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.

Introducing Charlie Chalk

I couldn’t resist it any longer, Charlie Chalk is by far my favourite of all Ivor Wood’s creations and one that entertained me all throughout my childhood despite only having graced our screens for 13 episodes.

Charlie Chalk from HIT Entertainment Promo 1988

Charlie Chalk from HIT Entertainment Promo 1988

Created by Ivor’s own studio Woodland Animations, Charlie Chalk was to be the last original show he was to produce. The only other production that Ivor was to be significantly involved with before selling the studio was the second series of Postman Pat. Charlie Chalk still remains Ivor’s only programme that he himself devised, designed, directed and produced from scratch. The rest were either co-created (Magic Roundabout) or adapted from existing stories. Whilst script written by Jocelyn Stevenson, all the characters, concepts and style were from his own eccentric mind and it was truly a culmination of a life’s work boiled down in to something truly special.

Whilst digging around in Ivor and Josiane’s loft we came across this short pamphlet produced by HIT Entertainment to tell the world of Charlie Chalks arrival. It describes in loving detail what the programme was all about and how, most importantly Charlie arrived on this surreal island full of slightly absurd and curious characters. From the loveable but clumsy Arnold to the bossy and leader of Merrytwit, Captain Mildred, there is constant surprise around every corner.

Charlie Chalk from HIT Entertainment Promo 1988

Charlie Chalk from HIT Entertainment Promo 1988

Whilst all of Ivor’s creations feature a touch of the surreal, even Postman Pat has his moments, Charlie Chalk truly takes things to another level. In talking to both Ivor’s widow Josiane and their son Sean it is commonly agreed that Charlie Chalk was Ivor’s true character coming through and his own personal favourite. He was to most quite a gentle and relaxed man but as Sean goes onto explain it was at home that he really came to life. Sean remembers as a child once being really embarrassed as Ivor took him by the hand and began to skip down the high street. It seems he was forever waiting to let his eccentricity out and finally in Charlie Chalk he found a vessel to overflow.

Charlie Chalk from HIT Entertainment Promo 1988

Charlie Chalk from HIT Entertainment Promo 1988

As previously mentioned the show only went on for 13 episodes but was repeated on the BBC a few times after it’s original release. All the episodes are now on DVD so from whatever generation you are, and however eccentric you wish to be, Charlie Chalk will always be around to add that extra magic.

We have some goodies from the Charlie Chalk archive to show you all so stay tuned for further posts on this happy go-lucky clown.

Charlie Chalk – Overview

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Year first aired: 1987  |  Producer: Woodland Animations |  Ivor Wood’s Role: Designer, Animator and Director

Certainly Ivor Wood’s most surreal work. Charlie Chalk and his merry band of colourful characters was to be the last show created in his life and at Woodland Animations. With scripts written by Jocelyn Stevenson and animation by Derek Mogford it sadly only ran for 13 episodes.