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  Here Come The Coles!   Here Comes Bod & The Gang!

    Back in April 2003, Lo and Alison Cole
shared a chocolate milkshake
    with The Hound as they talked about BOD...
     Here Comes Bod Again!
    Top BOD...                       Here Comes BOD...     

    BOD - Here And Now...    Here Come The Coles...


    Top BOD

    In the 1970's Bod, PC Copper, Aunt Flo, Farmer Barley Mow, Frank The
    Postman, Alberto Frog and The Amazing Animal Band came, saw and
    conquered the minds of a generation of  BBC TV preschoolers. The gang
    arrived amidst a flute-filled flurry of music and colour. Bod's world was a
    world of bright colours and uncluttered backgrounds, a surreal world where
    giant birthday cakes could be found in holes, a place where things happened  with
    out need of an explanation, where time was best spent living rather than dwelling
    on the mechanics of it all. And when the day was over there was even time for a
    game of 'Snap' and a yummy milkshake to set you on your way again...
    Bod himself remains a curiosity wrapped in an enigma. He is a man-child,
    of androgenous appearance. He is part philosopher, part spiritualist, wholly
    original and utterly unique. Viewers back then had seen nothing like him
    before and given the dominance now of children television 'corporations' with
    their formulas, demographics and accountabilities, it's unlikely we'll see
    anything quite like him again. What we do know is that this gentle baldheaded
    creation is actually older than you might think, more than 40 years old, indeed.
    He was the creation of Michael and Joanne Cole, a prolific husband and
    wife team who, amongst so many projects, brought us the delights of
    Fingerbobs and Gran.

     Bod's Way: The Meaning Of Life courtesy of Contender Books

    Bod first appeared in book form in the 1960s. The stories were read aloud on
    Playschool, a show which Michael Cole was producing, and on the back of
    their popularity, the animated series was born and broadcast in 1975 as part
    of the BBC's long-running Watch With Mother slot. Bod and his friends were an
    instant tv hit, benefiting from the BBC's habit of repeating these shows ad-
    infinitum. New tie-in storybooks were published, and annual editions. Bod
    seemingly brainwashed a Nursery School generation who still had his bright
    bald palette fixed in their minds when they arrived at University. Now he's a 'cult'
    figure, with his TV series available to buy on DVD, new licensed products and
    a hit book Bod's Way: The Meaning Of Life, published by Contender...

    Sadly Joanne Cole died in 1985, and Michael in 2001. The Bod estate is now in
    the capable hands of their siblings Lo, Alison, Sam and Kate. Lo and Alison took
    on the difficult task of finishing Bod's Way after their father's death. They now
    have plans to bring Bod, Barley Mow, and - maybe - even Alberto And His Amazing
    Animal Band back to our screens in the future. Proof indeed, of the simple
    brilliance of the series. Or have we all been brainwashed into thinking that....?

     Bod again!  A chat with Lo and Alison Cole.....

     With Bod's Way: The Meaning Of Life still selling well and a follow-up book
     forthcoming it seemed to be the perfect time to talk with his heirs and fill in
     the details of his life story. Where did he come from? Where is he going?
     Lo and Alison reveal all... and more...

    Here Comes BOD

Let's begin at the beginning. Can you tell us about the origins of Bod.
    When was he created, exactly, and where was his first published

    The first Bod stories were written in 1962 after we had been living for six months
    in Tourette in the South of France. Our father wrote in a note:

    'It had been an exceptionally hard winter, and the story 'Bod's Apple' reflects
    the feeling of liberation when spring finally came. It was written after visiting a
    fruit market with my wife and children. These were the first children's books
    Joanne and I had done, and Joanne spent many weeks simplifying her style
    to come up with the Bod characters. The 'dummies' were finished while we
    were staying in the Lake district. The books were immediately accepted by
    Methuen and published in 1965.'

    Our parents wanted to develop an idea for children which was more enduring and
    enlightened then the norm for children's illustrated books at that time (Noddy was
    typical of that era). The books were also published by Folletts in the States
    and there were originally only four titles - Bod's Apple, Bod's Dream, Bod And
    The Cherry Tree and Bod's Present.

     Is there any significance to Bod's name, some family connection,
     or is he just a ‘Bod’?

     We guess Bod means anything, anybody, nonspecific to race or gender.

     He’s very eastern in appearance, isn’t he. Is this deliberate?

     Our father was very interested in Eastern philosophy and well versed in Taoism.
     Also Bod is inspired by Picasso's images of fauns and Pan, which mum and
     dad loved.

     The Bod stories were read on Playschool - which your father was
     producing at the time - and in time the animated series was
     commissioned. Is that right?

     Our father got the job to write and direct Playschool and this was where
     the Bod books were first shown and read. The animated series came later,
     in l975, after our parents formed an independent production company with
     David Yates, Bodfilms. There were nine new stories, and these along with
     the original stories were shown on TV and appeared in a series of books
     published in 1975 and 1976.

     David Yates had a company producing animated children's programmes
     (remember the Flumps?) and it was with Alan Rogers and Peter Laing that
     the original 13 episodes were created as animations. Both of us worked on
     the cartoons, colouring in the cells, during out summer holidays.

     Presumably, it was the Bod stories that were actually commissioned.
     Where did the ‘interactive’ ideas - the song, milkshakes and Snap
     game - come from. Were they introduced later in proceedings through
     the input of Derek Griffiths, Fred Harris and co. or were they actually
     part of the original commission package?

     Bod was scheduled for the preschool, Watch With Mother slot which was
     always a 15-min long programme. The stories were therefore incorporated
     in a studio series which featured Alberto Frog and his Amazing Animal Band,
     and Bod guessing games, presented by Maggie Henderson. Our mother
     invented Alberto, his band, and his milkshakes - and designed and produced
     the captions.

     And John le Mesurier, such a dry ironic tone, who chose him
     for the narration?

     Not sure about this, we think it was our father who chose Le Mesurier.
     He loved Dad's Army. It was certainly an inspired choice!


     BOD - Here And Now

     So that was Bod in the 1970's. Now let's skip forward 25 years and
     talk about Bod's Way: The Meaning Of Life which your father was
     writing when he died. Did Contender come to him with the idea?

     In the 1990s Contender produced video/ DVD compilations and Video/DVDs
     of Bod and Bod/Alberto under license. They discovered that there was a
     big cult audience for Bod. On the back of this interest, they commissioned
     the first new Bod book in 25 years from our father. The original title was to
     be 'The Tao of Bod'- based on our father's ideas and beliefs. But it was never
     going to be heavy going: dad always trod lightly and had a wonderful sense
     of the absurd as well as the profound.

     Our father was very excited about the book and asked Lo to illustrate it
     as our mother died in 1986. He had made some notes, but tragically he
     died before he could progress the book any further. He became seriously
     ill just as he begun to work on the book, and died of liver cancer a week
     after it was diagnosed. Contender allowed Alison to take on the task of
     completing the text, and together we produced the book as a tribute to
     our very special parents and as a homage to all the Bod books that we
     had grown up with. We included many references to our lives with our
     parents, so that privately the book means a lot to all four of us children
     (our brother and sister Sam and Kate in addition to ourselves).

     The book is now in its second reprint, and Contender has just commissioned
     us to write a new book for this October which we are currently working on.

     You must be thrilled that Bod is still so fondly appreciated today!

     It is very satisfying to see the level of popularity that Bod has achieved.
     We are indeed incredibly proud of our parents' creation and realise what
     a wonderful legacy Bod is. Our father was thrilled to discover that Bod had
     a cult following, particularly among university students, and enjoyed looking
     at the Bod sites on the internet.

     And now you're putting together a new TV package. Do you plan to
     work with David Yates and Alan Rogers again - and indeed, Derek
     Griffiths and others?

     This is early days to decide who we will work with. Since our father's death,
     we have been approached by several companies about possible new TV
     ventures. We would love to bring Bod to a a new generation of children and
     we are looking into ways that we could create Bod afresh while retaining the
     true spirit of the original. Whatever happens, the family's role will remain central.

     I may well be wrong here, but I believe at one stage the BBC had
     the rights to the Alberto Frog sections, whilst Bodfilms had the rights
     to the stories and characters (see
Ancient Nick) . Have these
     complications been ironed out now, will we see Alberto and co in
     any new series?

     We believe the BBC owns the rights to the Alberto TV sections, although
     the estate owns the intellectual property rights in the character. Bodfilms
     assigned all the Bod rights to our father in 1992, and these rights now reside
     with his estate. Alberto does make a cameo appearance in the new book,
     and no doubt he will continue to pop up now and then!

     Are there new characters planned, or plans to update Bod’s world,
     like having him play computer ‘Snap’ now?

     Bod works because of the simplicity and timelessness of Bod's world,
     which our parents worked hard to achieve. We would like to continue with
     this structure, and it is unlikely that new characters will be introduced, but
     that does not mean that Bod cannot embrace new ideas. Our father was
     very receptive to this, and had written some satirical sketches in which
     Farmer Barleymow experiments with genetic farming, and Aunt Flo tries
     a disastrous fad diet. The important thing with Bod, however, is that the
     values remain the same and that it always expresses joy in life.

     And on the licensing front, can we expect Bod plush toys
     and suchlike for

     There are already Bod T-shirts out there, and as for Bod plush toys
     and other apparel - who knows?


     Here Come The Coles

     So there are the four of you involved with Bod now, what are
     your roles here, have you been following in your parents' footsteps?

     Both of us have a direct involvement with Bod and we have both pursued
     careers which are inspired by our parents. Alison is involved with writing
     and has several titles to her name (mostly on the art history front). She
     works full-time for the National Art Collections Fund where she is Head of
     Communications and Campaigning, and Editor in Chief of Art Quarterly
     Magazine. Lo has always worked as an artist and illustrator, from designing
     the sleeve to Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Pleasure Dome to exhibiting his
     own work in paint and print. Kate works as a social worker and Sam lives
     in Rome and works as a cameraman/editor for Associated Press Television
     News (he is currently on an aircraft carrier in the gulf). Both of them are also
     very artistic and very supportive of all our efforts on the Bod front.

     And aside from keeping Bod alive, have you other original
     creations and projects up your sleeve, or plans to reinvigorate
     or indeed, bring on, some more of your parents’ creations like
     Kate And Sam, Fingerbobs or Gran?

     At this stage it is enough work just getting Bod off the ground. Maybe
     Kate and Sam could take on the new Kate and Sam books!

     Your parents created several classic series. Did they have
     a particular favourite?

     Their favourite was probably Bod, although mum had a softspot for Gran
     as this character was closely based on our great grandmother (who lived
     to 101). Dad also enjoyed some of the later projects that he took on after
     mum's death: Alphabet Castle and Playdays Dot Stop among them. Our
     father was always working on new ideas and there are many projects that
     he was working on up to his death. Away from his children's projects, he
     wrote wonderful short stories, novels and poetry, much of which he never
     presented to publishers. Mum also illustrated books by other authors,
     e.g. Jill Tomlinson's Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark, and painted and
     exhibited her own work.

     How did your mother and father operate. Did one concentrate
     on the design and the other write the stories, or was it always a
     collaborative effort?

     They worked very much as a team and were very close to each other.
     Dad wrote and Mum illustrated, but they refined ideas together.

     I have to ask, was it a bumpy ride or did they get along
     very easily as a team?

     They loved working together and it was a very harmonious creative
     relationship. They respected each other's talents immensely and were
     very noncompetitive As the TV projects took off they often worked under
     enormous pressure to hit deadlines - we remember Mum working on
     Fingerbobs puppets through the night...

     Lo and Alison, thank you both for sharing your time with us
     and directing a little Bod-ism our way!

     There Goes Bod & The Gang!

     So there goes Bod, on his merry flute-filled way again, but he'll be back soon
     if Lo and Alison get their way. Those keen to discuss Bod's future should
     contact Lo and Alison, in the first instance. Bod meanwhile remains a delightful
     enigma, an iconic figure destined to be in our lives for quite some time to come.
     Especially now that a second BOD book has been published: 'BOD's New
     Leaf' is available to purchase over at ToonsToGo!
     And speaking of times to come, I wonder who'll be next on the Q&A list
     for The Hound. Hmm, maybe Bod knows. After all, Bod is all-seeing,
     omnipresent, all around us even as you read this.... Yeek, maybe I've had
     one too many milkshakes today...?

     - Till next time!

Pooch again!     thehound@toonhound.com    

© estate of Michael and Joanne Cole/ F2000-2004