Tony Hart: 'I used to paint murals in a restaurant for meals'

The 5-Minute Interview
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The Independent Online

Why do you consider drawing to be important?

Doing anything creative is important, because it gets your imagination working. Every child should be encouraged to be creative.

How did you land your first job in television?

In 1952 I went to a party, and met a BBC children's television producer. He invited me to an interview. When I got there, he asked if I could draw quickly. He then asked me to draw a fish blowing bubbles, but his secretary took too long finding a piece of paper, so I drew the fish on a serviette. The producer was impressed, and I was hired as a freelance for Saturday Special.

Is it true you used to paint murals on restaurant walls in exchange for meals?

I gave up my job in a West End store to go freelance. Things were tough and I did paint murals on restaurant walls in exchange for meals.

Did you draw a lot as a child?

My mother told me that when I was very young I used to draw "Tick Tocks" (clocks), which were a circle with a tick in the middle. She used to save old envelopes for me to draw on.

How did Morph come to be created?

My first eponymous TV show was Take Hart. The producer decided that he wanted "something", not "someone", on the show with me. Two young graduates had been making animations for Vision On of a character called Aardman and they came up with Morph. They went on to form Aardman Animations.

How much did you get for designing the Blue Peter logo?

I asked for one penny every time they used it, but I was told that I would not get much out of that, and they gave me £100 instead. Don't I wish!

What do you think of children's television programmes today?

I regret that so much of children's television today consists of cartoons. They amuse, but do very little to stimulate.

What has been your happiest moment?

When I married my dear wife, Jean. I fell in love with her in 1952 when I saw her in a pub near Lime Grove Studios. I managed to chat with her from time to time, and one day she was upset. She told me that someone was bulldozing her into going out to dinner with him, so I plucked up my courage and said, "Well, if you don't want to go out with him, will you come out with me instead?" She said "Yes", and we were married a year later! Jean died two years ago, but I have her photograph just inside my studio door, so that I can wish her "Good morning" as I have always done.

How will you celebrate your 80th birthday in two weeks' time?

I shall celebrate my entry into the octogenarian's club with a very special lunch at my cottage with my family and my friends. What could be nicer?