood/

It’s a great honour to be able to put the this event on and really hope to see some of you Ivor Wood fans down there. Afterwards they’ll be a little meet and greet where we’ll be bringing along some Ivor goodies for you all to take a peek at. One is very special indeed and an exclusive to the festival so stay tuned for a further announcement!

We hope to see you all there and help bring Ivor Wood to the forefront of British animation and television.

Charlie Chalk Designs – Trader Jones

Well it’s been a while but I’m back having successfully funded Rex Factor The Animated Show. If any of you supported or shared the campaign then thanks so much! Can’t believe we made it. So with Ivor Wood and that I have my year cut out!

Let’s get back onto Ivor Wood then shall we. Whilst at Josiane’s (Ivor’s wife) house a few months ago she revealed a series of early sketches and character descriptions for Charlie Chalk. With the show being my favourite Ivor production I was like a kid in a candy store. Everyone was there from Charlie himself through to Arnold, Lewis T Duck and for todays post Trader Jones. The character sheets were either used in the lead up to creating the show, perhaps to present to broadcasters or Josiane seems to remember them being used for a Charlie Chalk book that never was. The illustrations apparently weren’t what the publishers were looking for.

As you’ll see below each one is roughly drawn in Ivor’s iconic style and coloured over using marker pens. It is however the fascinating and comical descriptions that are the true highlight. Ivor manages to sum up in so few words what each character is about and how they fit in within the show and on the island of Merrytwit.

Trader Jones design for Charlie Chalk by Ivor Wood

As much as a lot of the info will be familiar to all there are some little tit-bits that provide an extra insight into Trader Jones. Things like the ‘Coconut Spirit’ are a great little edition and one that I don’t think gets mentioned enough in the show. I’d love to see some sort of spiritually led episode where Trader Jones makes some mystic predictions.

From theses illustrations and descriptions we can really get a sense of Ivor’s passion for the characters of Merrytwit. Charlie Chalk was his favourite creation and his only completely original endeavour. This really shines through in just this single character sheet. The world seems ready created in his mind and goes way beyond what we know through the single series we’ve all enjoyed.

Hopefully this post has helped fill the Ivor Wood void created over the last few weeks. There is a whole host more coming over the following months and VERY soon there is going to be a super exciting announcement. Ivor Wood will be being remembered in a whole new way so stay tuned. I’ve also got some amazing and exclusive Postman Pat articles to come in the coming weeks, just seeking all the relevant permissions before sharing with you all.

Stay tuned and apologies for the pause.