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.

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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!

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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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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.

10 secrets from the set of Postman Pat

Just a quick post today folks as we’re super busy here at Tinmouse in the run up to Christmas. It’s a little nugget I found on the CBBC website ’10 secrets from the set of Postman Pat’.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/grownups/postman-pat-behind-the-scenes

"Some of the houses in Greendale are original structures, which date back to the first series of Postman Pat, 35 years ago!" Image from CBBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/grownups/postman-pat-behind-the-scenes

“Some of the houses in Greendale are original structures, which date back to the first series of Postman Pat, 35 years ago!” Image from CBBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/grownups/postman-pat-behind-the-scenes

CBBC have gone behind the scenes of the new Postman Pat series and pulled out some great photographs from backstage. Most prominently and exciting of all the points in the Top 10 is surely no.10 itself. Actual sets from the very first series that Ivor created are still being used to this day! This is incredible news to see that they’ve stood the test of time. The Woodland Animations team must have worked to a very high standard.

"If the characters are feeling unwell, there's someone to take care of them. The Puppet Doctor is on call for any emergency surgery or repairs." Image from CBBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/grownups/postman-pat-behind-the-scenes

“If the characters are feeling unwell, there’s someone to take care of them. The Puppet Doctor is on call for any emergency surgery or repairs.” Image from CBBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/grownups/postman-pat-behind-the-scenes

It’s also great to see all the details that go into making such a series and a great chance to see the current puppets up close. Their production process, whilst a lot larger, is much the same as Ivor’s would have been over at Woodland. As they mention due to the constant stress put on the puppets there are multiple arms and hands everywhere for backup. This would have been an exact problem Ivor and the team would have experienced and replacements would have been key in order not to bring hault to the production. In addition to these great insights another parallel with Ivor’s production is the ironing of the clothes. Ivor was very particular with the clothes for all his characters. From Paddington Bear through to Charlie Chalk, Ivor would iron and even hang the clothes up on little hangers to keep them looking pristine. Now theres dedication for you.

"Our Pat is a fashion guru - he needs frequent wardrobe updates. His uniforms wear out quite regularly, and as there are five Pat figures, the production team have to make about 20 new uniforms over the course of a series." Image from CBBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/grownups/postman-pat-behind-the-scenes

“Our Pat is a fashion guru – he needs frequent wardrobe updates. His uniforms wear out quite regularly, and as there are five Pat figures, the production team have to make about 20 new uniforms over the course of a series.” Image from CBBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/grownups/postman-pat-behind-the-scenes

So nice to see that even though the pace, characters and plots have been modernised the aesthetic is still the same and Pat is still the local Postman bringing a friendly face and caring nature to the heart of the community.