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!

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.

 

The Wombles fur

A rare and interesting treat for you all today with a find from Josiane Wood. After last weeks post on the designing of the Wombles it seemed like the perfect time to share this little nugget.

Whilst digging around in her cupboards Josiane, Ivor’s wife, found a piece of the very same  gold velvet material that was used for the fur of the Wombles. As you can see from the picture below it’s still in remarkable condition and is unmistakably Womble.

The Wombles fur

The Wombles fur

In Ivor’s creation of The Wombles puppets he didn’t have much to go on in terms of colour. The book illustrations only give away one coloured image on the front cover where there is a hint of the gold/brown that we’ve come to recognise. Like all of Ivor’s work, his colour choices are spot on and The Wombles are no exception. The gold and grey fur perfectly contrast against either the green of brown of their surroundings making sure they always stand out. What we also have to imagine is that most of the TV sets would have shown in black and white and on a small screen back in the early 70’s so a good idea of colour contrast would have been key in the design to make sure that the characters were easily recognisable.

Lots more to come so stay tuned for more treats and don’t forget to follow the blog on bloglovin too!

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Ivor Wood designing The Wombles

In the early 1970’s Ivor Wood embarked on what would become his most successful show to date, The Wombles. Ivor had just shipped over from France to head up the animation department at FilmFair. The new London offices were set up under the watchful and creative eye of producer Graham Clutterbuck, a man always on the hunt for investing in new shows and ideas. On their arrival he was given a copy of Elisabeth Beresfords, The Wombles and the knowledge that the BBC was set to commission it under the proviso that the characters changed their look. This may sound like an easy task for the king of characters Mr Ivor Wood but this was not to be as easy as first made out.

The Wombles by Elisabeth Beresford - Illustrations by Margaret Gordon, Puffin 1968

The Wombles by Elisabeth Beresford – Illustrations by Margaret Gordon, Puffin 1968

After some digging I’ve unearthed the very first book with the original Illustrations of The Wombles by Margaret Gordon. Within these illustrations you’ll instantly see that they are very different from The Wombles that we’ve all come to know and love. From the outset we are given a description by Elisabeth Beresford that sounds a little similar to our familiar Wombles…but not quite.

The Wombles are a bit like teddy bears to look at but they have real claws and live beneath Wimbledon Common…

Perhaps it’s here that we see why the BBC didn’t like the current look. Maybe the teddybear was too cute or maybe the idea of claws was a bit scary. The juxtaposition of these characteristics also poses a problem. Are they cute and cuddly or something to be a little afraid of. Ivor certainly had his work cut out.

The Wombles by Elisabeth Beresford - Illustrations by Margaret Gordon, Puffin 1968

The Wombles by Elisabeth Beresford – Illustrations by Margaret Gordon, Puffin 1968

The Wombles as we see them in Margaret Gordons illustrations are a lot rounder and fluffier than once would come to expect. They also have little button eyes and small paws, not so good for making and inventing you might think. In Ivor’s final Womble designs he presents characters that are both faithful to the book descriptions and also in keeping with his design sensibilities. Ivor switched up those small paws, changing them to bigger more workable appendages. This more than likely would have been an animation choice as smaller limbs can be tricker to manoeuvre and ultimately create and fix.

After speaking to Barry Leith it was the noses that were a sticking point and it took a few, frustrating, back and forths with the BBC to get it right. The second design “developed a snout and a bit more of a tail and it was standing on two feet, not on all fours but we looked at it and thought it was a bit bloody rat like” so it was back to the drawing board. Finally Ivor elongated the snout, made the ears floppy and made them all a little less rotund. Interestingly they kept their little button eyes, which in my opinion helped their aesthetic. As a whole The Wombles are quite large limbed, nosed and eared and cleverly keeping those eyes small creates difference and makes them all the more cute and cuddly. No claws also makes a huge difference.

Overall it’s an interesting comparison and one that really shows off Ivor’s ingenuity and talent in character design. He ultimately created characters that were simple enough to be shown on those small grainy TVs of the 70s whilst keeping a charming style that mirrored that of the original books descriptions. I’ll leave you with Elisabeth Beresfords original description of Great Uncle Bulgaria and you’ll see that he really hasn’t changed at all.

The head of the Wimbledon Wombles is Great Uncle Bulgaria. He is very old indeed and his fur has turned snow white and he feels the cold rather badly. So during the winter months he mostly sits in his own room in a large rocking-chair wearing a tartan shawl and two pairs of spectacles. He uses one pair for reading The Times newspaper and the other for looking at the young Wombles who have misbehaved…

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In Pictures – The Magic Roundabout

We’re off on a surreal journey today. One, due to the fact we’re talking The Magic Roundabout and two, a wonderfully weird piece of animation I discovered.

le-manege-enchante-2

We haven’t hear much from The Magic Roundabout as yet and that is partly due me wanting to shine the light on other shows before this one. The other is it’s harder to gain interviews with people that created work nearly 50 years ago! That is about to change though, as I’m going to try my damnedest to curate some great content for you folks. In the meantime here are some wonderful promotional photographs taken of the puppets and sets for what was to become Ivor Wood’s most iconic creation.

le-manege-enchante

Also on my quest I stumbled across this little gem. It’s a film from a French documentary and portrays the life story of Serge Danot, the initial concept creator of The Magic Roundabout. It illustrates how he went from humble beginnings, painting the great Eiffel Tower as part of renovations, to injuring himself on site. It was in convalescence that he thought more on the ideas of film production and found himself a cleaning job at La Comete in Paris. It was here after some rung climbing and determination that he went on to meet Ivor. As you’ll see near the end of the film it was a meeting of great minds.

Ivor Wood animating The Wombles

Okay, so BIG error on my part today. I started writing a long post on the designing of the Wombles and was all ready with it until I realised that the book I wanted to use as reference is in storage! So you’ll have to do with something more digital from what’s on my computer.

Lucky for you it’s some gold dust which I can’t believe I haven’t already shared with you. You may remember I while back (here) that I shared some amazing photographs of Ivor Wood at work and animating The Wombles. Ivor’s son Sean had dug them out of his mother, Josiane’s, loft or The Archive as we’ve been calling it. Anyway without further ado here are the rest of those images. Hope you enjoy and apologies again for the lack of references. Hope to have everything back in working order in a few weeks.

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Ivor Wood animating The Wombles - 1970-72

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

Elisabeth Beresford looks at The Wombles script Series 1 - 1970-72

Elisabeth Beresford looks at The Wombles script Series 1 – 1970-72

Ivor Wood and Elisabeth Beresford discuss The Wombles - 1970-72

Ivor Wood and Elisabeth Beresford discuss The Wombles – 1970-72

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!

MAX.jpg

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.

max_top

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

max_bottom

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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