Voice of Postman Pat, Ken Barrie dies aged 73

Ken Barrie the voice of Postman Pat sadly passed away yesterday aged 73 after a battle with cancer. It was an announcement that many of us will be saddened by and a voice that many of us grew up with, helping shape Ivor Wood and John Cunliffes’ Postman Pat.

Ken Barrie the voice of Postman Pat - Image taken from bbc.co.uk - BBC/LORRAINE HULME PETERSON

Ken Barrie the voice of Postman Pat – Image taken from bbc.co.uk – BBC/LORRAINE HULME PETERSON

Ken’s voice of Postman Pat was a comforting one that children and indeed parents alike had grown up with for generations and one that still, at least for me, brings back countless fond memories. As well as Pat he also voiced all the other characters in series 1, finally being joined in series 2 by Carole Boyd in 1991. Ken along with acting out the array of characters such as Ted Glen, Mrs Hubbard and Mrs Goggin’s also got the task of singing that oh so catchy theme song written by Brian Daly. Its familiar upbeat folky rhythm perfectly suited Ken’s warming tones and set the scene perfectly for a relaxing jaunt through the Yorkshire Dales.

Ivor’s wife Josiane remembers Ken as “thoroughly nice chap” and someone they were put in contact with through Brian Daly. After writing the theme tune for Pat, Brian called upon Ken Barrie to sing the opening number. It was this connection that Josiane recalls being the reason they used Ken to be the voice actor. As well voicing the character and singing the theme tune he also lent himself to the other songs in the episodes, such as ‘Handyman Song’ and ‘Jess the Cat’.

Not content with using Ken only on Postman Pat, Ivor and the team at Woodland also used him to sing the opening song to Charlie Chalk. This time written by Mike Redway it was Ken that helped to cement the same comforting feel to what would be Woodlands last original creation.

It is very sad news to hear about the passing of such a talent but Ken Barrie’s voice will be remembered for countless generations to come in the form of everyones favourite Yorkshire Postman.

 

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Storyboarding Postman Pat Series 2

After hearing all about George Laban’s time animating Postman Pat Series 2 I couldn’t help but show you these little rarities from Ivor Wood’s wife Josianes’ personal collection.

Obviously before you start out and animate you need something to animate to and it was Ivor’s job to produce the storyboards for the Woodland shows to hand to the animators to work from. Below we see an example of the first two shots from Episode 2 of Series 2. The episode was entitled “Postman Pat and the Suit of Armour” and revolved around the public opening of Major Forbes, Garner Hall. It was Ted Glens job to buff up and make good it’s suit of armour and after trying it on for size he gets somewhat stuck, leaving only one man to get him out.

Ivor Wood storyboard panel - Postman Pat Episode 2, Series 2 - Postman Pat and the Suit of Armour

Ivor Wood storyboard panel – Postman Pat Episode 2, Series 2

Ivor Wood storyboard panel Sc2 - Postman Pat Episode 2, Series 2 - Postman Pat and the Suit of Armour

Ivor Wood storyboard panel Sc2 – Postman Pat Episode 2, Series 2

As you’ll see above they are some great little sketches from Ivor. Very reminiscent of styles he’s used previously in his other illustrative work. It seems to be his more natural way of drawing and one that is a firm favourite with me. These being sketched for the second series clearly allowed Ivor to be more exact with his layouts as he was already fully aware of how things were positioned on set. We can see this in the comparisons between sketch and the show as they look amazingly similar in layout and composition. Even down to Jess poking her head out of the van. Not quite sure that the props ever stayed the same from concept to final as we’ve heard many times before, on a variety of shows, that things were just put here there and everywhere. If it looked good it stayed in, even if it meant characters sharing most of their belongings.

All going well we should have a couple more treats in store from the Postman Pat archive in the coming weeks, then we’ll move onto something else. Who knows what this will be.

POSTMAN PAT SERIES 2 WITH GEORGE LABAN Part 2

Last time we caught up with George Laban he was explaining how he’d worked with Ivor Wood on the second series of Postman Pat. We heard how he’d joined the small team of 3, consisting of himself, Ian Jones and Ivor creating a real family atmosphere. In part 2 we pick up as George goes onto explain the luxury of animating at your own pace.

We were there for 18 months/2 years and it was quite leisurely. It wasn’t as fast as it was on Bob the Builder later on, where it was a ten day turnaround per episode with 6 animators. We would go through the storyboards then set the shot up, the three of us (Ivor Wood, Ian Jones and George) We’d all dress it, it was a bit of a free for all.

However it was back in the days when the monitor only captured the last frame, no live feed. So it was all the old fashioned way and this was the nerve wracking thing about it. You’d shoot 4 minutes or more worth of film and then you’d have to wait to see if it’d had all come out.

Ivor Wood with Mrs Hubbard's bike Courtesy of Toy Trader, March 1996

Ivor Wood with Mrs Hubbard’s bike Courtesy of Toy Trader, March 1996

With the technology being no where near where it is today the process was slow and obviously why the production timescale was so long. George has remarked that it took him at least the 1st episode to get into the swing of things so hopefully the nerves soon wore off and he could really start to enjoy it.

Setting up the shot also meant setting up the camera and Ivor had a very unique piece of kit for the time as George goes onto mention:

There was also this big tower rig that was custom made for Ivor. It was about 8 foot long and about 2.5 foot wide with a tower in the middle. You could go left and right and the camera would go up and down. There was also a tilt on it but we never used that. I can’t remember who had that afterwards, it must have got sold off to someone. When we finished with Ivor in the June I went over to Hot Animation that was just setting up and they were offered a lot of Ivor’s old stuff as he was shutting down.

George Laban animating Postman Pat in a one off special more recently.

George Laban animating Postman Pat in a one off special more recently.

Once set up, the puppets had to adorn the set and it was Georges job to bring them to life, even if it had it’s difficulties:

We used to pin the puppets feet and then snap the pin heads off. We’d then paint the pinheads with a little black marker on his boots so you’d didn’t see the snapped heads. The thing that really got me was the Post Office, as the floor was made of plywood! Try to stick a pin into that! Many pins went through my bloody fingers!

All the puppets were pinned per frame, as we didn’t use magnets due to the floors being fibre board except that Post Office! I know Cosgrove Hall used magnets but Ivor was quite happy doing it this way, making papier mache feet etc.

It seems like a tough old process but one that George speaks about with great passion and one that he wouldn’t have traded for anything. Over his career George went onto animate at Hot Animation, animating their most famous creation Bob the Builder. I’m sure the techniques he learnt with Ivor came in very handy even if they were a tad outdated.

This is sadly all we have from George for now but he has mentioned that he’ll be free for another chat so I’m sure we can ask him a few more questions. If anyone has anything they’d like to ask him on his days at Woodland then please get in touch.