Paddington Bear and The Herbs Sage?

Firstly thanks for all your comments from various people over the last weeks, glad to see there are so many Ivor Wood fans out there. They’ve been great to receive and I’m finally getting a chance to reply to them so my apologies for this. Also thanks to all the new followers, it’s so great to have you all on board as we delve into Ivor Wood’s archive.

This weeks post is more of an observation than anything else. I was flicking through Paddington’s Loose End Book the other day and stumbled across his idea for the letter ‘O’. The book details activities and crafts to do at each letter of the alphabet and when it gets to ‘O’ Paddington suggests creating your very own Owl. A very odd idea indeed but when you take a look at the picture it starts to make sense…

…is that Sage from The Herbs?

Owls - Paddingtons Loose End Book, Illustrated by Ivor Wood

Owls – Paddingtons Loose End Book, Illustrated by Ivor Wood

This  might be one of those things that we never find out and I have no idea how much input Ivor had in the creation of the content of the book. However the author, Michael Bond, also famously wrote and created The Herbs so pretty sure this isn’t a coincidence. It’s the only cross-reference I’ve ever seen so thought it’s be good to share with you all. Especially for all those Herbs fans out there.

 

Merry Christmas from Paddington Bear

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my fellow Ivor Wood fans. It’s been quite a year with some amazing discoveries including my personal highlight, that photo of the real life (and most importantly still existing) Paddington Bear puppet.

I could therefore think of no better way to end the year than to share with you a Christmas story from Paddington Bear himself. It’s from ‘The Great Big Paddington Book’ published in 1976 by Collins and illustrated by Ivor. Paddington is at a loss about how many gifts he has to buy and the bun fund is running low! Mr Gruber will help him out though. Time to get creative Paddington!

Paddingtons Christmas Problem illustrated by Ivor Wood - Collins, 1976

Paddingtons Christmas Problem illustrated by Ivor Wood

As I say everytime I publish an Ivor Wood illustration, his expressive pen strokes capture his characters personalities so well. Paddington has never looked cuter and more loveable than when he’s drawn in Ivor’s style. He sense of bafflement and bemusement as he sits on the sofa with Mr Gruber and the look below as he gets tangled in Judy’s necklace sums up everyones favourite bear.

Paddingtons Christmas Problem illustrated by Ivor Wood - Collins, 1976

Paddingtons Christmas Problem illustrated by Ivor Wood

 

And as it was my highlight here’s the old puppet once again. So great to see it still playing the part, even if he is a little underdressed.

Thanks again for everyones support this year and for taking an interest in Ivor Wood. Slowly but surely he’s getting the appreciation he so rightly deserves. See you in2017 for some more goodies.

Party time with Paddington Bear

Last week long time follower of the blog Duncan Gisby commented saying it was his birthday this week. We don’t normally do birthdays but I couldn’t resist showing off some of my favourite Ivor Wood illustrations, aptly themed too.

Party Time with Paddington, illustrated by Ivor Wood. Paddingtons Party Book 1976

Party Time with Paddington, illustrated by Ivor Wood. Paddingtons Party Book 1976

The illustration above is from Paddingtons Party Book, published way back in 1976. This, in my opinion, was during Ivor’s most prolific and greatest illustration period. He produced a huge number of illustrations during the 1970’s for mostly Paddington but also The Herbs and The Wombles. It’s here in the Party Book that I most love his artistic and care-free style. The poses that Ivor conjures up in each of the 30 pages perfectly and most importantly lovingly capture Paddington.

Paddingtons Party Book illustrated by Ivor Wood 1976

Paddingtons Party Book illustrated by Ivor Wood 1976

Ivor uses this particular style in this book and the accompanying Paddingtons Loose End Book, released around the same time. The style is more sketchy than some of his Paddington incarnations but to me it perfectly parallels that loveable, accident prone bear he so endearingly portrayed on screen. I encourage you all to hunt down a copy of this book, not just for the illustrations but also the practical tips of how to throw the perfect party!

Ivor Wood’s Paddington Bear Puppet

Thanks everyone for staying tuned for this 2 month special, albeit a little 2 week break, on Paddington Bear. It’s been a really interesting ride with lots of different areas to cover from Ivor’s illustrations to Paddingtons clothing patterns. We’ve heard from lot’s of people including Barry Leith, Barry Macey and Josiane Wood, so thanks to everyone for their contributions. It has all culminated to this end point where we are proud to show you Paddington Bear himself!

Children avert your eyes as Paddington Bear is in the all together. Many, many thanks to Karen Jankel, the daughter of Michael Bond, for these wonderful photos of the nations favourite bear. Over the last few months I’ve been in regular contact with Karen and she’s been  most helpful in providing me with extra information on the animated, and not forgetting illustrated, world of Paddington. As we spoke she mentioned that Paddingtons creator and her father Michael Bond had the original Ivor Wood puppet at his house. With this she sent me through some photos and what a wonderful treat it was to see the little guy up and about.

This is indeed the exact same puppet that was used throughout the entirety of the first series and the beginning of the second. It is not confirmed but Barry Leith thinks he remembers Ivor making a second puppet for the second series if not the specials.

Ivor Wood's original puppet of Paddington Bear

Ivor Wood’s original puppet of Paddington Bear

He may look a little ragged now but after 40 years in a box what do you expect. Despite his first appearance, Paddington is in relatively good condition. We can still see his little button nose and stitched paws so precisely and lovingly detailed by Ivor. He appears to still have good movement as you can see from his expressive pose below. Paddington would have been created using ball and socket joints with ball bearings providing the ease of movement. There were no ready made kits in those days so Ivor would have made them all by hand and specific to every puppet. Something that is striking is that he looks so much like a teddy bear when all de-clothed. His fur is wrapped all around his body and not just in the visible parts we see in the show. Ivor’s attention to detail is flawless and it’s certainly helped to preserve Paddington Bear all these long years.

Ivor Wood's original puppet of Paddington Bear

Ivor Wood’s original puppet of Paddington Bear

It’s been an amazing few months and the pressure is now on to follow up with some more goodies. If anyone has a favourite show they’d like to see written about then just let me know.

Paddington Bears TV show clothing patterns

By 1972 Ivor had already created a 2D test version of Paddington Bear only to be turned down by Michael Bond as not quite right. Undeterred Ivor went back to the drawing board and created a new style that was his most inventive to date. The stop-motion show that we’ve all come to love.

Paddington Bear TV show clothing patterns

Paddington Bear TV show clothing patterns

It’s with many thanks from Ivor’s wife Josiane that we can share with you some of Ivor’s intricate, delicate and wonderful clothing patterns of Paddington’s jacket, hat, hood and even hands! It’s an amazing and rare opportunity to see these designs and the fact that they still exist in a little envelope in the mist of Josiane’s loft is brilliant news.

Ivor was an absolute perfectionist and we can see this in the way he goes about his designs above. Everything is precisely measured out and analysed to make sure that it fits perfectly. He even went to the great lengths of creating little coat hangars for the clothes and giving them a wash every now and then to make sure all his characters were looking their best.

As we draw to the end of this 2 month long special on Paddington Bear we have one final post to come. It’s going to be a BIG one, so look out for it.

Technical side of Paddington

After the success of Michael Bond and Ivor Wood’s first venture ‘The Herbs’, it was only a matter of time before another spark was ignited. After The Herbs Ivor moved to London with FilmFair and created the most successful British animation to that date, The Wombles. As the first series drew to a close he handed animation duties over to animator Barry Leith, focusing his attention on a new project, animating Paddington Bear.

Ivor was not one to rest on his laurels and was always seeking a new challenge, wanting to continually push boundaries. After approaching Michael Bond with his concept for Paddington they decided to go full steam ahead with Michael expressing his pleasure in a letter to the Head of Children’s programmes at the BBC, Monica Simms that Ivor had “come up with a very exciting and visually effective way of presenting the Paddington stories”

Lighting Paddington. Image sourced from Animator Mag, Winter 1982

Lighting Paddington. Image sourced from Animator Mag, Winter 1982

The technique as many will be aware was revolutionary within children’s programmes and commercial animation as a whole. Having 2D paper cut outs for 90% of the show with only Paddington and his personal objects being created as 3D models, the production method was ambitious and risky, having never been attempted within such tight production schedules and budgets. In many ways it was economical in that the sets could be quickly created and changed but aesthetics such as the lighting and the marrying of 2D and 3D was to be a tough technical challenge for all involved. We can see it in the image above how there were lots of bright white card layers to light correctly. Having this abundance of reflective 2D layers made it a great challenge to create the right depth and shadows. Once more Ivor knew it was going to be difficult but as always was looking at the end result, knowing that it would be entirely worth it in the end. Animator on the second series and specials, Barry Leith goes on to explain the image in an article for Animator Mag, winter 1982, “I wouldn’t say I was the best lighting cameraman in the world. I use things such as cut out shapes in front of a lamp to make the lighting look more interesting. It looks like the sun coming through trees rather than being splashed with light“.

Paddington and the Brown family. Image sourced from www.paddington.com

Paddington and the Brown family. Image sourced from http://www.paddington.com

This technical and artistic challenge wasn’t to show off the talents of Ivor and the team at FilmFair but was an ingenious aesthetic choice to express Paddingtons character. From the moment we meet him he is an outsider, sent from Peru by his Aunt Lucy and in need of being looked after. To all those around him he is different. It is therefore a clever decision by Ivor to make Paddington the only 3D character within the show. This, from the get go, reveals him as a singularity, an oddity, helping us all to sympathise with his endless misunderstandings and calamities. And obviously he’s a teddy bear at heart so it’s great to have him looking cuddly.

Paddington must have felt like a risk for all involved from Graham Clutterbuck at FilmFair, Monica Simms at the BBC and Michael Bond himself after a run of failings bringing Paddington to the screen.The unwavering and ambitious Ivor Wood was not deterred and along with his infectious optimism and backing of all those around him he created a programme that not only surpassed all other screen incarnations of Paddington but perhaps created one of the most definitive characterisations of the famed bear from Peru.

Quotes taken from the following sources:
Letter from Michael Bond to Monica Simms, 31st January 1974. BBC Written Archives
Barry Leith interview by David Jefferson for Animator Mag, Winter 1982

Telling the story of Paddington

After an initial pilot and concept was agreed with Michael Bond, the BBCs, Head of Children’s Programming, Monica Simms commissioned the first series of Paddington Bear. It was to consist of 31 episodes first airing at 5.40pm, just before the news, on 5th January 1975.

Mr Gruber cut-outs. Image sourced from Animator Mag, Winter 1982

Mr Gruber cut-outs. Image sourced from Animator Mag, Winter 1982

Even though the style was technically challenging and pioneering it was not this that caused problems, but how the stories were to be told and by whom? In back and forth letters now publicly available from the BBC Written Archives we can see how problematic it was for all parties to decide over this important matter. It was even considered at one stage to remove Michael Bond from writing duties due to him being too close to his creation. Thank goodness that was never followed through.

As if Ivor had not put enough on his plate in marrying 2D cut outs and a 3D Paddington, it was suggested by him that the cut-outs should have some sort of lip-sync! After some quick and insightful thoughts from Michael Bond it was decided against suggesting “that too much would inevitably draw attention to any defects and might in the end be distracting”. Michael at this time had had his fingers burned before in bringing his beloved Paddington to the screen and wasn’t about to lose quality with this more promising adaptation. It was therefore suggested that there would be an overseeing narrator telling the stories and no characterising of any of the characters including Paddington.

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 approach was agreed by BBC producer Michael Cole, expressing that giving a specific voice to Paddington would “be a pity to narrow the publics image of them to one particular interpretation”. He did however insist on having “more related comment” from the star of the show in order to bring more anticipation and reaction to Paddingtons mishaps and calamities. This meant more expressiveness in the animation which Ivor was keen to exploit. He felt “that he could work better from the story and adapt it himself with Michaels [Bond] advice. The script was pinning him down too much”. Hence forth it was suggested that Ivor draw a storyboard for the initial episode, and throughout, in order to give more of a motion led and animator friendly tone. In a letter to the producer Michael Cole at the BBC, Michael Bond remarked that Ivor’s initial storyboard and drawings were “super, and of tremendous help at this stage”. This instantly must have allowed for more farce-like and slapstick moments that we have now all come to love.

The subject of narration however was still raising it’s ugly head and Michael Bond was still unsure in having the narrator characterising Paddington’s thoughts, “to have Paddington speak in his thoughts will really be a confession of failure… its is the first sign of madness – and Paddington is a particularly sane bear, with both paws firmly on the ground”. Rather ambiguously the letters sadly finish up here and as we all know it seems that Michael Bond didn’t quite manage to win over the BBC as we do hear Paddingtons narrated thoughts throughout the shows. It could however have been the choice of narrator that sold it to Michael in the end. He was keen to use the voice of Harry Worth as the narrator, as he mentions several times in letters to the BBC, however as we all know it was Sir Michael Hordern that took the role. As stated in’ The Life and Times of Paddington Bear’, “The first thing he said was ‘I don’t do voices.’. The voice he offered was the voice of Michael Hordern, which was thought to be perfect – indeed, it would now be hard to imagine any other voice accompanying Paddington.” Perhaps it was the gentle, relaxing tones of Hordern that alleviated Michael Bonds fears, taking Paddington to many successes on the small screen.

Look out for next weeks post when we delve deeper into the making of Paddington, looking at the technical challenge of the 2D/3D hybrid.

Quotes taken from the following sources
  • Letter from Michael Bond to Monica Simms, 31st January 1974, BBC Written Archives
  • Report on meeting at FilmFair by Michael Cole, 6th February 1974, BBC Written Archives
  • Letter from Michael Bond to Michael Cole, 20th February 1974, BBC Written Archives