Book Review – The Life and Times of Paddington Bear

We all know the story of how Paddington got his name and how he was found and taken care of by the loving Brown family but how did Paddington come to be in the first place?

The Life and Times of Paddington Bear was published in 1988 and was written by Russell Ash and Paddington author Michael Bond. It features everything from Paddingtons birth, created out of a fondness of Michaels own teddy bear, to the stories, stage and screen and the plethora of merchandise that was spun as the tales became more and more successful.

Stage and screen is obviously where we’ll be drawing our attention as Ivor Wood and FilmFairs depiction of everyones favourite bear was perhaps one his his most famous characterisations. The book features nearly 10 pages on Ivor and the work he did at FilmFair. A mixture of words and pictures it reveals one amazing and rare photograph of Ivor at work on the set of Paddington, on what looks like that ever famous scene of Paddingtons messy introduction to Mr Brown in the station cafe. Also a lovely little illustration of Paddington believed to be an Ivor original.

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

Along with this there are some very kind and praising words written about Ivor’s work on Paddington. Michael Bond was a good friend to Ivor and loved his work so I imagine that this part of the book was heavily authored by him. As the book explains:

Wood’s particular skill, developed in creating these programmes, was that of taking a two-dimensional character and making it into a three-dimensional puppet that could be manipulated and filmed to stimulate movement.

Michael passed the comment that such was the state of Ivor’s art Paddington could do any thing he liked – he could even dance something like ‘Singin’ in the Rain’.

Out of this comment Paddingtons most famous outing developed into 1981’s TV special ‘Paddington Goes to the Movies’ where he sings and dances to Gene Kelly’s famous routine ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. Although animated by Ivor’s no.2 Barry Leith it is a stand out moment in both Paddingtons life and animation as a whole. Although not animating the latter half of the series and specials it was Ivor’s puppet that was so well designed and articulated that enabled everyone who touched him to bring him to life in a way that had never been previously seen.

The model Ivor Wood created was about nine inches high, fully articulated with steel rods and ball-bearing joints. Each finger of his paw moved independently, so that he could clasp objects.

The Life and Times of Paddington Bear is a great read full of insight into the development of one of the nations favourite characters. It reveals Michaels love for Ivor’s work and even greater love for story telling, showing that there was a heart behind Paddington that made everything he did that bit more special. Even though Michael and Ivor had worked before on The Herbs and Adventures of Parsley it was the creation of his most famous and beloved Paddington Bear that really wowed him.

Stop-frame’s principal investment is that of great patience and skill of a man like Ivor Wood – Michael Bond

*All quotes are taken from Life and Times of Paddington Bear by Russell Ash and Michael Bond, 1988

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