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.
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.
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.