Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley

By 2005,it had been 37 years since Windy finished his last Trumptonshire scenes for Chigley.
And 40 since filming Camberwick.

Not that he'd been idle of course,with his daily routine of grinding,whittling,cider making and all
round good-egging.
It's just that it was all being done sight-unseen by the rest of us.

Because,by this stage,the series had largely retreated to the sanctuary of dvd and the memory banks of people of a certain age .... allbeit a lot of people of a certain age.

But life-long friend Gordon Murray had kept the faith - seen together here

And it proved an early vindication of his decision to hire the Entertainment Rights Group to try and put Trumptonshire back on the map by brokering some deals.

With ad agency Abbot,Mead & Vickers coming up with the idea for Windy to front an ad campaign for Quaker porridge oats,in response to a brief from Quaker's owners,Pepsico.

In short .... very unexpected ? Yes.
But who better to endorse a milled oats product than the UK's only  famous miller,complete with Equity card !

On this page - The full story of the 2005 & 2006 ad campaign,featuring Windy and some new friends.

My sincere thanks to the following for their help in putting all this together :-

Bob Thorne and Lucy at Artem .... Emma at LooseMoose .... Dave Buchanan and Victoria Austin at Abbott Mead Vickers .... Polly Atherton at Freud Communication
Q. How were they made

A. They were produced using stop motion animation,and 99% of what's shown physically exists in miniature.
The only exception being the use of CGI to create the steam coming up from the bowl of porridge.

Everything was hand-made by a firm of model makers over an 8 week period.  
( More on that further down the page )

And whilst it was 40 years since Camberwick Green was made and technology had moved on,
it still took animators 2 weeks just to get 60-odd seconds of footage. But,if a job's worth doing ....

Q. Why weren't they made with CGI 

A. Simply because Gordon Murray insisted they retained the look and feel of the originals.
And that could only be done using the same stop motion animation method.

It's true that CGI can create imagery that stop-motion can't do well ( or at all.)
And it can also be quicker and cheaper.
But Murray was absolutely right to stick to his guns.Because it's the bedrock to the whole look and feel of all 3 series.

Still not convinced ? ....

Well,how about the hopelessly misjudged CGI Magic Roundabout movie that came out at the same time,in 2005 ?
All the life and charm was airbrushed out of the characters.Some badly miscast voiceover celebs did the rest.
And kids who hadn't seen the originals were left wondering what all the fuss was about - Result ?  Franchise suicide.
Q. Who was the narrator

A. It was Charlie Higson (b.1958),a successful comedy performer,comedy writer and novelist.
Shown,right, in his most famous on-screen role as "Ralph" to Paul Whitehouse's "Ted" in the
Fast Show's Ted and Ralph sketches. Click on the pic and it'll take you to his Wiki page.

Q. What about Brian Cant

Brian was the obvious initial choice and was asked to test for it.
Unfortunately,it proved to be just a few years too late and they decided to look elsewhere.

He subsequently revealed.....
" I did a version of it,but they didn't think it worked.They told me it didn't sound like me.
I suppose I don't sound just as I did 40 years ago,but I was very disappointed.I would have thought that the viewers would have recognised my voice."

Whilst actors are used to rejection,it must be particularly hard to take when its age-related.
And particularly when you're so synonymous with the role that Plan B was to try and find someone who did sound like the 1965 version.
But,eventually,common sense kicked-in and it was decided to have a clean break rather than a poor imitation.
And not only was Charlie apparently really chuffed to do it,but he proved to be an inspired choice.
Q. How much did it all cost 

A. Now there's a question. And the simple answer is I've absolutely no idea.
As I was unsurprisingly informed that it was ...."commercially sensitive information".

But,whatever the figure,it was loose change to someone like Pepsico.
And whilst there are clearly cheaper ways to make an advert than with stop motion,it's always the consumer who ultimately decides whether it was money well spent.

Q. Summing up

The ads were critically acclaimed. Most fans seem to have enjoyed them.
And Pepsico shifted some more packets. So everyone seems to have got something out of them.

And hopes were high that the Trumptonshire brand was on the up again.
As this extract from an Entertainment Rights PLC results statement shows ....

" Camberwick Green's Windy Miller is currently starring in a major national television and print advertising campaign for Pepsico's Quaker Oats.As a result of ER's success in exploiting Trumptonshire ER's agreement to represent this third party brand has been extended for a further 5 years." [Sept.05]

Sadly,fast forward 15+ years and the only thing that's happened since is the demise of ER !

And you'd hve to think that any vague hopes of a remake should probably be respectfully buried once and for all too.

The successful 2015 Clangers remake showed it's certainly possible.
Retaining all the charm of the originals with it's decision to retain stop motion rather than CGI.And a totally empathetic  narration by Michael Palin,who managed to pull off the seemingly impossible by filling Oliver Postgate's shoes.

But the problem with that particular comparison is that the Clangers are completely timeless of course.
Whereas Trumptonshire's old-fashioned mix of human inhabitants and settings is not only its modern day weakness, but also a large part of its charm.
So how do you make all the changes required without sucking all the life out of it ?
Q. Who actually came up with the idea of using Windy  

A. The ad agency of Abbot,Mead & Vickers,and specifically Dave Buchanan and Mike Hannett.
Who both deserve a place in the Winkstead Hall of fame ( one for Chigley fans )

Q. Did they use the original model of Windy 

A. No. But ....

Windy's a bit like Dr.Who,because he undergoes periodic "re-generations".
But,unlike the Doctor,Windy is a true Lord of Time as he always emerges looking exactly the same.
And if he was,say,30 (??) in 1966,then that means he was around 70 come Quaker time !

Anyhow,the original 1965 MK1 version famously ended up on Gordon's back garden bonfire in 1986,
along with nearly all the other models and sets.
And becuase they'd apparently deteriorated so much then we can call it a mercy killing rather than genocide.

A MK 2 version was then made specially for the 1998 BBC "Future Generations" promo.
Which ended up at the Toy Museum in London until it was shut down {current whereabouts unknown.}

So the one used for these ads was a brand new MK 3 super-spec version -externally no different but completely upgraded internally.A sort of Lee Majors,Six Million Dollar Man makeover,as explained in "Model Making Masterclass" below.

He had to go to Artem in London to get it done privately,despite being on the Trumpton Hospital waiting list for 35 years.
So don't knock the NHS ! ( and yes,there was a hospital in Trumpton -it was mentioned in the series,but never shown.)

Q. Did Windy sell out 

A. You can maybe argue the toss about some of the lower-brow aspects of the content.
But Gordon Murray's main stipulation was that they had to be faithful recreations.
And there's no arguement with either the thinking or the execution.

Windy doesn't wear any branding.
And he's also helped enormously by the fact that he doesn't have a mouth.
So he can never directly endorse a product .... or be seen eating any of it - which is a tad inconvenient here  !

In other words,he's still just "good old Windy" - merely a detached interloper,and not a Ronald McDonald.
And,all-in-all,Mr.Murray managed to get away with a surprisingly arms length endorsement.
Model Making Masterclass courtesy of Artem
Want to faithfully ressurrect a Nation's favourite  ?

You need an expert model-making company.

No sticky back plastic and washing up bottles here !

Bob Thorne and his team took 8 painstaking weeks to create everything you see in the ads.

No CGI trickery here.
Everything was handmade - everything.

From the seemless recreations of all the original sets, props and characters.
just trying to make a crust  ?
Facts and Figures

Q. What was produced

A.   There were 4 seperate tv ads.

The initial 2 were first aired in September 2005 :- ( a warming product to combat the autumn chill.)

One called "Supergrain",advertising the standard brand,and featuring Windy with a new female character
simply,called "The Jogger"

And one called "Windy's Day Off",advertising the Oatso Simple brand,and featuring Windy with another new female character called "Molly the Barmaid"

A 3rd one called "Complaint",featuring PC McGarry,came out in early 2006. ( see the red text below about this one.)

And the 4th one,"Uncle Guber",followed in September of the same year.Again advertising the Oatso Simple brand,only this time with another new male character,Windy's "Uncle Guber" from Norway.

There was also an accompanying print ad campaign which also featured The Mayor (pic) and PC McGarry (pic),as well as a 4th new character of an un-named nurse (pic).

High quality clips of ads 1,2 & 4 - Courtesy of the animators,LooseMoose. But,sadly,they weren't able to supply no.3
the Windmill is mdf,with pine used for the sails to achieve the curvature of the slats.
And it was also sand-blasted to give it a realistic grainy wood texture.
Oh,and that Quaker hanging sign is actually about an inch & a half in size and was hand-painted -and done very quickly apparently. construction pic

Molly's Car isn't one bought from a toy store like Mr.Dagenham's in the original series.In fact the only similarity is that they're both red ! With Molly's being hand made from scratch -as you'd probably have guessed by now.
The body is fibreglass,and those shiney hubcaps,bumper and grill ? Yep,polished aluminium.
With the only real shortcut being the tyres,which are taken from a toy motorbike. construction pic

The Tree. Yes,theee tree.
Because in Trumptonshire there is only one species of tree,which helpfully removed any continuity issues of course.
And more often than not it was the same plastic 'jobbing' tree that's transplanted from one location to another.

Unfortunately as no off-the-shelf match could be found,it proved to be a species that's now sadly extinct.
So,in the absence of any DNA, Bob took a photocopy of it from one of the books and sent it up to Scotland to be photo-etched in brass before being soldered leaf by leaf and then spray-painted.
Sadly,I didn't actually think to ask why it had to be made out of brass,or why it was clearly a specialist build in itself.
But it just typifies the whole approach.

In short ..... Bob and his team did a truely remarkable job !

Like many a big kid,I'm a sucker for all this kind of stuff.

And whilst my head tells me that the reality of being an "SFX superviser/designer" is probably far more mundane than I'd imagine,I was encouraged by Bob's genuine enthusiasm for the project to think that maybe it isn't.

And it's also quite reassuring to know that we can still do some things ourselves without having to wait for it to arrive in a container from China.
between takes
 VIDEO                   Bonus Footage -courtesy of animators, "LooseMoose"                 VIDEO
MK 1
The Artem Team
But it's been well-documented that all the original models and sets were destroyed,so ..... where to start  ? ....

Well,a completely "no-compromise" recreation required a lot of research.
Even down to the precise tones and finishes of all the original colours and things like the textures of the clothing.

And not OTT when you consider how firmly entrenched in the memory banks all those things are.
Because even if something looked only slightly "off" you'd almost certainly know that something wasn't quite right -even if you couldn't quite put your finger on what it was.

So whilst the dvds were the obvious go-to source,it was actually the still photos in some of the spin-off books that provided by far the best insights.
Pin sharp photographic images,as opposed to footage that was still far from digitally restored at that stage.

And as a lot of those shots were stage-managed specially for the purpose,they also provided extra views and angles not on offer in the actual film footage.
In fact,some are so revealing that it's actually a little unkind to the original model makers.
But all put to very good use here ...

The Set

2 sheets of 10ft x 5ft MDF.
Even a suggestion to create the backdrop using cgi to save time was rejected.
So the sky and hills were actually hand-painted onto cloth canvas,that was then stretched in a frame and simply placed behind the animating table.
The base was treated with a sort of ragged paint effect,spray-glued and then sprinkled with very fine florist's sand to create Camberwick terra firma.
And the plants & shrubs that line the join between the horizontal and the vertical behind the Mill are real little plastic models, similar to the kind of stuff the famous toy company,Britains,used to produce.


Forget "The Terminator",and meet ..... The Wheatgerminator !

He's about 9 inches tall and weighs in at around 250 gms.
Largely the result of a complex metal framework (armature) incorporating 20 seperate joints.
A piece of precision engineering with a price tag to match.Although exactly how much is a trade secret.
But Artem have supplied me with a pic.So ..... for the first time anywhere,you can see our hero with his kit off.
And if that's really a step too far then please look away ..... now

The Jogger and Molly

Mechanically lower spec than Windy.
Simply because they didn't need to be as complicated and it saved some time and money.

The Jogger was a compromise between a jointed framework and a more simple basic aluminium armature.
And,in fact,the latter is the same wire used to contort tree saplings into bonsai trees and perfectly sufficient for parts of the body that don't require too much animating or too much complicated movement.
And as her main task was obviously jogging,the jointed bit was predominantly below the waist.

Molly only needed the most basic joint-free version,as the most we see her do is a quick wave from inside the car.

All their foam clothing was cut to size from different coloured 8' x 4' sheets supplied by Dunlop.
Not that the characters had an extensive wardrobe of course. 8' x 4' just happened to be the minimum order size.
Here we have a couple of short films produced by the animators,LooseMoose,to showcase their work on the project.

They're currently on the company's own YouTube page,but they're available here if you don't fancy the trip -with the company's permission of course.

The first is a look at the production process .... And the second is called "Quaker Oat Takes".
Both are well worth a few minutes of your time.
And,if you like your animation as much as I do,then check out their main site too.Because they've worked on a lot of other familiar ads  ( link at bottom of page )
That 4th ad is particularly notable for a series of Trumptonshire "firsts"

* It's the first ever appearance of anyone related to Windy. Nevermind a foreign naturist !

* It's the 1st time in the show's history that we actually get to see inside the Mill.

* And it's the 1st ever bit of secondary product placement,in the form of the Tropicana carton.
Oh,and the use of the microwave also flies in the face of everything he's supposed to believe in of course.

But that's showbiz .... or what happens when someone comes calling with a big sack of cash.
A couple of small daily newspaper articles to finish.

Both from Sept.2005 to plug the start of the campaign.
And,ever the pragmatist,Windy was happy to play the Sun off against the Daily Star in search of a bit of publicity.

Typically low-brow stuff.
But you've got to play the game to get the column inches.