Here Comes Towser
Bidding for a place alongside Paddington Bear, Superted, Dangermouse and other stars of the small person’s small screen comes Towser, a dog of considerable charm and character who appears in his own series of 26 five minute films, scheduled to start on September 14th (ITV) at 4.15.
Towser, like King Rollo and Victor and Maria before him is the product of King Rollo Films, a company started four years ago by a very talented trio – David McKee, Leo Beltoft and Clive Juster. But he is the creation of writer/illustrator Tony Ross. Three Towser books-of-the-films are published this month by Andersen so there is plenty of time to get acquainted with Towser on the page before he bursts forth fully animated.
We talked to Tony Ross about his latest character.
`About three years ago David McKee had the silly idea I should do some films with them. I fished around in my rag bag of ideas and came up with this little dog I’d thought of once for some small books. I just sort of picked him out, gave him a good old English dog’s name and licked him into shape. I didn’t want him to be a conventional kind of hero figure like Superted or Dangermouse, going around performing marvellous feats. Towser has his flaws, his weaknesses; he’s quite clever but his ideas often backfire on him – but he always wins in the end.’
In Towser’s world anything can happen – real things alongside fantasies. And there’s no time: kings, knights, space-ships, wizards, television are all part of the scene. His closest friends are Dr. Smelly the inventor, the King, and the Wizard – and he has a girl friend, Sadie, who is a little ginger and white cat.
Tony Ross wrote the stories and did the storyboards and drawings for the films in Manchester and sent them to the King Rollo Studios in Twickenham. `David made sure my scripts would work as films and then Leo breathed life into Towser with his animation. Making a film is very much a collaboration – the other three are so experienced and they contributed a lot.’ However when Klaus Flugge at Andersen suggested putting Towser into book form it was all down to Tony. `I didn’t originally think of the stories as books but as all my experience has been in books I suppose the films are a bit bookish.’ Even so it wasn’t easy. `In a film the combination of movement and sound can be very funny. In a book you have to re-create that effect in words.’ So far he has done book versions of six of the films. That and producing the art work for jigsaws, games, puzzles, a toy clock, party cups and plates and a Towser annual (the result of highly successful merchandising of the character by Copyright Promotions who also `handle’ Dangermouse and the Mr Men – among others) has meant that Towser has somewhat dominated Tony Ross’ life. `I’m beginning to understand what E. H. Shepard meant when he called Winnie-the-Pooh “that foolish bear”!’ Now, the books are about to be published and the films will soon be shown. `I feel awful’ says Tony, `It’s rather like having stage fright. The creative bit is over. You just have to wait for the opening night and see what everyone thinks.’
Well, we haven’t been able to see the films yet, and paper partyware is not really our line; but we’d like to declare the books – and Towser – a resounding hit.
Towser and Sadie’s Birthday (0 86264 049 0),
Towser and the Terrible Thing (0 86264 050 4),
Towser and the Water Rats (0 86264 051 2), all published by Andersen Press, £1.95.
Say Hello to Postman Pat
Postman Pat will be delighted to make a personal appearance at your book event. To book him: hire this all-in-one costume with integral head, hands and feet from his publishers!
The hiring charge is £5 plus cost of onward carriage. Bookings can be made by contacting Harriet Huxley at Andre Deutsch, 105 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LJ (01 580 2746).
Two new Postman Pat adventures were published in paperback by Hippo Books in May: Postman Pat’s Tractor Express and Postman Pat Takes a Message by John Cunliffe, full-colour, £1.25 each.