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.

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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.

 

 

Rex Factor – The Animated Show

I should have a warning at the top of this post. Sadly this is a personal request and very little to do with Ivor Wood (sorry!).

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My studio Tinmouse Animation are currently in the process of producing a pilot TV show called Rex Factor – The Animated Show. We’ve teamed up with the internationally successful history podcast Rex Factor to bring history to life and make it more accessible to all ages. The podcast see’s presenters Graham and Ali reviewing all the Kings and Queens of England rating them on a series of factors: Battleyness, Scandal, Subjectivity, Longevity and Dynasty. They then decide whether the chosen monarch deserves the coveted Rex Factor crown. We’re taking this famous format and delving into the life of the notorious King Richard III… but is it time to rethink the legend?

We’ve been crowd-funding with Kickstarter throughout August and now have 10 days left to meet our funding target (31st August). The support for the show has been incredible so far with over 200 backers and no being just shy of 70% funded.

The Kickstarter Campaign

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1958705267/rex-factor-the-animated-show

As our Kickstarter campaign comes towards its end we’d love your support and your love for animation to bring the show to life. If you can spare a few minutes to share the link above with your friends and other animation lovers then we’ll be greatly appreciative. On the flip-side if you do want to pledge then have no fear we have some amazing rewards for you! Including t-shirts, a ‘making of’ documentary, mugs, prints, 3D models and artwork from the show. Plus if you’re feeling plucky, a personalised character of you in the show!

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We’ve already self-funded the whole pre-production process last year so just need that little boost to get the show animated ready for the April 2018 launch. Thanks so much for reading this and I promise once the Kickstarter has finished I’ll be back to posting up more Ivor Wood treats!

First Charlie Chalk Design?

First off so sorry for these sporadic posts over the last few months. I am currently putting together a Kickstarter campaign for our new pilot programme Rex Factor – The Animated Show and it’s getting closer and closer to the launch so I’ve had time for little else. If you’re interested to see whats been keeping me away then click here and stay tuned for the Kickstarter campaign on August 2nd!

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Anyhoo onto what you’re all here for, Ivor Wood! Whilst at Ivor’s house with his wife Josiane she pulled out this little treasure you see before you. A lovely pastel drawing of, what is named, Charlie Chalk. Now on a first look he doesn’t look much like what we’re more familiar with as Charlie. However look closely and there are a lot of elements that are present in both creations. The chequred trousers, red nose, white dickey and obviously those over-sized shoes. The colouring is a little over the top and perhaps Ivor had just opened a new box of pastels and wanted to try them all out on one drawing!

Our best guess is that this is a working character design for Charlie and perhaps one of Ivor’s first attempts at creating this iconic character. The bright vivid colours in this illustration are certainly in stark contrast to the more pastel shades that he would end up going for in the final show but we certainly get a feel for who Charlie is in this sketch. Fun loving and care free are both phrases that spring to mind. Also it’s great to see that Ivor’s trademark oversized clothes even play a part in his drawings. Whether or not he always thought of the final 3D puppets when sketching is unknown but there is certainly some proof here. Obviously in puppet form the oversized clothing, big hands and feet are essential to help mask the armatures and also enable better movement when animating. With Ivor being predominantly a 3D animator it’s likely that he would have thought about this heavily in the design stages.

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Another theory as to the origins of this illustration is that it was created as more of a moodboard for the 2D opening credits. Certainly in looking at the below shot the pose is more on point. Also the manner in which it is drawn is very similar, very straight limbs, exaggerated poses and thick black lines outlining. As much as I can see possibility in it being a character concept I feel it’s more in line with the opening credits and my money’s on that. It would be great to get your thoughts, very open to suggestions.

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 18.22.14I’m afraid thats going to be it for at least a month or so until the end of the Kickstarter but I’ll certainly be back for some more insight into Ivor Wood very soon. I can also reveal that they’ll be some REALLY exciting news on the horizon and once I get the green light I’ll be sharing it with you all here first! Keep your peepers peeled.

Thanks and have a great month.  See you when I return 🙂

Paddington creator Michael Bond passes away aged 91

Michael Bond and Paddington. Image sourced from The Telegraph by Geoff Pugh

Michael Bond and Paddington. Image sourced from The Telegraph by Geoff Pugh

This afternoon came with some very sad news, Michael Bond the creator of Paddington Bear and The Herbs has died aged 91 following a short illness. Best know for writing, nurturing and bringing to life Britains favourite bear, Paddington, he has bought joy to millions of children and adults across the globe. The Paddington stories have never been out of print since their first publication in 1958 and have spawned many further creations including a hugely successful film, of which a sequel is being created as we speak, and more fondly a stop motion children’s show in 1975.

Ivor Wood animating Paddington Bear Image taken from book Life and Times of Paddington Bear, 1988

Ivor Wood animating Paddington Bear Image taken from book Life and Times of Paddington Bear, 1988

Back in 1965 Michael was working as a cameraman for the BBC with a yearning passion for writing and storytelling. This passion and his BBC contacts lead him to write bits and pieces for the channel. It was this writing that peaked the interest of then head of BBC children’s television, Monica Simms. She, impressed by Michael’s ability approached Graham Clutterbuck who was the producer over at, production company, FilmFair. She approached him not with an idea but with a man.

It was here that he first met Ivor Wood who would become a crucial collaborator and later, dear friend. Ivor at the time was still living in Paris but this didn’t stop Michael immediately getting to work, eventually coming up with the concept for The Herbs. The show was a huge success after it’s first broadcast in 1968, leading to a spin off show ‘The Adventures of Parsley’ and thus spawning the start of a very fruitful partnership in Ivor, Graham and Michael. Here in Michael’s own words, he describes their next project…Paddington.

“In 1975 Ivor came to see me with the news that, “To tell you the truth, I’ve been playing around with an idea for filming Paddington.” When Ivor said “To tell you the truth …”, you knew that’s what you were getting – the truth, pure and simple – and so I was very happy to realise my stories of the bear from Peru in a new medium with him.

His idea was to combine a three-dimensional puppet Paddington with two-dimensional cardboard backgrounds and supporting cast, with Paddington the one colourful character set against muted backgrounds, rather like an early Peter Brook stage set. It sounds simple now, but at the time it was a groundbreaking departure, and it worked.

They were happy days; not always carefree, but certainly fulfilling, and I always felt very privileged to be involved in it.”

Their continued friendship over the years led to the creation of a second series of Paddington and a series of specials featuring that famous Singing in the Rain parody in Paddington Goes to the Movies. As well as this there were illustrative collaborations for both The Herbs and Paddington in the form of story books and Paddington cartoon strips that were printed in the London Evening News.

The Herbs - Parsley the Lion

The Herbs – Parsley the Lion

Michael was very particular in how his penned creations were portrayed, turning down a Paddington theatre show, films and and even an Ivor pitched 2D cartoon. His attention to detail, much like Ivor’s, shines through in his TV and illustrative work. Each collaboration is true to character and perfectly portrays their written counter-part.

Michaels writing was in a style that never looked down on it’s audience, straight talking and at times blunt but always with a dash of humour and frivolity. He will be best remembered for Paddington Bear but his writing (and animation) career started with The Herbs, proving that writers and film-makers can work work harmoniously and successfully together.

In the words of Ivor’s wife Josiane, who knew the pair well, it is now “certainly the end of an era”. Although Ivor Wood, Graham Clutterbuck and Michael Bond have now passed on, the old friends have not just left some incredible works but also a legacy that will continue to be shared, enjoyed and cherished for generations to come. Michael Bond was a true storyteller and someone that has warmed the hearts of so many with his tales of that little bear from Peru.

“I don’t worry about death. I sort of feel it’s good to get to 91 and I can’t complain. And I hope Paddington might come with me, ­wherever we go. Up or down.”

“It wouldn’t be kind to tell Paddington to come with me if I was going down.”

Michael Bond – April 2017

Michael Bond died 28th June 2017 aged 91