Meet The Herbs Puppets

The wait is finally over, here is some VERY exciting news that I’ve been waiting to tell you about for a loooong time. A while ago I was put in touch with Michael Bond’s daughter Karen in the prospect of learning more about Paddington and Michael’s work with Ivor. A call led to her telling me that she had just received a lot of old promo material for Paddington from their copyrighters as they were having a huge clear-out. She explained that there were a few boxes that she thought contained all the puppets from Ivor’s The Herbs series. No sooner had she said this, we’d arranged to meet up and delve into those boxes.

So myself and fellow researcher Joseph Wallace headed into London and below is what we found…

The Herbs puppets - Created by Ivor Wood

The Herbs puppets – Created by Ivor Wood – Parsley, Sage, Dill, Lady Rosemary, Sir Basil, Tarragon, The Onion Family

The Herbs puppets - Created by Ivor Wood

Parsley the Lion and Dill the Dog. Original Herbs puppets created by Ivor Wood.

I think you’ll agree it was an amazing discovery and totally unexpected. The majority of the puppets were there: Sir Basil, Parsley the Lion, Dill the Dog, Sage the Owl, Tarragon Dragon, Lady Rosemary and the gaggle of little Chives. They all seemed in fine condition bearing in mind their age and it was so great to see Ivor’s craftsmen-ship had served to stand the test of time.

Each puppet was lovingly wrapped up in tissue paper and having no prior knowledge as to who we were going to unwrap next it was like Christmas day. As you’ll see each puppet was still able to hold it’s own weight and the majority of their joints were still supple and easy to move. Sir basil was missing his iconic monocle and Parsley’s mane was looking a tad deflated but overall pleasing to see they were all in one piece and being looked after.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be delving into look at the puppets a bit more and have some close up photos of how the puppets were constructed and theories on when they were last used and comparisons to how they looked back in the day.

But thats not all!. 

At Manchester Animation Festival on 16th November you’ll be able to actually meet the puppets themselves. We are getting special permission to take them up to Manchester and let you all take a real life look at them. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity as they have never ever been publicly shown before so get yourself a pass if you can and come meet The Herbs. Myself, Joseph and Ivor’s wife Josiane will also be there to answer all your questions too. You can get tickets and read more about the event here:

http://www.manchesteranimationfestival.co.uk/events/meet-the-herbs/

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Ivor Wood at Manchester Animation Festival

Ivor Wood animating The Wombles - 1970-72

Ivor Wood animating The Wombles (Orinoco, Wellington and Tobermory – 1970-72

Good day to you all. I have some VERY exciting news! As you’ve probably gathered from the title of the post Ivor Wood is being celebrated at the one and only Manchester Animation Festival. Together with organiser Steve Henderson we’ve looked to put together an hour long conversation all about Ivor and his lifetime of work. Along with myself, I’ll be joined by Ivor’s wife Josiane and fellow researcher Joseph Wallace to answer all your questions and celebrate all of Ivor’s grand achievements spanning his whole career from The Magic Roundabout all the way through to Charlie Chalk.

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The event will be happening as part of the 3 day Manchester Animation Festival between the 14th and 16th November 2017. The actual ‘in conversation’ will be happening at 10.15 on 16th November at HOME in Manchester. You can find out more about the speakers and the event in the link below and also you’ll find a link to purchase your tickets!

http://www.manchesteranimationfestival.co.uk/events/world-ivor-wood/

It’s a great honour to be able to put the this event on and really hope to see some of you Ivor Wood fans down there. Afterwards they’ll be a little meet and greet where we’ll be bringing along some Ivor goodies for you all to take a peek at. One is very special indeed and an exclusive to the festival so stay tuned for a further announcement!

We hope to see you all there and help bring Ivor Wood to the forefront of British animation and television.

Paddington creator Michael Bond passes away aged 91

Michael Bond and Paddington. Image sourced from The Telegraph by Geoff Pugh

Michael Bond and Paddington. Image sourced from The Telegraph by Geoff Pugh

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.

Ivor Wood animating Paddington Bear Image taken from book Life and Times of Paddington Bear, 1988

Ivor Wood animating Paddington Bear Image taken from book Life and Times of Paddington Bear, 1988

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.

The Herbs - Parsley the Lion

The Herbs – Parsley the Lion

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

Ivor Wood on the set of The Herbs

Had to share this with you all. Whilst flicking through my copy of Michael Bond’s autobiography Bears and Forebears I stumbled across this picture of a very young Ivor Wood. It’s no secret that Ivor and Michael were good friends, producing both Paddington Bear and The Herbs together. It’s the latter that we treated to here, with Ivor standing proudly in front of The Herbs set.

Ivor Wood on the set of The Herbs

Ivor Wood on the set of The Herbs

As you’ll see Ivor was a young man here and would have probably been taken around the mid 60s as The Herbs was being made. Alternatively it could be lat 60s on the set of The Adventures of Parsley. Perhaps Ivor’s wife Josiane would have a better idea.

As we can see in the background Sage is looking on whilst Dill digs out something from his kennel. Speaking of digging, I’ve got more treats in store so stay tuned.

Also if anyone has any questions or had a particular interest they’d be keen to find out more on then leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

Paddington Bear cartoons by Ivor Wood

Wow it’s been 3 weeks since the last post! Apologies to all, work has been crazy and we’re also starting a BIG self funded project called Rex Factor – The Animated Show. More on that later if you’re interested.

It’s been a while but I’ve done some digging and pulled out these gems from Ivor’s Paddington Bear days. Around 1977 Ivor and Michael Bond embarked on a series of cartoon strips for the London Evening News. There’s more in an article I wrote a while back here. It was quite an undertaking and saw Paddington get into all sorts of scrapes in just four panels per story.

I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the original cel drawings that Ivor drew straight onto acetate. They’re a great example of his draftsmanship and full of that Ivor charm.

Paddington Bear cartoon for the London Evening News - 1977 - Illustrated by Ivor Wood

Paddington Bear saws wood for the London Evening News – 1977 – Illustrated by Ivor Wood

Paddington Bear cartoon for the London Evening News - 1977 - Illustrated by Ivor Wood

Paddington Bear carries boxes for the London Evening News – 1977 – Illustrated by Ivor Wood

This has to be my personal favourite (above). I love the way the boxes are drawn and so precariously balanced as Paddington makes probably quite a fateful trip down the stairs. You need no more in a drawing of this quality to tell the story. We all know what will happen without it being spelled out and it’s a testament to Ivor’s storytelling vision. His line work once again may not be in proportion or the most tidy, but the expression and pose is all there and weighted perfectly for that sudden trip and tumble.

Paddington Bear cartoon for the London Evening News - 1977 - Illustrated by Ivor Wood

Paddington’s jar of marmalade for the London Evening News – 1977 – Illustrated by Ivor Wood

Well I had to end the post with Paddington’s favourite snack, Marmalade. Just look at those chunky bits’ shredded up in the jar. Hmmmm. Promise not to leave the next post too long so keep on the look out.

And if you’re interested my studio, Tinmouse Animation are embarking on a very exciting project. We’re animating the internationally successful Rex Factor podcast, duly named Rex Factor – The Animated Show. You can find out more about it in the link below and sign up for a FREE gift and all the latest updates. We’ll be opening up to funding in July through Kickstarter so would be great to see if any of you are interested 🙂

www.rexfactor-theanimatedshow.co.uk

Ivor Wood talks Wombles in Radio Times

This post needs me to do very little talking. Whilst browsing Ebay the other week I stumbled across a great find! A Radio Times magazine article from 3-9 February 1973. This was the week that The Womble’s first appeared on air on British Television. Both Ivor and Womble creator Elisabeth Beresford held an interview on the subject of bringing The Wombles to life. Along with some words from the man himself there’s also  a rare photo of him with his trademark pipe and also some candid Womble puppet shots.

So here it is. Enjoy!

Radio Times - 3-9 February 1973

Radio Times – 3-9 February 1973

Interview with Elisabeth Beresford and Ivor Wood on The Wombles first TV appearance - Radio Times - 3-9 February 1973

Interview with Elisabeth Beresford and Ivor Wood on The Wombles first TV appearance – Radio Times – 3-9 February 1973

Interview with Elisabeth Beresford and Ivor Wood on The Wombles first TV appearance - Radio Times - 3-9 February 1973

Interview with Elisabeth Beresford and Ivor Wood on The Wombles first TV appearance – Radio Times – 3-9 February 1973

Nuggets from you the followers

Big thanks to everyone whose been in touch over the last few weeks it’s been great fun looking through all your amazing and insightful comments. The information that you put forward was so good that I thought it deserved a post of it’s own. So in no particular order here are those intriguing little tit-bits.

Firstly thanks to Nick a few weeks ago for discovering where the second Paddington Bear puppet is and most interestingly where it’s been.

Paddington Bear puppet – Image taken from the http://www.bbc.co.uk

Great blog and a very interesting read! I found this article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-36372330 which mentions Gyles (Brandreth) had an original Paddington Bear too. I have also found the the Museum of London had Paddington on display in the last couple of years and also the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon….did you know about these? Looking forward to more updates!

Nick

A great find and it’s really nice to know that both bears are now accounted for. I know that Barry Macey (Paddington animator) had one of the puppets in his shed for a long while as he used to take photos of the puppet for magazines and books. Will have to enquire as to what one that was.

Next up, with a surprise I wasn’t expecting, is Gareth Jones who has spotted another cross-over in Ivor’s work. Would you believe Charlie Chalks Merrytwit Island actually appears in Postman Pat…

Looking at that, remember Postman Pat Takes Flight and the film that was on it has someone on a hot air balloon and it looked like it was floating over trader jones store do you think there’s a connection to this character?

Gareth Jones

At first, I’ll admit, I was sceptical but take a look for yourself above. The Major is featured showing a film of his travels and he indeed does take a hot air balloon ride over Merrtwit and Trader Jones cabin. A great find and it makes total sense as Series 2 of Pat was created after Charlie Chalk so the sets would have certainly been knocking around. It is rumoured that Ivor didn’t much want to produce the 2nd series of Pat as he felt it had run it’s course. However placing a Charlie Chalk reference within it must have raised his spirits.

In addition to this point, Jay from The Herbs Homestead (a superb blog all on The Herbs www.theherbs.homestead.com) cleverly points out in reference to the article on the lost Charlie Chalk character (Max the Big Game Hunter)

Maybe the similarities with an earlier character (Max the Big Game Hunter) were just too striking ?
“Hunter…..wouldn’t hurt a fly……always in trouble with Captain Mildred”
Just replace Captain Mildred with Lady Rosemary and you’ve effectively got Sir Basil from The Herbs.

Jay

Again thanks so much for all these great finds and information. It’s a pleasure to do this blog and with you all contributing it makes it all the more satisfying. Hopefully they’ll be some more great finds for you in the next post.

I’d also like to say a big thanks to Gill who has kindly sent this months Waitrose magazine to me as it has an interview with Sir Michael Bond, author of Paddington and The Herbs. I’ll makes sure to give it a read!