After a decade of working on TV shows for other producers Ivor Wood decided in the early 1980’s to venture forth to pursue his own endeavours. He, along with his wife Josiane, opened up their own studio, Woodland Animations.
It was however whilst at FilmFair that talk started about a certain postman who lived in the Yorkshire dales. The BBC approached Ivor about this concept and it was here that he decided to produce Postman Pat instead of merely directing and animating. This was to be Woodland Animations first show and one that would pave the way for all their future productions. Based on stories by John Cunliffe the show was pitched by the BBC to juxtapose their already successful show Pigeon Street that was set in a modern, urban environment. First airing in 1981, Postman Pat was certainly the opposite, set in the charming fictional village of Greendale, it followed the rounds of a postman as he went about delivering letters to an array of colourful characters. Once more Ivor designed and directed the series pulling inspiration from his years working on many a successful show. He introduced, his now trademark, papier-mache heads and large hands and it really seems like the culmination of a life’s work all rolled up into one production.
Again, much like The Wombles, merchandising was to be a key factor within Woodland. Postman Pat became an instant success and proved fruitful with many marketing companies, releasing further stories in book form and plethora of toys, clothes, videos and much more. The show went on to be broadcast in over 40 languages and particularly in Ivor’s second home of France as Pat became a teacher of the English language.
Postman Pat’s success deservedly put Woodland Animations and Ivor Wood’s work firmly on the map. However as the studio began to progress the success of future shows never really rivalled that of Pat’s endeavours. During the production of Pat, Woodland created a series called Gran which retained the same warm cosy feel that Pat and his previous shows had had. Set this time in a more urban environment it was perhaps a parallel to its predecessor centred around only two characters, Gran and her grandson Jim. The show only ran for a single series starting in 1982 and only saw it being repeated a handful of times over the rest of the decade. Like-wise Ivor and Woodlands next show Bertha, only ran for a single series. Shown just before 4 o’clock on the BBC it was again set in an urban environment following the everyday lives of factory workers and their production machine Bertha. Unlike Gran there were a lot more characters involved and seemed more in tune with Wood’s ideals. The 13 episodes were shown in sporadic segments spanning 2 re-runs where further unseen episodes were tagged onto the end of each run. After three productions based on day to day living it was time for Ivor to express his more creative and surreal side and this came in the form of one Charlie Chalk.
As well as being Ivor’s most weird and wonderful work it was also to be his last. Whilst it was the only show that Ivor personally created from scratch it was written by, now renowned writer Jocelyn Stevenson and first aired in 1987, running for only one series of 13 episodes. It did however prove to be Woodlands most successful show since Postman Pat, allowing him to go out with a bang. It’s surreal and extraordinary wealth of characters were solid to Ivor’s style and design and much like Postman Pat was a culmination of a life’s work played out in something that was clearly right up Ivor’s street. Much like Pat, long after the series finished production the merchandising and commercial rights benefited it’s producer and later on it’s new owners.
After Charlie Chalk Ivor decided that he would sell up and relax into retirement and in 2001 Ivor and Josiane sold up Woodland Animations to the tune of £5.1m. This figure included the rights to all their shows including their big success Postman Pat and was bought by Entertainment Rights. Sadly his retirement did not last long and on October 13th 2004 Ivor Wood sadly passed away leaving a legacy that not only shaped the animation industry but nearly every British child, and adult for many generations. In appreciation of his work his friends and colleagues took out a full page in Broadcast magazine reading You will be missed. Your legacy will remain in children’s hearts for all time.”.His work is still remembered and paved the way for new series’ of Postman Pat, a film of the latter and of The Magic Roundabout and Paddington. His work will always be remembered and so too should the man.