Uncle Bulgaria and animator Barry Leith

Barry Leith at home with Uncle Bulgaria

Barry Leith at home with Uncle Bulgaria

Here’s a quick teaser for my interview with Barry Leith coming soon, where he talks about how The Wombles first came to be and all those early days.

The photo above was given to me by Barry on our meet up and shows him sat along side the ever respectable Uncle Bulgaria. Barry went onto divulge how he came to have the original puppet and the constant care and attention it needs to stay looking the way it does.

It was towards the end of Barry’s time working for FilmFair that he got the opportunity to take Buglaria home. By this point Ivor had already left FilmFair after finishing up on Paddington and Simon and the Land of Chalk Drawings and was pursuing pastures new at Woodland Animations. Barry however stayed on for one last show and worked on the production for Portland Bill. As he was finishing up and packing his things together he stumbled across a box stuffed full of Wombles sets and puppets. As any good animator and model maker he knew that they couldn’t just be left there.

After a few hours he’d de-assembled them, cleaned all their joints and put them back together again. In the mind of making sure they’d be looked after he went and spoke to the man in charge, Graham Clutterbuck, explaining that they should really be in a museum or at least stored somewhere safer. As usual Graham muttered something under his breath and came back with the offer of giving Uncle Bulgaria to Barry for all his hard work over the years. Whether he was overwhelmed by the generosity or felt it a lost cause Barry took Bulgaria and left the studio. Every few years hence Barry methodically takes Bulgaria apart and gives him a good clean. The main reason being the foam is sadly starting to react with the metal joints and disintegrate so it’s vital to make sure everything is spick and span in order to best preserve the little guy.

To this day the Wombles puppets are still not all accounted for but hopefully with the aid of this blog and others we can track them all down.


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