Paddington creator Michael Bond passes away aged 91

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 afternoon came with some very sad news, Michael Bond the creator of Paddington Bear and The Herbs has died aged 91 following a short illness. Best know for writing, nurturing and bringing to life Britains favourite bear, Paddington, he has bought joy to millions of children and adults across the globe. The Paddington stories have never been out of print since their first publication in 1958 and have spawned many further creations including a hugely successful film, of which a sequel is being created as we speak, and more fondly a stop motion children’s show in 1975.

Ivor Wood animating Paddington Bear Image taken from book Life and Times of Paddington Bear, 1988

Ivor Wood animating Paddington Bear Image taken from book Life and Times of Paddington Bear, 1988

Back in 1965 Michael was working as a cameraman for the BBC with a yearning passion for writing and storytelling. This passion and his BBC contacts lead him to write bits and pieces for the channel. It was this writing that peaked the interest of then head of BBC children’s television, Monica Simms. She, impressed by Michael’s ability approached Graham Clutterbuck who was the producer over at, production company, FilmFair. She approached him not with an idea but with a man.

It was here that he first met Ivor Wood who would become a crucial collaborator and later, dear friend. Ivor at the time was still living in Paris but this didn’t stop Michael immediately getting to work, eventually coming up with the concept for The Herbs. The show was a huge success after it’s first broadcast in 1968, leading to a spin off show ‘The Adventures of Parsley’ and thus spawning the start of a very fruitful partnership in Ivor, Graham and Michael. Here in Michael’s own words, he describes their next project…Paddington.

“In 1975 Ivor came to see me with the news that, “To tell you the truth, I’ve been playing around with an idea for filming Paddington.” When Ivor said “To tell you the truth …”, you knew that’s what you were getting – the truth, pure and simple – and so I was very happy to realise my stories of the bear from Peru in a new medium with him.

His idea was to combine a three-dimensional puppet Paddington with two-dimensional cardboard backgrounds and supporting cast, with Paddington the one colourful character set against muted backgrounds, rather like an early Peter Brook stage set. It sounds simple now, but at the time it was a groundbreaking departure, and it worked.

They were happy days; not always carefree, but certainly fulfilling, and I always felt very privileged to be involved in it.”

Their continued friendship over the years led to the creation of a second series of Paddington and a series of specials featuring that famous Singing in the Rain parody in Paddington Goes to the Movies. As well as this there were illustrative collaborations for both The Herbs and Paddington in the form of story books and Paddington cartoon strips that were printed in the London Evening News.

The Herbs - Parsley the Lion

The Herbs – Parsley the Lion

Michael was very particular in how his penned creations were portrayed, turning down a Paddington theatre show, films and and even an Ivor pitched 2D cartoon. His attention to detail, much like Ivor’s, shines through in his TV and illustrative work. Each collaboration is true to character and perfectly portrays their written counter-part.

Michaels writing was in a style that never looked down on it’s audience, straight talking and at times blunt but always with a dash of humour and frivolity. He will be best remembered for Paddington Bear but his writing (and animation) career started with The Herbs, proving that writers and film-makers can work work harmoniously and successfully together.

In the words of Ivor’s wife Josiane, who knew the pair well, it is now “certainly the end of an era”. Although Ivor Wood, Graham Clutterbuck and Michael Bond have now passed on, the old friends have not just left some incredible works but also a legacy that will continue to be shared, enjoyed and cherished for generations to come. Michael Bond was a true storyteller and someone that has warmed the hearts of so many with his tales of that little bear from Peru.

“I don’t worry about death. I sort of feel it’s good to get to 91 and I can’t complain. And I hope Paddington might come with me, ­wherever we go. Up or down.”

“It wouldn’t be kind to tell Paddington to come with me if I was going down.”

Michael Bond – April 2017

Michael Bond died 28th June 2017 aged 91

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Ivor Wood on the set of The Herbs

Had to share this with you all. Whilst flicking through my copy of Michael Bond’s autobiography Bears and Forebears I stumbled across this picture of a very young Ivor Wood. It’s no secret that Ivor and Michael were good friends, producing both Paddington Bear and The Herbs together. It’s the latter that we treated to here, with Ivor standing proudly in front of The Herbs set.

Ivor Wood on the set of The Herbs

Ivor Wood on the set of The Herbs

As you’ll see Ivor was a young man here and would have probably been taken around the mid 60s as The Herbs was being made. Alternatively it could be lat 60s on the set of The Adventures of Parsley. Perhaps Ivor’s wife Josiane would have a better idea.

As we can see in the background Sage is looking on whilst Dill digs out something from his kennel. Speaking of digging, I’ve got more treats in store so stay tuned.

Also if anyone has any questions or had a particular interest they’d be keen to find out more on then leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

Paddington Bear cartoons by Ivor Wood

Wow it’s been 3 weeks since the last post! Apologies to all, work has been crazy and we’re also starting a BIG self funded project called Rex Factor – The Animated Show. More on that later if you’re interested.

It’s been a while but I’ve done some digging and pulled out these gems from Ivor’s Paddington Bear days. Around 1977 Ivor and Michael Bond embarked on a series of cartoon strips for the London Evening News. There’s more in an article I wrote a while back here. It was quite an undertaking and saw Paddington get into all sorts of scrapes in just four panels per story.

I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the original cel drawings that Ivor drew straight onto acetate. They’re a great example of his draftsmanship and full of that Ivor charm.

Paddington Bear cartoon for the London Evening News - 1977 - Illustrated by Ivor Wood

Paddington Bear saws wood for the London Evening News – 1977 – Illustrated by Ivor Wood

Paddington Bear cartoon for the London Evening News - 1977 - Illustrated by Ivor Wood

Paddington Bear carries boxes for the London Evening News – 1977 – Illustrated by Ivor Wood

This has to be my personal favourite (above). I love the way the boxes are drawn and so precariously balanced as Paddington makes probably quite a fateful trip down the stairs. You need no more in a drawing of this quality to tell the story. We all know what will happen without it being spelled out and it’s a testament to Ivor’s storytelling vision. His line work once again may not be in proportion or the most tidy, but the expression and pose is all there and weighted perfectly for that sudden trip and tumble.

Paddington Bear cartoon for the London Evening News - 1977 - Illustrated by Ivor Wood

Paddington’s jar of marmalade for the London Evening News – 1977 – Illustrated by Ivor Wood

Well I had to end the post with Paddington’s favourite snack, Marmalade. Just look at those chunky bits’ shredded up in the jar. Hmmmm. Promise not to leave the next post too long so keep on the look out.

And if you’re interested my studio, Tinmouse Animation are embarking on a very exciting project. We’re animating the internationally successful Rex Factor podcast, duly named Rex Factor – The Animated Show. You can find out more about it in the link below and sign up for a FREE gift and all the latest updates. We’ll be opening up to funding in July through Kickstarter so would be great to see if any of you are interested 🙂

www.rexfactor-theanimatedshow.co.uk

Ivor Wood talks Wombles in Radio Times

This post needs me to do very little talking. Whilst browsing Ebay the other week I stumbled across a great find! A Radio Times magazine article from 3-9 February 1973. This was the week that The Womble’s first appeared on air on British Television. Both Ivor and Womble creator Elisabeth Beresford held an interview on the subject of bringing The Wombles to life. Along with some words from the man himself there’s also  a rare photo of him with his trademark pipe and also some candid Womble puppet shots.

So here it is. Enjoy!

Radio Times - 3-9 February 1973

Radio Times – 3-9 February 1973

Interview with Elisabeth Beresford and Ivor Wood on The Wombles first TV appearance - Radio Times - 3-9 February 1973

Interview with Elisabeth Beresford and Ivor Wood on The Wombles first TV appearance – Radio Times – 3-9 February 1973

Interview with Elisabeth Beresford and Ivor Wood on The Wombles first TV appearance - Radio Times - 3-9 February 1973

Interview with Elisabeth Beresford and Ivor Wood on The Wombles first TV appearance – Radio Times – 3-9 February 1973

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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