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.

 

 

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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!

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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.

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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 🙂

Rare unseen Charlie Chalk character

Happy New Year to you all! It’s been three weeks since the last post so I hope you’re all well rested and ready and raring for some more Ivor Wood treats!

As a special opener to 2017 I thought I’d share with you all something very rare and unseen from Ivor’s archive. Whilst digging around in the ‘museum’ that is Josiane Wood’s loft we uncovered some rare treats from my favourite Charlie Chalk. Along with some sketches of the characters at an early stage (see this post Original Charlie Chalk sketch) we also uncovered a rare glimpse at a character that never made it into the show.

It therefore gives me great pleasure to announce Max – The Big Game Hunter!

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Charlie Chalk unseen character – Max The Big Game Hunter

As much as I would love to ramble on about how he came to be and why he wasn’t chosen for the 1988 series, we sadly have no idea. It seems Ivor kept this little gem to himself… until now. There is still some digging to be done and I’m going to pay a visit to the BBC Written Archives once more this year to see if I can find some Charlie Chalk correspondence. Obviously you’ll all be the first to find out if I stumble across anything.

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The actual image seems to be painted with either gouache or acrylic with slight coloured pencil marks for his rosey cheeks and a lovely crayoned outline. Wonderfully illustrated as usual and the pop gun immediately tells us that dear old Max wouldn’t actually be shooting anything. As we can see from the image below Ivor’s description runs as so:

MAX, The Big Game Hunter, who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Always in trouble with Captain Mildred

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You can almost imagine him running a mock on the island of Merrytwit, and let’s face it isn’t hard to get on the wrong side of Captain Mildred. My thoughts on why he was dropped from the cast extend to the fact that perhaps a big game hunter (harmless or not) perhaps wasn’t suitable for the age group or Louis T Duck for that matter. As I’m well aware in the animation industry tonnes of work is produced that never makes the cut but these ideas spawn others that do make the grade, so I’m positive some of Max’s traits found it into other characters. It’s a rare find to stumble across and one that I hope you’ll all find interesting.

As I mentioned above we found a few more hand sketched characters in the ‘museum’ so in a few months time we’ll have a Charlie Chalk special and we can all revel in their grandeur. For now though I think it’s time to mix things up and have a few posts from different shows.

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Voice of Postman Pat, Ken Barrie dies aged 73

Ken Barrie the voice of Postman Pat sadly passed away yesterday aged 73 after a battle with cancer. It was an announcement that many of us will be saddened by and a voice that many of us grew up with, helping shape Ivor Wood and John Cunliffes’ Postman Pat.

Ken Barrie the voice of Postman Pat - Image taken from bbc.co.uk - BBC/LORRAINE HULME PETERSON

Ken Barrie the voice of Postman Pat – Image taken from bbc.co.uk – BBC/LORRAINE HULME PETERSON

Ken’s voice of Postman Pat was a comforting one that children and indeed parents alike had grown up with for generations and one that still, at least for me, brings back countless fond memories. As well as Pat he also voiced all the other characters in series 1, finally being joined in series 2 by Carole Boyd in 1991. Ken along with acting out the array of characters such as Ted Glen, Mrs Hubbard and Mrs Goggin’s also got the task of singing that oh so catchy theme song written by Brian Daly. Its familiar upbeat folky rhythm perfectly suited Ken’s warming tones and set the scene perfectly for a relaxing jaunt through the Yorkshire Dales.

Ivor’s wife Josiane remembers Ken as “thoroughly nice chap” and someone they were put in contact with through Brian Daly. After writing the theme tune for Pat, Brian called upon Ken Barrie to sing the opening number. It was this connection that Josiane recalls being the reason they used Ken to be the voice actor. As well voicing the character and singing the theme tune he also lent himself to the other songs in the episodes, such as ‘Handyman Song’ and ‘Jess the Cat’.

Not content with using Ken only on Postman Pat, Ivor and the team at Woodland also used him to sing the opening song to Charlie Chalk. This time written by Mike Redway it was Ken that helped to cement the same comforting feel to what would be Woodlands last original creation.

It is very sad news to hear about the passing of such a talent but Ken Barrie’s voice will be remembered for countless generations to come in the form of everyones favourite Yorkshire Postman.

 

Charlie Chalks Island of Merrytwit

As we’re well in the realm of the amazing Charlie Chalk it is a real treat to show you all an early design for Merrytwit. It comes along with a wonderful description by Ivor himself so take the time to give it a read.

Merrytwit painted by Ivor Wood for Charlie Chalk

Merrytwit painted by Ivor Wood for Charlie Chalk

Ivor always had a passion for art beyond animation. He was an avid painter and it was always a dream to hang up his animators gloves and retire to a more quieter life painting. The reason I bring this is up is that you can see in this wonderful depiction of Merrytwit, Ivor’s clear inspiriation from surrealist and abstract artists. Whether it was intentional or not the piece really reminds me of a latter Matisse. It’s the way the colours jump off the page and the shapes aren’t exact but more impressions of what they are meant to present. I’ve added a Matisse below so hopefully you can all see where I’m coming from.

Matisse - The Snail, 1953

Matisse – The Snail, 1953

Island of Merrytwit from Charlie Chalk

Island of Merrytwit from Charlie Chalk

This style certainly suits the absurd and surreal world of Charlie Chalk. We never see the full Merrytwit in model form but we do see it those famous opening titles which again link back to the Matisse idea, with its cut out feel 2D animation and overlapping coloured fills. I have some more stuff on this intro sequence so stay tuned.

Charlie Chalk and The Buttercup – Ivor Woods model mock up

It was the mid to late 80’s when the time came for Ivor to develop his personal favourite of all his many creations, Charlie Chalk. Charlie really embodied everything Ivor had been working on throughout his career. It featured his most colourful characters to date and everyone with a unique personality and look. None more so than the very officiant and often demanding Captain Mildred.

Captain Mildred as we all know lived solo, aboard the good ship Buttercup. She was later joined by first mate Mary the Hover Fairy who if I’m not mistaken was one of Ivor’s favourite characters. However it is The Buttercup that we’ll be discussing today as in a bookshelf nook at Josiane, Ivor’s wife’s, house lives the first incarnation of the ship to be.

Original mock-up model of The Buttercup. Made by Ivor Wood for Charlie Chalk

Original mock-up model of The Buttercup. Made by Ivor Wood for Charlie Chalk

Original mock-up model of The Buttercup. Made by Ivor Wood for Charlie Chalk

Original mock-up model of The Buttercup. Made by Ivor Wood for Charlie Chalk

As you’ll see from the shots  above Ivor’s original design doesn’t change in the slightest as we go to the final design, even leaving that dented chimney in tact. This mock-up was used by Ivor in order to let the lead prop maker know exactly what he wanted and at the time and through a lot of Woodland Animations that was the job of Brian Driver. It seems however that Ivor had a distinct control over the final look as they are near enough identical in mock-up and final execution. As well as mock-up for Buttercup Ivor also made a similar type model for the one and only Bertha, which shows Ivor’s true eye for unique design. Unfortunately the model has been all but lost, but we still have the shows right?

I hope this post was of interest to all you Woodland fans out there. There was request for more Bertha posts after our run on Paddington Bear so I’ll see what I can do. There are a few bits and pieces on Bertha but not that much at this stage so you may have to wait patiently. 

Original Charlie Chalk sketch

Merry Christmas to you all and thanks to everyone for such a great response to the blog this year, its been very humbling. It’s so great to see that there are so many fans of Ivor Wood around and how much he means to a lot of you, whether thats through his shows or his artistry.

As a big thank you to everyone I’d like to share with you an original sketch of the one and only Charlie Chalk, drawn in pencil by Ivor. Whilst at his home, along with his widow Josiane and fellow researcher Joseph Wallace, we came across many pieces of artwork that Ivor had drawn, painted and developed. This piece below had to be my favourite though.

Charlie Chalk | Pencil sketch on paper by Ivor Wood

Charlie Chalk | Pencil sketch on paper by Ivor Wood

Josiane reckons that this along with many other character drawings from Charlie Chalk were created to show a book publisher in the hope of making Charlie Chalk into story books. However, more in the other drawings of the series, the publisher didn’t like Ivor’s style. It may seem strange bearing in mind Ivor was so pivotal in the success of the illustrations for Paddington, The Herbs and The Wombles but obviously the 1990s had other ideas.

Once more it’s been such a pleasure in sharing all this amazing artwork, stories and blasts from the pasts with you all and there will be many more to come. As if you need teasing next year we have interviews with animators George Laban (Postman Pat), Rory Fellowes (Hattytown Tales), Barry Macey and more from Barry Leith. Along with this there is tons more archived material to go through including a very special announcement on The Herbs. So much to look forward to.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who I’ve spoken to this year including Joseph Wallace, Josiane Wood, Barry Leith, Barry Macey, Rory Fellowes, George Laban, Karen Jankel, Nicholas Durbridge, Keith Chatlfield, Derek Mogford, Clive Juster and anyone I’ve missed. It’s been a real treat to learn more and more about Ivor’s work. Thanks everyone for your time and hopefully we can all catch up in the New Year.

Until 2016…over and out.