This afternoon came with some very sad news, Michael Bond the creator of Paddington Bear and The Herbs has died aged 91 following a short illness. Best know for writing, nurturing and bringing to life Britains favourite bear, Paddington, he has bought joy to millions of children and adults across the globe. The Paddington stories have never been out of print since their first publication in 1958 and have spawned many further creations including a hugely successful film, of which a sequel is being created as we speak, and more fondly a stop motion children’s show in 1975.
Back in 1965 Michael was working as a cameraman for the BBC with a yearning passion for writing and storytelling. This passion and his BBC contacts lead him to write bits and pieces for the channel. It was this writing that peaked the interest of then head of BBC children’s television, Monica Simms. She, impressed by Michael’s ability approached Graham Clutterbuck who was the producer over at, production company, FilmFair. She approached him not with an idea but with a man.
It was here that he first met Ivor Wood who would become a crucial collaborator and later, dear friend. Ivor at the time was still living in Paris but this didn’t stop Michael immediately getting to work, eventually coming up with the concept for The Herbs. The show was a huge success after it’s first broadcast in 1968, leading to a spin off show ‘The Adventures of Parsley’ and thus spawning the start of a very fruitful partnership in Ivor, Graham and Michael. Here in Michael’s own words, he describes their next project…Paddington.
“In 1975 Ivor came to see me with the news that, “To tell you the truth, I’ve been playing around with an idea for filming Paddington.” When Ivor said “To tell you the truth …”, you knew that’s what you were getting – the truth, pure and simple – and so I was very happy to realise my stories of the bear from Peru in a new medium with him.
His idea was to combine a three-dimensional puppet Paddington with two-dimensional cardboard backgrounds and supporting cast, with Paddington the one colourful character set against muted backgrounds, rather like an early Peter Brook stage set. It sounds simple now, but at the time it was a groundbreaking departure, and it worked.
They were happy days; not always carefree, but certainly fulfilling, and I always felt very privileged to be involved in it.”
Their continued friendship over the years led to the creation of a second series of Paddington and a series of specials featuring that famous Singing in the Rain parody in Paddington Goes to the Movies. As well as this there were illustrative collaborations for both The Herbs and Paddington in the form of story books and Paddington cartoon strips that were printed in the London Evening News.
Michael was very particular in how his penned creations were portrayed, turning down a Paddington theatre show, films and and even an Ivor pitched 2D cartoon. His attention to detail, much like Ivor’s, shines through in his TV and illustrative work. Each collaboration is true to character and perfectly portrays their written counter-part.
Michaels writing was in a style that never looked down on it’s audience, straight talking and at times blunt but always with a dash of humour and frivolity. He will be best remembered for Paddington Bear but his writing (and animation) career started with The Herbs, proving that writers and film-makers can work work harmoniously and successfully together.
In the words of Ivor’s wife Josiane, who knew the pair well, it is now “certainly the end of an era”. Although Ivor Wood, Graham Clutterbuck and Michael Bond have now passed on, the old friends have not just left some incredible works but also a legacy that will continue to be shared, enjoyed and cherished for generations to come. Michael Bond was a true storyteller and someone that has warmed the hearts of so many with his tales of that little bear from Peru.
“I don’t worry about death. I sort of feel it’s good to get to 91 and I can’t complain. And I hope Paddington might come with me, wherever we go. Up or down.”
“It wouldn’t be kind to tell Paddington to come with me if I was going down.”
Michael Bond – April 2017
Michael Bond died 28th June 2017 aged 91