Wombles of Wimbledon make silver screen debut


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The Independent Culture

The Wombles, the eco-friendly stars of children's TV from yesteryear, are to star in their own film.

It is one of the projects being planned by musician Mike Batt - the man who put the characters into the charts in the 1970s - after he took a controlling interest in their rights.

He is also aiming to bring them back to TV in a lengthy series as he rejuvenates the fondly remembered creatures, who got into a series of adventures as they kept Wimbledon Common litter-free.

Batt had his big break creating pop hits for the Wombles when they were a TV phenomenon almost 40 years ago but went on to have his own successful solo career as well as acting as mentor to Katie Melua, whom he signed to his Dramatico label.

He also brought the Wombles' music career - which saw them score top five hits such as Remember You're A Womble and The Wombling Song - back to life in 2011 when they were a novelty addition to the bill at the Glastonbury festival.

Batt said in a message to fans that his firm now has the major shareholding in Wombles Copyright Holdings, after many years of holding a 50-50 share with the estate of author Elisabeth Beresford, who created the characters.

He said he could not go into great detail but went on: "Suffice to say we have plans for two new 26-part TV series', a feature-length movie and an interactive online Wombles World experience.

"We think the Wombles characters are timeless, funny and lovable, and we can assure the Beresford estate that we shall protect and look after the quality and integrity of the characters as we always have done.

"We think there are audiences of new children and international audiences who missed the Wombles the first time around and will be thrilled to see the brilliant high-quality animations and new musical productions we shall be mounting."

Beresford published her first Wombles story in 1968 with characters such as sleep-loving Orinoco, inventor Tobermory and wise old Great Uncle Bulgaria. The TV series launched in 1973 and was revived for a further run of episodes 16 years ago.

After writing music for the TV series, Batt launched his pop career by dressing in a Womble suit which his late mother Elaine made for him. He had to recruit a band and his mother - who died two months ago - had to run up extra costumes in a matter of hours when the group were booked for Top Of The Pops when The Wombling Song became an unexpected hit.

Beresford's books were brought back into print in 2010 and 2011.