The Magic Roundabout Behind the Scenes

The Magic Roundabout studio - September 1964

The Magic Roundabout studio – September 1964

I’ve been meaning to show some of these amazing photos for a long time. A huge thanks to Tony Clark who is a follower of the blog for these incredible finds. After scouring ebay he managed to gain some negatives of the sets and production of the original Magic Roundabout series shot in Paris! Over the next few posts I’ll be sharing some of my favourites with you and we can witness Ivor, Serge and the team all hard at work bringing the magic to life.

To start things off I’ve include two photos. The first one, above, is how the set looked as the crew animated the show, which obviously would have included Ivor. What is amazing to see is the vivid, striking colours that are presented, bearing in mind the original airings were all in black and white. The attention to detail to make sure that each character and prop stood out when translated into black and white would have been a real technical achievement. Notice how a lot of the characters are in high contrast, for example the difference in tone on Ermintrude between her pink and red body.

It’s also interesting to note the shallow depth that it was filmed at as the sky background is very close to the front edge of the set. To achieve an increased depth the camera would have had to have been given a large aperture in order to blur out more of the background thus creating an illusion of a larger world.

Ivor Wood and Serge Danot checking The Magic Roundabout props - 4th June 1965

Ivor Wood and Serge Danot checking The Magic Roundabout props – 4th June 1965

This idea of forced perspective can again be seen in the photo above showing Ivor Wood and Serge Danot checking through The Magic Roundabout props. If you look closely you’ll notice that there are two roundabouts. One larger and one smaller. The larger one would have been used for close and medium shots as in the first image, whilst the smaller one would have been used in long distance or to have far away in the background. As Tony has also pointed out to us it would have been likely used to take press shots with all the characters in, allowing the roundabout to be in the background and fully seen. Obviously this is perfect for forced perspective giving an increased depth to the whole production.

Also if you look closely on the shelves you’ll see an array of different props including some umbrellas (top right), a theatre set (middle left), some benches and coat stand (middle right) and possibly some really small trees next to Ivor’s left leg.

Well I hope you enjoyed those photos as much as I did. There are some more to show you all so keep those peepers peeled for the next post!

IVOR WOOD: A CELEBRATION AT THE BFI – A REVIEW

Last Sunday myself, Joseph Wallace and Ivor’s son Sean had the pleasure of celebrating Ivor Wood’s work at the BFI Southbank. Huge thanks to everyone that came down and it was great to meet some people who followed the blog. It was great to meet people like Kevin who I’d spoken to in the comments and put faces to names.

Ivor Wood: A Celebration - BFI Southbank

Ivor Wood: A Celebration – BFI Southbank

The whole event was really well organised and compered by Justin Johnson. Unlike the Manchester event last year we included episodes of Ivor’s work inbetween the talk. We were first joined on screen by The Herbs, The Wombles, Paddington and Postman Pat before Joseph got up and gave us all a run through of Ivor’s career. In 10 quick minutes he managed to detail Ivor’s beginnings at La Comete and the Magic Roundabout through to his time at FilmFair then onto his own studio Woodland Animations. As he rounded up we were treated to episodes from Gran, Bertha and Charlie Chalk before we all took to the stage for a Q&A.

Ivor Wood: A Celebration - BFI Southbank

Ivor Wood: A Celebration – BFI Southbank

Compered by Justin we talked about what Ivor meant to us as fans and Sean gave some really great detail in what it was like growing up with an animation studio beneath his house. As he explained it was very much the norm and when asked what his dad did for a living he would reply “he plays with dolls”. Sean went onto explain the very different personalities that Ivor had, one being very shy, especially in the limelight but mostly a very eccentric and creative man.

Sadly we weren’t able to film this event as before but we do have the moment a very special guest joined us on stage thanks to my wife. What talk on Ivor Wood would be complete without an appearance from one of his best loved creations…Parsley. Carried all the way from his home in South London by Sean he was revealed to the audience to great applause. This then sparked a great conversation piece where we discuss how the puppet moves and how parts of the sets were made. You can watch it below:

 

Thanks again to all that came and for those that didn’t we’ll hopefully see you at another event, as I’m sure they’ll be more! I’ll be back to the blog next time so keep those peepers peeled. 

Ivor Wood: A Celebration at the BFI

Hello Ivor Wood fans, I have some exciting news! On Sunday 26th August at 1pm there will be a celebration of Ivor Wood’s work and career at the BFI Southbank, London!

Ivor Wood: A Celebration - BFI Southbank 26th August 2018

Ivor Wood: A Celebration – BFI Southbank 26th August 2018

Hosted by the BFI the panel will include Ivor Wood expert Joseph Wallace, Ivor’s son Sean and myself. We’ll be talking all about Ivor’s work and long lasting career in stop-motion animation. Everything will be covered from his days at La Comete in Paris working on the Magic Roundabout all the way through to Woodland Animations and some sneak peaks at some ideas that never quite saw the light of day.

If you missed the great talk we all did at Manchester Animation Festival last November then make sure you grab a ticket for this at https://whatson.bfi.org.uk. There are still some left so we hope to see some of you there

The talk will be a part of the BFI’s animation season, which covers a plethora of animation events, screenings and talks. August is all about Children’s TV and boy do the Brits to it well. Here’s a bit from the BFI about what they are looking to achieve:

Not Just For Adults (August)

“He has bequeathed us a rich legacy of programmes that will continue to be shown for many years to come, all bearing his unique touch”
Michael Bond on Ivor Wood

The UK is envied across the world for its high-quality animated TV shows – Justin Johnson and Jez Stewart present a month of children’s animation.

Much of our focus so far has concentrated on work made by independent pioneers or experimental artists, so this month we look at an area more commonly associated with quality British animation: animation for children, and in particular for TV. As well as having a nostalgia moment as we revisit the great work of stop-motion director Ivor Wood – who produced many beloved shows such as Postman Pat and The Magic Roundabout – we also look at the companies who have taken Wood’s baton to ensure a new generation are well served. Karrot Animation, Blue Zoo and Studio AKA are just three of many UK animation studios thriving in this area.

Justin Johnson and Jez Stewart

It’s going to be a fantastic event to be a part of and really nice to celebrate Ivor’s career in the city he called home. It’ll also be great to have Ivor’s son Sean on the panel ready to give an insight into his fathers life and what it was like to live with a sometimes quite eccentric creator.

Hope to see you all there and if you do pop down then come say hi!

POSTMAN PAT ORIGINAL CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS – PART 3

Finally it’s time for me to get part 3 over to you of the Postman Pat descriptions. Let’s delve in with some of Greendales best loved, yet secondary characters.

Dr Sylvia Gilbertson - Postman Pat

Dr Sylvia Gilbertson – 35 – She holds a surgery three days a week in Garner Bridge and drives about the valley in a bright new yellow Renault visiting patients. She also does some work in the small hospital and maternity unit in Pencaster and delivers many of the Greendale babies. She is capable and efficient with a reassuringly competent “no nonsense” manner. She also has a good singing voice and is an important member of the Pencaster Amateur Operatic Society. Her husband, also a doctor, has a thriving practice in Pencaster and her daughter, Sarah, goes to the village school in Garner bridge.

Well nobody can doubt that Dr Gilbertson has a backstory, it’s got lot’s of detail. We sadly never get to see her in her ‘yellow Renault’ and I don’t believe that she ever delivers a baby, so we’ll have to take author John Cunliffe’s word for that. However an interesting note is that she was actually called Nurse Gilbertson in a previous version and was joined by a Dr Pepperell. So let me introduce the good doctor and nurse to you:

Nurse Gilbertson – 37 – District Nurse. Drives an old Morris Miner and has delivered every baby in the valley for the past fifteen years. Capable and efficient, she stands no nonsense from young or old. She inspects children at the village school and runs the clinic with Dr Pepperell in Garner Bridge.

Dr Pepperill – 41 – More interested in hunting and Gilbert and Sullivan than medicine but is a good friend and advisor to all who know him. A strong member of the Pencaster Amateur Operatic Society and a J.P.A waggish humourist.

Well there we are. Now we know why he wasn’t included, he’s got no interest in medicine. Ideal for a doctor! However Gilbertson takes on his operatic talents and retains her demeanour, even gaining an upgrade in car.

Reverent Peter Timms - Postman Pat

The Reverent Peter Timms – 61 – Vicar of St Thomas’, Garner Bridge with a small sister chapel at High Thwaites also in his care. A comfortable fellow he looks very like John Betjeman and is well fitted to a rural parish. Miss Hubbard often bullies him into organising much more than he has wish to do.

Not quite sure Ivor carried over the look-a-like to the puppets design as I don’t remember Betjemen having curly grey hair and round glasses. However we once again get a really great insight into his life and also a mention of a new place, High Thwaites, which helps to broaden the area around Greendale. Also nice to see some character interplay with Miss Hubbard, seems very typical behaviour of her.

Sam Waldron - Postman Pat

Sam Waldren – 28 – Mobile shop owner. He lives in Pencaster and visits Greendale two or three times a week. A town man with town ways he could never live in Greendale. Smartly dressed, toothbrush moustache, likes going to the races. Quick, knowing and something of a fixer.

I was excited to see Sam’s name in the documents as he’s always intrigued me and the description doesn’t disappoint. He seems a bit of a chancer and very much a ‘townie’. Ivor really captured his essence in his model.

Well that’s it for the character descriptions. Quite the run through and quite the detail. It’s really nice to see that the majority of the written word seems to translate into the show. It really goes to show how meticulous Ivor was in trying to bring to life stories and characters that went far beyond mere puppets on screen. Ivor and John Cunliffe’s partnership, much like Michael Bonds before, go beyond animation to create a world and sense of belonging that these characters inhabit.

I’ll leave you with some notes below from John as he came to the decision on the children’s names and who should attend the school. He was very aware that they should be linked to adults from the village and not just a random bunch of students.

Bill Thompson, Charlie Pringle, Sarah Gilbertson, Lucy Selby, Tom and Katy Pottage - Postman Pat

Bill Thompson – To be reduced in age to 11.

Charlie Pringle  – 9 – son of the headmaster. A boy of many hobbies and interests – the school “brains” and amateur scientist.

Lucy Selby – 7 – the policeman’s daughter. A quiet, dreamy child. You never can tell what she is thinking.

Sarah Gilbertson – 8 – Lively, bouncy and inquisitive.

Tom and Katy Pottage – Twins aged 6.

Pat and Parsley make Radio Times Top 50

Happy New Year to one and all and what a start to the year. This week The Radio Times announced the Top 50 Greatest Children’s TV Shows of all time and you guessed it Ivor’s work makes not 1 but 3 appearances!

RadioTimes Front Cover - 13-19 January 2018

After all these years Postman Pat is still grabbing the headlines and holding the front page! Firstly it’s so great to see a couple of early publicity shots both on the cover and inside from Series 2. The latter being a great picture from the “Postman Pat Follows a Trail” episode. As you’ll find out below Postman Pat comes 26 out of 50 in the poll so just under halfway. A true testament to Ivor’s endearing work. Also following close behind is The Adventures of Parsley at no. 27. If I’m being honest an odd choice compared to that of the original Herbs or perhaps even The Wombles or Magic Roundabout but nonetheless Ivor’s work once more takes centre stage.

Radio Times - Top 50 Greatest Children's TV Shows - 13-19 January 2018

Radio Times – Top 50 Greatest Children’s TV Shows – 13-19 January 2018

Radio Times - Top 50 Greatest Children's TV Shows - 13-19 January 2018

Radio Times – Top 50 Greatest Children’s TV Shows – 13-19 January 2018

As if this wasn’t enough The Magic Roundabout even gets a little mention from Radio Times Editor Alison Graham. Placing it no. 2 in her Top 5 speaking about how it was “adored by all the family…thanks to Eric Thompson’s charming funny, knowing, surreal narration”.  Not only is Ivor represented through his shows but it is worth pointing out that it’s his whole career that is celebrated from start to finish. The Magic Roundabout being his first creation and Postman Pat Series 2 being the last thing he ever did. Just goes to show that Ivor’s talent and dedication never wavered throughout his 30+ year career, still enabling him to deliver timeless shows time and time again.

With a panel of experts from all fields of Children’s TV including Noel Edmonds, Peter Purves, Joe Godwin and David Walliams it’s so great to see Ivor’s work being celebrated once more. It’s also a lovely segway into what I hope will be a good few months celebrating everyones favourite postman. I’ve finally got all the permissions I need to write up the next few articles so I look forward to sharing lot’s of new things with you in the coming weeks.

 

IVOR WOOD AT MANCHESTER ANIMATION FESTIVAL – PART 2

Merry Christmas everybody! As a Christmas gift to you please find a link and the film below of ‘The World of Ivor Wood at Manchester Animation Festival’. In case you missed out on last times post, Joseph Wallace,Ivor’s wife Josiane and I recently got together to talk about Ivor’s career at this years Manchester Animation Festival curated by Steve Henderson. It was a pleasure to see such a packed theatre and to spread some light on the plethora of work that Ivor accomplished over his career.

Sadly there was no professional filming at the event so you’ll have to do with my camera and my good friend Rach’s phone. The camera stopped a couple of times so you’ll see a couple of cuts and change of angle towards the end. Please bear with.

Hope you enjoy the talk below:

Ivor Wood at Manchester Animation Festival – Part 1

Thanks so much for everyones amazing support and excitement about The World of Ivor Wood panel at this years Manchester Animation Festival. As you’ll all know last Thursday at 10am myself, Joseph Wallace and Josiane Wood sat with festival host Steve Henderson and embarked on an hour long presentation remembering all the amazing work that Ivor produced over his long and illustrious career.

The World of Ivor Wood panel at Manchester Animation Festival 2017

The World of Ivor Wood panel at Manchester Animation Festival 2017 – (From LtoR) Joseph Wallace, Josiane Wood, Tom Sanders and Steve Henderson

To say we were nervous would be a understatement. We all remarked that it was like the night before an exam on the Wednesday evening. All that myself and Joseph had learnt and all that Josiane had experienced was being put to the test. As the room on Thursday started to fill up we were overwhelmed by the turn out. None of us knew what to expect and to see so many eager people flooding into Cinema 1 was just awesome, in the true sense of the word.

Postman Pat and Jess and the original Jess the Cat - Manchester Animation Festival 2017

Postman Pat and Jess and the original Jess the Cat – Manchester Animation Festival 2017

As well as us at the front we were joined by some of Ivor’s best loved creations. On loan from Mackinnon and Saunders, the leading puppet creators in the UK, were the original Jess the Cat, some of Ivor’s head design explorations and Pat and Jess from the new series of the show. Last but by no means least we had the mighty Parsely from The Herbs join us, only revealing himself when his show came up in conversation, much to the audiences delight.

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The World of Ivor Wood panel at Manchester Animation Festival 2017 – Charlie Chalk presentation

The talk lasted longer than expected, stretching over the scheduled hour as we poured over Ivor’s career. Everything from his days at La Comete and The Magic Roundabout, through to The Wombles and Paddington and finally finishing with Woodlands creations, Postman Pat and Charlie Chalk. Along the way we peppered our slides with never before seen backstage photographs, stills from the shows and clips from Ivor’s work with the famed Ronald Searle. It was a pure delight seeing the array of projects up on the BIG screen and great to share some stories from Ivor’s career with a new audience.

As the panel ended it was a pleasure to meet people who follow the blog and others who beamed with surprise at the fact one man produced so many iconic shows in his lifetime. Everyone was reminiscing about their childhood, remembering with fondness how the shows were the highlight of their afternoons. Many even saying that it was Ivor’s work that propelled them into animation.

No sooner had the talk finished than Joseph Wallace’s retrospective started up in the adjacent cinema. A comprehensive collection of an episode of all of Ivor’s shows (sadly apart from The Magic Roundabout due to complicated rights). This went down a storm with many of the talks audience sitting down once more for a trip down memory lane.

Meet The Herbs at Manchester Animation Festival 2017

Meet The Herbs at Manchester Animation Festival 2017 – (LtoR) Parsely, Sage, Sir Basil and Dill

As if that wasn’t enough of an Ivor Wood packed morning, we had one more surprise in store for the plucky festival goer…Meet The Herbs. At 1pm the doors were opened into the event space and in flocked a mass of people all eager to catch a glimpse and selfie with The Herbs puppets. The reaction to seeing these puppets in ‘the flesh’ was again slightly overwhelming. People were chattering away, remembering episodes and asking questions. It was so wonderful to see how a show first broadcast in the 1960s was still relevant and just as fondly thought of as it was back then.

For me the opportunity to do a panel of this sort on Ivor Wood’s work was truly special. It was the first one of it’s kind dedicated to Ivor and one that was much overdue. I feel it helped to gain a larger and more appreciative audience to Ivor’s work and most importantly help people join the dots and link together all the shows that he created and the fact that it was his creative mind that formed them all.

This is only part 1 of my report on The World of Ivor Wood at Manchester Animation Festival as there is so much more to discuss and share with you. This includes a videoing of the entire talk by a good friend of mine, Rachel Crook. I’m editing it down as we speak so expect that in the coming weeks. For now I hope you enjoy the above and all the images that come with it.

Thanks again for everyones support on the blog, as if it wasn’t for your keen interest this panel would have been a lot harder to make happen.