Tuesday 15 May 2012

Margaret Gordon's original Wombles

The Wombles premiered in 1973, and its characters never left our consciousness. The nineties saw a revival of the series, just last year the Wombles band reunited to play in Glastonbury, and lately they've been promoting - of all things - the Carphone Warehouse. But it's worth remembering that these are not the original Wombles...

The characters started life in a 1968 children's book by Elisabeth Beresford, illustrated by Margaret Gordon. Gordon portrayed the Wombles as teddy bears, quite unlike the more rodenty versions that are familiar today.

When the book was adapted into an animated series, director Ivor Wood was tasked with reinventing the characters and his designs were duly adopted as the definitive Wombles. Even though Margaret Gordon continued to illustrate the books, she began basing her depictions on the stop-motion puppets from the first sequel onwards.

It's not hard to see why the change took place - Margaret Gordon's Wombles are rather nondescript, and aside from Great Uncle Bulgaria and Cousin Yellowstone there is nothing to distinguish them apart from their size. But nevertheless these are the original Wombles, and have a definite charm of their own.

I could find very few images of Gordon's early Womble illustrations online - aside form a couple of nods on fansites, they appear to have been largely forgotten - and so I've scanned a few for the benefit of any Wombles completists who may be reading.

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