Written by Jonathan Rudd
Yorkshire has always been a hotbed for imagination and creative work. In this article we explore five fictional characters which have a connection to the county and have become famous worldwide.
1.The Mr Men
Mr Bump, Mr Tickle, Mr Greedy and Little Miss Sunshine were the creation of Cleckheaton born author, Roger Hargreaves. He wrote his first book, Mr Tickle back in 1971 after his son asked him what a “tickle” looked like. The cartoonist first drew the famous orange face with long arms and so the first “Mr Man was born. He went on to write and publish 49 Mr men books, followed by 42 “Little Miss” books from 1983. These have sold 100 million copies worldwide across 28 countries and have been translated into many different languages. The success of the Mr Men series has continued right until the present day, with new characters being added along with merchandise, TV series and film after Hargreaves’ death in 1988.
2. Jive Bunny
During the hot summer of 1989, two South Yorkshire DJs, fronted by a cartoon bunny ruled the UK charts. Les Hemstock, from Doncaster and Andy Pickles of Rotherham produced a “megamix” of old rock and roll songs originally for the promotional DJ Mastermixers series. The mix was so successful on club dance floors that they decided to release it as a single. After overcoming some copyright issues a new mix was released and named, “Swing the Mood,” which fused together some famous rock n roll classics, such as Jailhouse Rock, “Rock Around The Clock” and “Wake Up Little Suzie. The reaction was phenomenal as it stormed its way to the top of the UK charts in August 1989 and stayed there for five weeks! Jive Bunny not only conquered the UK charts, but also reached the summit in eleven other countries, such as Australia, Germany and New Zealand. The bunny wasn’t finished there though and enjoyed two more number ones in the same year with similar mixes entitled, “That’s What I Like” and “Let’s Party.” Even though the bunny stopped charting in 1991 he is not dead and buried.. he can still be found at holiday resorts and festivals across the UK.
3. The Mad March Hare from Alice in Wonderland
Now it would be wrong to suggest that one of Lewis Carroll’s most famous creations in “Alice in Wonderland” wore a flat cap and spoke with a Yorkshire accent, but the inspiration behind it can be found in our county.
St Mary’s church in Beverley is often overlooked by tourists who head straight to the Minster. A look inside this impressive place of worship reveals a wonderful carving of a white rabbit, which sits above the door to the sacristy (a place where the priest keeps objects he uses during a service). It was created in 1325 and is known as the pilgrim rabbit, but also looks the same as Carroll’s illustrator, John Tenniel’s depiction of the march hare in the famous 19th Century novel.
4. The Magic Roundabout
Although the original”The Magic Roundabout” was created by a Frenchman, Serge Danot, the development of the hit series was made by a Yorkshireman, Ivor Wood. He was born in Leeds in 1932, but moved to Lyon in France after the Second World War. He got a job working at La Comete, an advertising agency in Paris. Here he met Danot and the two worked together on an animated cartoon series called La Menage’ Enchante’. The series was first screened on the BBC in 1965 and a total of 441 episodes were shown until 1977. The English version, The Magic Roundabout included characters, such as, Dougal the dog, Ermintrude the Cow and Zebedee the jack in a box. The Magic Roundabout was sold across the world
On the strength of this success, Ivor Wood set up Woodland Animation in 1973, which was also behind other famous children’s creations, such as The Herbs, Postman Pat and The Wombles. It is fair to say that thanks to the work of Ivor Wood, quite a few of our favorite children’s programmes have a bit of Yorkshire in them.
5. Wallace & Gromit
And finally…Wallace and Gromit are two Yorkshire expats stuck (for some reason) in Wigan, Lancashire. Poor things. Anyway, Wallace does speak with a Yorkshire accent (thanks to Peter Sallis) and they have a penchant for Wensleydale Cheese, which is good enough for me…