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Paddington (1976-86)

Courtesy of The Cookie Jar Entertainment Inc

Main image of Paddington (1976-86)
BBC, tx. 1/5/1976 - 3/1/1986
4 series of 56 x 5 min episodes total plus 3 specials, colour
Director/AnimatorIvor Wood
Production CompanyFilmFair
ScriptsMichael Bond
MusicHerbert Chappell

Cast: Michael Hordern (narrator)

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A young bear travels from Peru to arrive at London's Paddington station and is taken in by the Brown family.

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The Paddington story began when Michael Bond, a BBC cameraman, bought a lonely toy bear from an empty shelf at London's Selfridges store for his wife. Living near Paddington railway station at the time, Bond named him Paddington and began to write stories about the creature. The first of many Paddington books was published in 1958.

Bond received several approaches to turn Paddington into a TV star, with the FilmFair company and animator Ivor Wood finally producing a series in 1975. An innovative technique placed a loveable 3D bear puppet in a 3D part-drawn setting populated by 2D human figures, ensuring that Paddington was always the centre of attention. Wood's puppet was based on the original book illustrations of Peggy Fortnum, as well as an officially approved soft toy made by Shirley Clarkson's Gabrielle Designs.

The series of five-minute adventures were shown just ahead of the evening news. Episodes usually saw Paddington lend a well-meaning hand but cause chaos through misunderstanding - in the resulting uproar Paddington would remain disarming and, thanks to a voiceover from distinguished actor Michael Hordern, terribly, politely English. Otherwise, discretion might prove the better part of valour and he'd hurriedly depart the scene of the crime.

Several successful series were made and in 1979 Paddington won a silver medal at the New York Film and Television Festival. FilmFair later produced three half-hour specials in the 1980s. The 'Singin' in the Rain' sequence from Paddington Goes to the Movies (BBC, tx. 15/3/83) is regarded as one of Wood's finest moments, and was approved by Gene Kelly.

Central and Hanna-Barbera produced an Americanised cartoon series Paddington Bear (ITV, 1990), as did Canadian company Cinar with The Adventures of Paddington Bear (ITV, 1997). Both sold worldwide but their animation was fairly undistinguished in comparison to Wood's.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
Complete episode (4:40)
Herbs, The (1968)
Hordern, Sir Michael (1911-1995)
Wood, Ivor (1932-2004)