'Postman Pat' animator
Tuesday 04 January 2005
Ivor Wood, animator: born Leeds 4 May 1932; married 1961 Josiane Lappine (one son); died London 13 October 2004.
Ivor Wood brought pleasure to several generations of children, not to mention their parents, with a succession of animated programmes for BBC Children's Television from the 1960s to the 1990s. His four most popular programmes were The Magic Roundabout, Paddington Bear, The Wombles and Postman Pat.
In 2001 he sold his production company, Woodland Animations, to Entertainment Rights for £5.1m. The purchasers have now commissioned a new series about the kindly village postman and his cat Jess from Cosgrove Hall.
Born in Yorkshire in 1932, Wood grew up with his French mother in a small village outside Lyons in France, and later studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Unable to sell his paintings, he first worked as a lift operator in a factory, then took a job with a company making commercials, La Comète, where he learnt about animation.
He teamed up with Serge Danot, who was developing The Magic Roundabout, or Le Manège Enchanté, at the time, using the relatively new technique of stop-motion. In 1964 they sold the idea to French television, but were initially rejected by the BBC who thought it would be difficult to dub into English.
However their case was taken up by Joy Whitby, the enterprising producer of the BBC's Play School who suggested one of her presenters, Eric Thompson, should translate from the French and provide the narration. With its quirky charm and original look, the show was an instant hit when first shown in October 1965. At the peak of its popularity, the show achieved viewing figures of eight million.
In 1968 Wood collaborated with the writer Michael Bond on The Herbs, whose characters lived in a secret herb garden. The BBC commissioned 39 15-minute films which Wood created on the kitchen table of his Paris apartment. Such was its popularity at the time that a spin-off series, The Adventures of Parsley, was commissioned.
Wood also adapted Elizabeth Beresford's stories about the Wombles of Wimbledon Common, making the puppet Wombles himself and directing all 60 of the five-minute episodes. The Wombles pioneered recycling before it became fashionable, picking up litter left by the careless humans on Wimbledon Common. Other projects in the 1970s included Simon in the Land of Chalk and Paddington Bear, for which Wood successfully combined a three-dimensional bear puppet with 2-D cardboard cut-outs of the other characters. It became a worldwide hit.
Probably Wood's greatest commercial success was Postman Pat, based on the stories of John Cunliffe, about the misadventures of a kindly postman in the picturesque village of Greendale. Wood re-mortgaged his house to finance the project and produced 26 episodes in the early Eighties, followed by a further 30 films in the early Nineties. It sold to more than 50 foreign markets, with massive video sales.
The sale of his company to Entertainment Rights three years ago made Wood a wealthy man, but it made little difference to his life style. He and his French wife Josiane continued to divide their time between London and Lyons, as they had done for a number of years.
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