Picture the year it’s 1994 and Ivor Wood is finishing up at Woodland Animations. At Woodland alone he’s created the hugely successful Postman Pat along with Gran, Bertha and fan favourite Charlie Chalk. As he began to wind down to retirement the BBC reared their head and persuaded a reluctant Ivor to produce a second series of Postman Pat. As usual Ivor looked to fresh talent to animate Pat and looked to a young George Laban to fill this role, as George goes onto explain:
I went to Manchester poly and did my degree there and then took my first job at Bumper films.When I was just finishing there I sent my CV out to loads of people and got a phone call from Ivor asking “Have you ever heard of Postman Pat?”. Funnily I got two offers at the same time, one for Molly’s Gang based in Clerkenwell Studios, so I went for interviews for both on the same day. I got both jobs but took the chance to work for Ivor.
Georges decision led him to start work with Ivor in January 1995 at Woodland Animation’s studio in Fulham. This was a change for George in terms of studio set up. (You can see an earlier post on this here and see Ivor’s letter to George offering him the job).
It was a very small studio about 20ft square. We had a set in the middle on a big table with access down one side and the other. We hung all the houses on the walls down the side and a chap called Ian Jones, who was production manager, helped me set up and make the props. He’d been to the same college as me so he knew me well. It was the three of us eventually that would set up, Ivor, Ian and I. All the props were in boxes piled on the sides, with no order to them. A lot of times parents used to write in and say “Why has Granny Dryden got the same furniture as mrs so and so?” This was because when we set up we’d have the rough layout of the rooms and just dress it with anything that came out of the box.
It was a little cottage industry, everyone in that little room. We’d have Ian in there smoking his roll ups, so the room would be full of smoke. Then there was a little corridor with a room for the toilet and another for a coffee machine. Then Ivor had his little office. He’d be on his pipe so it would get quite smokey but it was nice. You’d go in and they’d be no sort of regime, you came in and then left when you were done. It was all really relaxed and that was probably because Ivor had had enough it all. He’d always be saying “Oh I’m fed up of all this” but you knew deep down that he liked it.
Georges relationship with Ivor and Ian truly made for a family atmosphere. George was the only animator working on the second series so much different to todays high production costs and employees. We have more from George next time where he’ll be speaking all about the animation process. For now though I’ll leave him with the last word.
Ivor really looked after us, even after the production was over. He was a really genuine bloke, who took a risk with me, who’d barely done any production animation. It took me the first episode to get into the flow of things and Ivor said he amazed that I’d even managed to get Pats limp into it. But I don’t think it was deliberate it was because one of the puppet legs was slightly longer that the other.
[All quotes are from George Laban]