Jess the Cat – The original cat scan

In 2001 Ivor had achieved what he’d set out to achieve with his company Woodland Animations and it was time to call it a day. He’d been able to generate more freedom in his work especially with the likes of Charlie Chalk, his only truly original show. He’d also created Bertha, Gran and not one but two series of Postman Pat. This doesn’t include all the Pat spin-offs he created along with some great work for Ronald Searle.

It was the end of an era and time to sell up and move on. The company was sold to Entertainment Rights who took everything in the buy-out, from tapes all the way through to the puppets. As it currently stands there is no knowledge of where the puppets went for Bertha, Gran and Charlie Chalk despite continued digging by Ivor’s wife Josiane. This is such a shame but we will not give up hope in the fact that they are out there somewhere.

The silver lining to this dark cloud is that many of the sets, props and puppets of Postman Pat were indeed kept and stored with the care and attention they deserved. None more so than everyones favourite cat, Jess. In 2003 Cosgrove Hall revamped Pat and his friends for a brand new series. They were careful to create a show that exactly mirrored what Ivor had achieved and this meant creating new versions of the puppets in their exact likenesses.

Puppet creation was all down to Manchester based puppet makers Mackinnon and Saunders. They were lucky enough to gain access to Ivor’s originals and use them as a guide when creating the new armatures. However when it came to making Jess it proved difficult at face value to tell exactly how she was made. With a deep respect for Ivor’s work and puppets, it was not an option to strip Jess down to find out.

It was co-owner Peter Saunders who then had a brain wave. He had a friend who worked at the Royal Infirmary, so he took Jess down there and got her x-rayed. Resulting in the original ‘black and white cat’ you see below:

An x-ray of Ivor Wood's original Jess the Cat puppet for Postman Pat Series 2.

An x-ray of Ivor Wood’s original Jess the Cat puppet for Postman Pat Series 2.

As you can see from the above it worked a treat and the x-ray showed up all of Jess’s inner workings even down to her wire whiskers and bendable ears. It’s so nice to see that the stop-motion community is so understanding when it comes to others work and also great for all us fans to actually be able to see how Ivor’s puppets were made.

The model is most likely made for hand-made ball and socket joints joined together with brass rods. The lumpy bits are more than likely foam or similar to help pad out the more muscular areas. Wire was used for the ears and whiskers so that Jess’s features could gain more expression. Also note the pin and pin head used for Jess’s nose!


The Technicalities of Postman Pat

Postman Pat and Mrs Goggins

Postman Pat and Mrs Goggins

In early 1979 Ivor Wood was coming to the end of the lengthy pre-production and concept design process of Postman Pat. Scripts were honed and budgets were agreed. It was now Ivor’s job, at his newly formed Woodland Animations, to create the world and characters that would inhabit and bring to life John Cunliffe’s stories.

Whilst looking through the Written Archives at the BBC I stumbled across this ingenious and remarkable letter that Ivor had written to, the then Executive Producer for Childrens BBC, Cynthia Felgate. Whilst I am unsure as to what the preceding letter had outlined, it appears to have mentioned the fact that within the scripts there was a lot of action regarding roaming cattle and wildlife. This is something Ivor wasn’t so keen to encourage as he details in his reply:

My first reaction was one of complete misery; How on earth does one animate herds of cows, ducks playing on water, herons and hawks flying, lambs frisking in a field, not to mention the hens…


Having read and reread the material, I laid the project to rest and, whilst going about my business, gave the matter much thought.

And much thought he did indeed give it. Ever the optimist and always willing to create the best possible solution to problems, Ivor came up with some very clever ideas on how to overcome this horrendous obstacle:

Mountains, valleys, lakes, woods and farmland: If the landscape is a wide extensive and extensible set, the human figures will have to be rather small. This in puppet form makes rather unmanageable or stiff animation, not to mention coping with the cat who will be minute.

If you wish to maintain this “rolling hills into the distance” atmosphere and keep characters to a manageable size, a little cheating will be necessary. I suggest that we use either very simple one tone segments that fit like a theatre set…

Now this is pretty much what was created in the show we know and love. A simple yet effective use of forced perspective, something film makers and set designers have been using for years and years. However Ivor doesn’t give up there and goes onto outline another idea….

Or maybe a back projection for the far distance with the foreground in true decor style.

Example of the back projection for Postman Pat sets by Ivor Wood

Example of the back projection for Postman Pat sets by Ivor Wood

Now this is a bit ‘out there’ but nothing compared to the other idea he had to alleviate the need for flocks and herds of animals:

No amount of animation could possibly compete with nature, therefore would it be possible to introduce ‘Motorised Photography’ – the still camera that can take up to 5 frames per second (with a special magazine: 250 frames before reloading).

These running sequences could then be put onto 16m/m film, each photo linked by quick or slow cross-dissolves, giving a motion effect with maybe a freeze frame start and finish to underline the switch from animation – real photography – back to animation.

Note: Motorised Photography would be less expensive than a camera crew using 16m/m. But there is a snag – ie how long do you wait for the ducks or the heron?

…Amazing! It’s certainly creative but wow what a headache if the BBC had said yes. Drawbacks that spring to my mind are endless, adding a further stop-motion element to an animators schedule that relied on them not only animating the puppets but also making sure the live action footage was being held at the right frame each time. The ability of photographing animals doing exactly the right thing and making sure all perspectives etc were correct…the list goes on. If this was put into practice it would turn into the puppet animation working around the ‘live action’ due to that fact that animals aren’t always going to do exactly what you tell them. This could have led to long pauses and stilted action.

It certainly was ambitious but something tells me that Ivor’s complex wording and subtle negativities were all part of the plan to put the BBC off doing anything over complicated. I’ll leave you with Ivor’s last paragraph and see what you think.

I really think that this project is in need of a style to express itself without giving nightmares to the animator. (Is this wishful thinking on my behalf?).

All quotes and ‘back projector illustration’ are from a letter written by Ivor Wood to Cynthia Felgate at Children’s BBC. The letter is dated 8th February 1979 and permission has been granted to the author by the BBC Written Archives.

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.



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:

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 10.18.01


Charlie Chalk Designs – Trader Jones

Well it’s been a while but I’m back having successfully funded Rex Factor The Animated Show. If any of you supported or shared the campaign then thanks so much! Can’t believe we made it. So with Ivor Wood and that I have my year cut out!

Let’s get back onto Ivor Wood then shall we. Whilst at Josiane’s (Ivor’s wife) house a few months ago she revealed a series of early sketches and character descriptions for Charlie Chalk. With the show being my favourite Ivor production I was like a kid in a candy store. Everyone was there from Charlie himself through to Arnold, Lewis T Duck and for todays post Trader Jones. The character sheets were either used in the lead up to creating the show, perhaps to present to broadcasters or Josiane seems to remember them being used for a Charlie Chalk book that never was. The illustrations apparently weren’t what the publishers were looking for.

As you’ll see below each one is roughly drawn in Ivor’s iconic style and coloured over using marker pens. It is however the fascinating and comical descriptions that are the true highlight. Ivor manages to sum up in so few words what each character is about and how they fit in within the show and on the island of Merrytwit.

Trader Jones design for Charlie Chalk by Ivor Wood

As much as a lot of the info will be familiar to all there are some little tit-bits that provide an extra insight into Trader Jones. Things like the ‘Coconut Spirit’ are a great little edition and one that I don’t think gets mentioned enough in the show. I’d love to see some sort of spiritually led episode where Trader Jones makes some mystic predictions.

From theses illustrations and descriptions we can really get a sense of Ivor’s passion for the characters of Merrytwit. Charlie Chalk was his favourite creation and his only completely original endeavour. This really shines through in just this single character sheet. The world seems ready created in his mind and goes way beyond what we know through the single series we’ve all enjoyed.

Hopefully this post has helped fill the Ivor Wood void created over the last few weeks. There is a whole host more coming over the following months and VERY soon there is going to be a super exciting announcement. Ivor Wood will be being remembered in a whole new way so stay tuned. I’ve also got some amazing and exclusive Postman Pat articles to come in the coming weeks, just seeking all the relevant permissions before sharing with you all.

Stay tuned and apologies for the pause.




First Charlie Chalk Design?

First off so sorry for these sporadic posts over the last few months. I am currently putting together a Kickstarter campaign for our new pilot programme Rex Factor – The Animated Show and it’s getting closer and closer to the launch so I’ve had time for little else. If you’re interested to see whats been keeping me away then click here and stay tuned for the Kickstarter campaign on August 2nd!


Anyhoo onto what you’re all here for, Ivor Wood! Whilst at Ivor’s house with his wife Josiane she pulled out this little treasure you see before you. A lovely pastel drawing of, what is named, Charlie Chalk. Now on a first look he doesn’t look much like what we’re more familiar with as Charlie. However look closely and there are a lot of elements that are present in both creations. The chequred trousers, red nose, white dickey and obviously those over-sized shoes. The colouring is a little over the top and perhaps Ivor had just opened a new box of pastels and wanted to try them all out on one drawing!

Our best guess is that this is a working character design for Charlie and perhaps one of Ivor’s first attempts at creating this iconic character. The bright vivid colours in this illustration are certainly in stark contrast to the more pastel shades that he would end up going for in the final show but we certainly get a feel for who Charlie is in this sketch. Fun loving and care free are both phrases that spring to mind. Also it’s great to see that Ivor’s trademark oversized clothes even play a part in his drawings. Whether or not he always thought of the final 3D puppets when sketching is unknown but there is certainly some proof here. Obviously in puppet form the oversized clothing, big hands and feet are essential to help mask the armatures and also enable better movement when animating. With Ivor being predominantly a 3D animator it’s likely that he would have thought about this heavily in the design stages.


Another theory as to the origins of this illustration is that it was created as more of a moodboard for the 2D opening credits. Certainly in looking at the below shot the pose is more on point. Also the manner in which it is drawn is very similar, very straight limbs, exaggerated poses and thick black lines outlining. As much as I can see possibility in it being a character concept I feel it’s more in line with the opening credits and my money’s on that. It would be great to get your thoughts, very open to suggestions.

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 18.22.14I’m afraid thats going to be it for at least a month or so until the end of the Kickstarter but I’ll certainly be back for some more insight into Ivor Wood very soon. I can also reveal that they’ll be some REALLY exciting news on the horizon and once I get the green light I’ll be sharing it with you all here first! Keep your peepers peeled.

Thanks and have a great month.  See you when I return 🙂


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.