Postman Pat original character descriptions – Part 1

Postman Pat was Ivor’s biggest success in his own right but it would have been nothing without the writing of John Cunliffe, who came up with the whole concept of the show including storylines and characters.

Whilst at the BBC Written Archives I stumbled across the original descriptions of the characters of Postman Pat. If you take a look below you’ll see the original descriptions sent to the BBC from John Cunliffe for them to approve. I’ve included a few below so take a look and see how much carried over into the final show:

PostmanPatJess_Characters

Pat Clifton – 35 – Forge Cottage, Greendale. Popularly known as Postman Pat. A tall, slightly angular man, he generally has a smile flickering over his face, as though he’s relishing a good joke or contemplating a word that he considers to be decidedly comical. He enjoys his work since there’s nothing he likes better than to chat to all kinds of people and he does this all day, He also enjoys helping people ; it makes him feel valued.

So Pat really hasn’t changed much for the original description, remaining a jolly chap full of kindness. There is however no mention of his faithful companion Jess as yet, so I’ll do some more digging on that front.

ThompsonFarm_Characters

Thompson Ground – This is a small farm high on the side of the fell, looking down into the valley. It has been in the Thompson family for countless generations, hence it’s name.

Mr Alf Thompson – 52 – small, tough, sturdy as a fell farmer needs to be. He follows his sheep all over the fells. The weather has ruddied his face and knotted his joints. He has a dry humour.

Mrs Dorothy Thompson – 49 – also small and quick moving in word and deed. She looks frail but is really very strong, and copes easily with a women’s large share of the work. She keeps, on her account, hens, ducks and a few geese.

Bill Thompson – 25 – “Young Bill” retains many youthful hobbies, such as model-aircraft. A keen member of the Young Farmers’ Club and an indispensable help to his father. He has no ambition other to keep the farm going when his father is gone, and to breed a Herdwick ram that win first at the county show.

Alf and Dorothy remain largely un-changed but their son Bill certainly makes a significant leap. John changes the character of Bill as the show progresses and notes in this letter “Bill Thompson to be reduced in age to 11”. This is most likely to allow him to part of the school. He still remains one of the eldest children along with Charlie Pringle but means all the children can congregate as one and requires less back stories.

GreendaleFarm_Characters

Greendale Farm – A large mixed farm on the valley floor, near to Birkmere (the valley’s largest lake) and the valley mouth. It is the most prosperous of the farms, having the best land and being the largest.

Mr Henry Pottage – 41 – something of a gentleman farmer, he sports a moustache and side whiskers, sporty tweeds and a shooting stick. He is though, closely involved in the farm’s work but has sufficient workers to allow him reasonable leisure to enjoy country life.

Mrs Julia Pottage – 39 – quite fashionable dressed, but practically for country life. A leading member of the W.I. and Mothers’ Guid, she is busy with the social affairs of the dale and to this purpose attends meetings in Pencaster, and sometimes, even, in Carlisle. has “help” in the house and with the twins.

Katy and Tom Pottage – 6 – twins. Dressed quite expensively in good quality denims, t-shirts and brightly coloured wellies. Katy is bright, quick, enquiring, humorous, full of inquisitive activity. Tom is quiet, inward, thumb sucking, thoughtful and follows unquestionably where Katy leads.

Peter Fogg – 21 – the Pottages’ shepherd. Sun-browned, brown eyes and a Zapata moustache, Lithe and energetic; handsome and popular with the ladies. Has a motor-bike and often goes to the disco in Pencaster, returning late a t night, to waken the valley with the roar of his bike.

The first thing that you’ll notice is the exclusion of Henry Pottage, the father of the twins. This character is never mentioned throughout the first 2 series and also not in any of the future series. An odd exclusion but probably explained by him being busy working on the farm.

Peter Fogg is a very interesting character with his galavanting, womanising ways. He certainly comes across as a charming, affable character in the show and certainly has one of the more interesting back stories. Also I would have loved to see him with that moustache!

IntakeFarm_Characters.jpg

Intake Farm – A moor top farm; really remote, without even a view of the valley and very marginal land. Two bachelor brothers scrape a poor living there, mainly from sheep. They also keep hens.

George Lancaster – 49 – a large boned, sad looking man, dressed in clothes bought at jumble sales, often ancient suits sizes too small or too big and in advanced stages of disrepair.

Wilf Lancaster – 39 – his dress is similar to George’s, but he has a jaunty air about him, the foil to his elder brother’s lugubriousness.

George remains the sole owner of Intake Farm throughout all the series but sticks to his get-up of 2nd hand clothes and un-uniformed appearance. He seems to have taken on the personality of his brother Wilf though with a wide smile instead of being a “sad looking man”

I’ll have some more characters next time when we move onto the characters without farmsteads.

All the quotations are taking from the BBC Written Archives with permissions given from the latter.

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Jess the Cat – The original cat scan

In 2001 Ivor had achieved what he’d set out to achieve with his company Woodland Animations and it was time to call it a day. He’d been able to generate more freedom in his work especially with the likes of Charlie Chalk, his only truly original show. He’d also created Bertha, Gran and not one but two series of Postman Pat. This doesn’t include all the Pat spin-offs he created along with some great work for Ronald Searle.

It was the end of an era and time to sell up and move on. The company was sold to Entertainment Rights who took everything in the buy-out, from tapes all the way through to the puppets. As it currently stands there is no knowledge of where the puppets went for Bertha, Gran and Charlie Chalk despite continued digging by Ivor’s wife Josiane. This is such a shame but we will not give up hope in the fact that they are out there somewhere.

The silver lining to this dark cloud is that many of the sets, props and puppets of Postman Pat were indeed kept and stored with the care and attention they deserved. None more so than everyones favourite cat, Jess. In 2003 Cosgrove Hall revamped Pat and his friends for a brand new series. They were careful to create a show that exactly mirrored what Ivor had achieved and this meant creating new versions of the puppets in their exact likenesses.

Puppet creation was all down to Manchester based puppet makers Mackinnon and Saunders. They were lucky enough to gain access to Ivor’s originals and use them as a guide when creating the new armatures. However when it came to making Jess it proved difficult at face value to tell exactly how she was made. With a deep respect for Ivor’s work and puppets, it was not an option to strip Jess down to find out.

It was co-owner Peter Saunders who then had a brain wave. He had a friend who worked at the Royal Infirmary, so he took Jess down there and got her x-rayed. Resulting in the original ‘black and white cat’ you see below:

An x-ray of Ivor Wood's original Jess the Cat puppet for Postman Pat Series 2.

An x-ray of Ivor Wood’s original Jess the Cat puppet for Postman Pat Series 2.

As you can see from the above it worked a treat and the x-ray showed up all of Jess’s inner workings even down to her wire whiskers and bendable ears. It’s so nice to see that the stop-motion community is so understanding when it comes to others work and also great for all us fans to actually be able to see how Ivor’s puppets were made.

The model is most likely made for hand-made ball and socket joints joined together with brass rods. The lumpy bits are more than likely foam or similar to help pad out the more muscular areas. Wire was used for the ears and whiskers so that Jess’s features could gain more expression. Also note the pin and pin head used for Jess’s nose!

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.

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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