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Wood, Ivor (1932-2004)

Animator, Director, Producer

Main image of Wood, Ivor (1932-2004)

Ivor Wood was born on 4 May 1932 in Leeds. His British father and French mother moved to a village near Lyon after WWII, and Wood would continue to live in France until the late 1960s. After studying at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris he struggled to sell his paintings, taking factory jobs to pay the bills, but within a year had taken a design job at Paris advertising agency La Comète. Here Wood developed his skill with the stop-frame animation process - this remained Wood's preferred technique throughout his career.

La Comète colleague and animator Serge Danot came to Wood with an idea for a children's TV series. Meeting in Paris cafés and bars after work, Danot, Wood and his French wife Josiane refined the concept. Wood and Danot produced the first series of Le Manège Enchanté in black and white for French station ORTF in 1964. It proved very popular with French children and adults and repeated this success when adapted by Eric Thompson for the UK as The Magic Roundabout (BBC, 1965-77).

When Danot moved operations out to the French countryside, Wood preferred to stay in Paris and pursue new projects. He partnered with British production company FilmFair to make The Herbs (BBC, 1968), the story of creatures named after kitchen herbs living in an English garden. The Adventures of Parsley (BBC, 1970) followed, featuring its most famous characters: Parsley the green lion and Dill the dog. Michael Bond was the creator and scriptwriter; Wood the designer and animator. Wood then designed characters for FilmFair's Hatty Town (ITV, 1971-72).

Wood's next big success was The Wombles (BBC 1973-75; 1990; 1991; 1998-99), based on the books of Elisabeth Beresford. Wood radically redesigned the bear-like creatures of the original illustrations to create the long-snouted creature now recognised as a Womble.

Wood's only two-dimensional cartoon series was Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings (ITV, 1976), about a boy who could draw himself into a magical world. Like The Wombles it was narrated by Bernard Cribbins but without the teatime BBC1 slot enjoyed by most of Wood's productions it was perhaps a lesser success.

There were no such problems on Wood's next series, the enduring Paddington (BBC, 1976; 1979-80; 1983; 1986; 1987) another BBC1 children's series. Wood hooked up with old Herbs friend Michael Bond, and gave a new lease of life to Bond's popular bear.

Wood decided to go it alone from FilmFair to set up Woodland Animations. He invested heavily in Postman Pat (BBC, 1981-2; 1991; 2004), adapted from books by John Cunliffe. It became perhaps his most popular series and continues to be widely merchandised.

Woodland's other international successes were three series of thirteen episodes each: Gran (BBC, 1983), created by Joanne and Michael Cole and voiced by Patricia Hayes; Bertha (BBC, 1985-86), about a mischievous factory machine, narrated by Roy Kinnear; and Charlie Chalk (BBC, 1988-89), about a circus clown stranded on a bizarre island.

Brand house Entertainment Rights pursued the jewel in the crown of Postman Pat and acquired Woodland for £5.1 million in November 2001. A new series of Pat adventures appeared on TV and DVD in 2004, and following Wood's death on 13 October they took out a full page in trade magazine Broadcast with the message: "You will be missed. Your legacy will remain in children's hearts for all time."

Alistair McGown

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Herbs, The (1968)Herbs, The (1968)

Animated adventures of Parsley the lion and his magical friends

Thumbnail image of Magic Roundabout, The (1965-77)Magic Roundabout, The (1965-77)

Hugely popular children's animated series

Thumbnail image of Paddington (1976-86)Paddington (1976-86)

The animated adventures of the bear from Darkest Peru

Thumbnail image of Wombles, The (1973-75, 1998-99)Wombles, The (1973-75, 1998-99)

Much-loved animated series about the tidy creatures of Wimbledon Common

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