Charlie Chalk and The Buttercup – Ivor Woods model mock up

It was the mid to late 80’s when the time came for Ivor to develop his personal favourite of all his many creations, Charlie Chalk. Charlie really embodied everything Ivor had been working on throughout his career. It featured his most colourful characters to date and everyone with a unique personality and look. None more so than the very officiant and often demanding Captain Mildred.

Captain Mildred as we all know lived solo, aboard the good ship Buttercup. She was later joined by first mate Mary the Hover Fairy who if I’m not mistaken was one of Ivor’s favourite characters. However it is The Buttercup that we’ll be discussing today as in a bookshelf nook at Josiane, Ivor’s wife’s, house lives the first incarnation of the ship to be.

Original mock-up model of The Buttercup. Made by Ivor Wood for Charlie Chalk

Original mock-up model of The Buttercup. Made by Ivor Wood for Charlie Chalk

Original mock-up model of The Buttercup. Made by Ivor Wood for Charlie Chalk

Original mock-up model of The Buttercup. Made by Ivor Wood for Charlie Chalk

As you’ll see from the shots  above Ivor’s original design doesn’t change in the slightest as we go to the final design, even leaving that dented chimney in tact. This mock-up was used by Ivor in order to let the lead prop maker know exactly what he wanted and at the time and through a lot of Woodland Animations that was the job of Brian Driver. It seems however that Ivor had a distinct control over the final look as they are near enough identical in mock-up and final execution. As well as mock-up for Buttercup Ivor also made a similar type model for the one and only Bertha, which shows Ivor’s true eye for unique design. Unfortunately the model has been all but lost, but we still have the shows right?

I hope this post was of interest to all you Woodland fans out there. There was request for more Bertha posts after our run on Paddington Bear so I’ll see what I can do. There are a few bits and pieces on Bertha but not that much at this stage so you may have to wait patiently. 

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Ivor Wood’s Paddington Bear Puppet

Thanks everyone for staying tuned for this 2 month special, albeit a little 2 week break, on Paddington Bear. It’s been a really interesting ride with lots of different areas to cover from Ivor’s illustrations to Paddingtons clothing patterns. We’ve heard from lot’s of people including Barry Leith, Barry Macey and Josiane Wood, so thanks to everyone for their contributions. It has all culminated to this end point where we are proud to show you Paddington Bear himself!

Children avert your eyes as Paddington Bear is in the all together. Many, many thanks to Karen Jankel, the daughter of Michael Bond, for these wonderful photos of the nations favourite bear. Over the last few months I’ve been in regular contact with Karen and she’s been  most helpful in providing me with extra information on the animated, and not forgetting illustrated, world of Paddington. As we spoke she mentioned that Paddingtons creator and her father Michael Bond had the original Ivor Wood puppet at his house. With this she sent me through some photos and what a wonderful treat it was to see the little guy up and about.

This is indeed the exact same puppet that was used throughout the entirety of the first series and the beginning of the second. It is not confirmed but Barry Leith thinks he remembers Ivor making a second puppet for the second series if not the specials.

Ivor Wood's original puppet of Paddington Bear

Ivor Wood’s original puppet of Paddington Bear

He may look a little ragged now but after 40 years in a box what do you expect. Despite his first appearance, Paddington is in relatively good condition. We can still see his little button nose and stitched paws so precisely and lovingly detailed by Ivor. He appears to still have good movement as you can see from his expressive pose below. Paddington would have been created using ball and socket joints with ball bearings providing the ease of movement. There were no ready made kits in those days so Ivor would have made them all by hand and specific to every puppet. Something that is striking is that he looks so much like a teddy bear when all de-clothed. His fur is wrapped all around his body and not just in the visible parts we see in the show. Ivor’s attention to detail is flawless and it’s certainly helped to preserve Paddington Bear all these long years.

Ivor Wood's original puppet of Paddington Bear

Ivor Wood’s original puppet of Paddington Bear

It’s been an amazing few months and the pressure is now on to follow up with some more goodies. If anyone has a favourite show they’d like to see written about then just let me know.

Paddington Bears TV show clothing patterns

By 1972 Ivor had already created a 2D test version of Paddington Bear only to be turned down by Michael Bond as not quite right. Undeterred Ivor went back to the drawing board and created a new style that was his most inventive to date. The stop-motion show that we’ve all come to love.

Paddington Bear TV show clothing patterns

Paddington Bear TV show clothing patterns

It’s with many thanks from Ivor’s wife Josiane that we can share with you some of Ivor’s intricate, delicate and wonderful clothing patterns of Paddington’s jacket, hat, hood and even hands! It’s an amazing and rare opportunity to see these designs and the fact that they still exist in a little envelope in the mist of Josiane’s loft is brilliant news.

Ivor was an absolute perfectionist and we can see this in the way he goes about his designs above. Everything is precisely measured out and analysed to make sure that it fits perfectly. He even went to the great lengths of creating little coat hangars for the clothes and giving them a wash every now and then to make sure all his characters were looking their best.

As we draw to the end of this 2 month long special on Paddington Bear we have one final post to come. It’s going to be a BIG one, so look out for it.

Technical side of Paddington

After the success of Michael Bond and Ivor Wood’s first venture ‘The Herbs’, it was only a matter of time before another spark was ignited. After The Herbs Ivor moved to London with FilmFair and created the most successful British animation to that date, The Wombles. As the first series drew to a close he handed animation duties over to animator Barry Leith, focusing his attention on a new project, animating Paddington Bear.

Ivor was not one to rest on his laurels and was always seeking a new challenge, wanting to continually push boundaries. After approaching Michael Bond with his concept for Paddington they decided to go full steam ahead with Michael expressing his pleasure in a letter to the Head of Children’s programmes at the BBC, Monica Simms that Ivor had “come up with a very exciting and visually effective way of presenting the Paddington stories”

Lighting Paddington. Image sourced from Animator Mag, Winter 1982

Lighting Paddington. Image sourced from Animator Mag, Winter 1982

The technique as many will be aware was revolutionary within children’s programmes and commercial animation as a whole. Having 2D paper cut outs for 90% of the show with only Paddington and his personal objects being created as 3D models, the production method was ambitious and risky, having never been attempted within such tight production schedules and budgets. In many ways it was economical in that the sets could be quickly created and changed but aesthetics such as the lighting and the marrying of 2D and 3D was to be a tough technical challenge for all involved. We can see it in the image above how there were lots of bright white card layers to light correctly. Having this abundance of reflective 2D layers made it a great challenge to create the right depth and shadows. Once more Ivor knew it was going to be difficult but as always was looking at the end result, knowing that it would be entirely worth it in the end. Animator on the second series and specials, Barry Leith goes on to explain the image in an article for Animator Mag, winter 1982, “I wouldn’t say I was the best lighting cameraman in the world. I use things such as cut out shapes in front of a lamp to make the lighting look more interesting. It looks like the sun coming through trees rather than being splashed with light“.

Paddington and the Brown family. Image sourced from www.paddington.com

Paddington and the Brown family. Image sourced from http://www.paddington.com

This technical and artistic challenge wasn’t to show off the talents of Ivor and the team at FilmFair but was an ingenious aesthetic choice to express Paddingtons character. From the moment we meet him he is an outsider, sent from Peru by his Aunt Lucy and in need of being looked after. To all those around him he is different. It is therefore a clever decision by Ivor to make Paddington the only 3D character within the show. This, from the get go, reveals him as a singularity, an oddity, helping us all to sympathise with his endless misunderstandings and calamities. And obviously he’s a teddy bear at heart so it’s great to have him looking cuddly.

Paddington must have felt like a risk for all involved from Graham Clutterbuck at FilmFair, Monica Simms at the BBC and Michael Bond himself after a run of failings bringing Paddington to the screen.The unwavering and ambitious Ivor Wood was not deterred and along with his infectious optimism and backing of all those around him he created a programme that not only surpassed all other screen incarnations of Paddington but perhaps created one of the most definitive characterisations of the famed bear from Peru.

Quotes taken from the following sources:
Letter from Michael Bond to Monica Simms, 31st January 1974. BBC Written Archives
Barry Leith interview by David Jefferson for Animator Mag, Winter 1982