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Wombles Pick Up A New Series: Interview With Co-Producer Genevieve Dexter

// Interviews, News

Underground, overground, wombling free, the Wombles are returning to TV. This week, it has been announced that the The Wombles will be roaming back onto our screens in a brand spanking new series on Channel 5’s Milkshake in 2015.

The new incarnation of loveable London litter-pickers, will appear in CGI form for the first time.
Musician Mike Batt, who now owns the rights to the eco-friendly furry family through his Dramatico label and who also wrote the music for the original BBC series said: “It will look more like stop motion but with great fur. We believe that there are audiences of new children who missed The Wombles the first time around and will be thrilled to see the brilliant high quality animation and new musical productions.”

Channel 5 has struck a deal for two new series of the popular show, consisting of 26 episodes, each one 11 minutes in total. “This show was so loved by generations of children and the time is right for it to gain a whole new following,” said Jessica Symons, head of children’s programmes at Channel 5. “The stories and characters are as compelling as ever and we’re excited to welcome The Wombles to Milkshake”.

The Wombles began life in a series of books by children’s author Elisabeth Beresford, which were inspired by her young daughter mispronouncing “Wimbledon” as “Wombledon”.

womble1.jpg

The characters made their TV debut on an episode of Jackanory in 1968 before landing their own stop-motion series for the BBC from 1973-1975 directed and animated by veteran children’s animator Ivor Wood. During the seventies The Wombles also made a successful transition into the British pop charts, scoring eight top 40 singles and becoming the top-selling singles group of 1975.

They returned briefly in 1995 for new episodes produced for ITV, as well as appearing in live form as a novelty addition to the bill at Glastonbury in 2011.

I was lucky enough to catch up with Genevieve Dexter, whose company Serious Lunch is co-producing the new series and ask her how plans to bring back The Wombles came about…

How long have you been planning to bring to Wombles back to our screens?

We have been working on this since 2011, the main task being assembling all the rights and control into one place – no mean feat I can tell you!

Will the characters be as we remember them or are there plans to modernise their world?

The characters will be the same 7 with the addition of Alderney who features in the original books but was not included in Ivor Wood’s series.

Classic kids show remakes have been attempted before and failed. Why do you think the tale of the Wombles will still resonate with today’s young audiences?

Surprisingly many kids already know and love the Wombles. My neighbour’s kid was singing the song the other day – unprompted I might add! I think their parents show them on YouTube, plus of course the band reformed and played Glasto in 2011 and had the biggest crowd of the day!

The new series will be created in CGI rather than the tradition stop frame. What made you choose to do this and what do you hope this new medium will bring to the project?

If you look at the mobility of stop frame it is very limited in terms of facial expression and movement unless the features are very exaggerated. The Wombles really only have eyes and noses and so we need the muscles of the face to move a bit, otherwise they can only express themselves in a very muted way. We also want to have great fur that moves with the body rather than being wooly and static. Also the episodes will be twice as long as the originals and have dialogue, so for all of these reasons we think this is the right way to go.

wombles2.jpg

How many animators will be working on this project and what software will you be using?

We will be using Maya, although in the animation test we did we also used after fx for backgrounds, but I think we will finally go full CGI – the details of the team size will follow – we have to raise the money first!

Will you be keeping Mike Batt’s original theme tune or will it be having a makeover?

Keeping the same of course!

The original series was famously voiced by Bernard Cribbins, will he be involved with this project?

We would love him to be Great Uncle Bulgaria when the time comes.

How many episodes will you be making and when can we expect to see them back on our screens?

52 episodes x 11 minutes long for Spring / Summer 2015

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