In a recent BBC Radio programme titled, The Art of Kids TV, former Blue Peter presenter Tim Vincent delves into the last 60 years of animation in Wales. Who knew the country, most famous for its rolling hills and staggering mountaintops, also had a lush history of children’s programmes?
Tim Vincent discussed the importance of Ivor the Engine, one of the first animated series to captivate audiences that was set in Northern Wales. The show focused on everyday moments of Welsh life through the adventures of Ivor and his friends, while also bringing in magical elements with Ivor being a train to even featuring some notorious Welsh dragons. Compared to some of the other programmes on TV during its initial release in 1959, the black and white, stop-motion animated series offered something different for UK audiences to indulge in each week.
In addition to Ivor the Engine there was Fireman Sam, created in 1987; another stop motion animated classic which focused on a fireman solving fire incidents and sharing safety tips in each episode. Fireman Sam was especially important to Welsh audiences because of the relatable Welsh characters depicted each week; there was at least someone Fireman Sam interacted with that would remind audiences of their parents, neighbours, and even teachers.
Some other animated shows either made in Wales or featuring Welsh characters that were discussed in this episode were Super Ted, Wil Cwac Cwac, and Chloe’s Closet.
Despite most of those hit shows being in the past, the animation industry in Wales is booming.
Cloth Cat Animation regularly produces high-end children’s TV for a global market. Cloth Cat are most famous for their series Luo Bao Bei, which follows 7-year-old Luo Bao Bei as she goes about her day-to-day life as a child and explores the world around her.
Cloth Cat are also responsible for Shane the Chef and The Rubbish World of Dave Spud, just to name a few. You can check out more of their past work on the studio’s website: https://www.clothcatanimation.com/work/
Jon Rennie, Managing Director of Cloth Cat, said it best when it concerns the future of animation in Wales:
“We’re showing there’s a global aspect to culture now, that things are feeding in from all over the place, and we’re a bit more of a melting pot. I think there’s a real sense of support here for the animation industry, however small it is, that they recognize it as a valuable past of the creative industries. Wales is growing quite a bit with creative industries; the Dark Materials trilogy has been a big production here. I think there is a great future. The broadcasters are really supporting animation; the Young Audiences Content Fund that’s been run by the BFI is designed actually to make sure British cultural animation and live action is produced here in the UK for children; that it’s not taken over by international interests. Something that says, this is made in Wales because it’s high quality.”
For us at Cardiff Animation Festival, the best part about working in animation has always been the universality of the stories and the fact that a great series, or film, will stay with audiences for the rest of their lives; as they grow up, have their own families, and continue passing along the legacy of what made their childhoods special.
Do you have any favourite Welsh animated shows? What were some of the shows that made your childhood magical growing up? Tweet your thoughts or share with us in the comments below.