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Alan Titchmarsh and Gordon the Garden Gnome

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Gordon the Garden Gnome is a British animated children’s television series aimed at getting children interested in gardening. We caught up with Alan Titchmarsh, the voice of Gordon:

KEITH MILES:
Can we start with a little background, how you got involved with Gordon?

ALAN TITCHMARSH:
I had a phone call, as you do!  Would you be interested in?  When I found out it was a cartoon to try to get tinies into the great outdoors, interested in gardens, away from Gameboys, Playstations, I thought yesthis is my purpose in life!

KEITH MILES:
Apart from voice over what other involvement have you been allowed in the animation?

ALAN TITCHMARSH:
As much as I thought I needed.  They are great stories, well told and the lines are funny, so you know you get your own input in terms of timing and there are times when they get things slightly wrong horticulturally.

TONY COLLINGWOOD
When we heard Alan’s delivery, we knew we were cutting out funny scenes. Hes a very good actor.  We made a five minute pilot and then we sat down. It was clear that Alan was good at pure story telling and we were losing the funnier moments.  In a bizarre way Alan’s input has been to double the length of the shows.  His sense of humour and rhythm of speech changed what we were doing and then we started to write further scripts.  Alan carries a show as an artist rather than as a star.

KEITH MILES:
Did you approve individual scripts with Alan?

ALAN TITCHMARSH:
I recorded on my own so not with the rest of the cast and need do anything up to.one sitting (or standing in fact) was 13 episodes, taking most of the day to do it.  Great thing is that these guys are writers for the voice.  I write both on the page in novels and columns.  I also write scripts for television and there is a great difference between writing for the page and writing for the voice.  It is their stock in trade.  When you are writing for somebody else you have to hear them in your head and then when you write it down you know they can say it because you have heard them.  Its not what happens in novels funnily enough, when you are writing dialogue in novels you act like its talking dictation.  You listen for what the characters are saying and you write it down and then it comes over as speech not as written word.  Narrative is quite different from speech and these guys deal in speech the whole time so once they’d heard me doing one programme, one episode, theyd got the voice in their head they know how I deliver and they are very quick. They would do it without any changes.

KEITH MILES:
Did you know how Gordon would sound or did he develop?

ALAN TITCHMARSH:
We did a pilot over two years ago and I thought well theyve asked me to do it so it should be a bit me.  I dont think I should give him a posh voice so I thought Id make him me but more-so, flatten his vowels a little bit. Sort of a cross between Alan Bennett and Duncan Preston from Dinnerladies.

KEITH MILES:
You’re only doing Gordon.  Did you work well with the other actors?

ALAN TITCHMARSH:
We only ever met occasionally, coming in and out.  It is tricky not doing the voices with them.

KEITH MILES:
Did you never at any stage feel you wanted to do a Johnny Morris and voice all the characters?

ALAN TITCHMARSH:
When we started, I was doing it all and it was narrated throughout.  Two things became apparent, one was that when it went to ten minutes, if I did all the voices it would take about 5 years.

TONY COLLINGWOOD:
Stay as a child.  Starts with AT narration so you know its the same person as Bernard Gibbs did with the Wombles, 10 minutes, tell story in slightly different way so that other characters to have their own voices.  What we did keep from the pilot is that there is always a very nice introduction setting the scene.

ALAN TITCHMARSH:
Every episode eases the children in and every episode ends with and everyone was very, very happy.  The feedback is always awww.  Its very endearing.  I like the Chief Gnome, they five you a smile when you talk about it.  It has been a great experience.

KEITH MILES:
So you are hoping that Gordon will continue on?

ALAN TITCHMARSH:
Oh yes, when we have the 1000th episode, Ill pay for the party.

KEITH MILES:
That’s been recorded!  Your personal interest in animation?

ALAN TITCHMARSH:
Never really got into The Simpson’s, but Tom & Jerry, I loved early British animation such as Captain Pugwash and Noggin the Nag.  I met and interviewed Oliver Postgate and Peter Firm and they bought along their cardboard cut-outs.

KEITH MILES:
You mentioned The Simpson’s which is a fairly sophisticated humour but its nice to see something with the awww factor.

ALAN TITCHMARSH:
Yes, Noggin the Nog, Magic Roundabout, they were endearing, enchanting, gentle and calming.  There arent many like that around.  Its all robots and wars and it is quite refreshing to have something nicer.  Gordon is very pretty too.  It has a strong message put over in the gentlest way, which will leave kids thinking they just want to go outside.  To be out there and to do what Gordon does.

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