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Wombles animator tells the Diss Express about his latest project




Ignotum per ignotius.

The unknown by means of the more unknown.

It’s not often we begin a story in Latin.

Objects may appear larger than they seem. An early incarnation of what one of the characters in Barry Leith's new film, may look like. Picture: Scribbly Roo
Objects may appear larger than they seem. An early incarnation of what one of the characters in Barry Leith's new film, may look like. Picture: Scribbly Roo

But then neither is it we have the pleasure of meeting the man behind a new project designed purely to illustrate: “the pomposity and pretension of what he hopes to achieve”.

At his home in Alburgh, the artist is busy making models, which later he will animate.

These might include anything from ball and socket joints, to animal skulls and “whatever springs to mind”.

At home in his studio, Womble animator and set builder, Barry Leith. Picture: Barry Leith
At home in his studio, Womble animator and set builder, Barry Leith. Picture: Barry Leith

It will be different from anything he has created before, and also slightly surreal.

Mr Leith may be better known to some as the model maker and animator for one the most successful children’s television shows in BBC history: The Wombles.

Though he mostly likes to keep this quiet.

“My daughters always tell me: Dad, you should tell people,” he said.

Legendary puppet maker and animator, Ivor Wood, Barry Macy and Barry Leith, back in the '70s
Legendary puppet maker and animator, Ivor Wood, Barry Macy and Barry Leith, back in the '70s

Mr Leith made models and sets for the first series and animated the whole of the second. Along with legendary stop-motion master Ivor Wood, he helped bring The Wombles to life.

For those who may not know, The Wombles are fictional pointy-nosed, furry creatures which live in burrows.

They find the things everyday folks leave behind, and then make good use of them – on Wimbledon Common.

“Early illustrations of The Wombles from the books looked like badly drawn teddy bears,” he recalls.

“But they were refined over time to look like The Wombles we know, and people remember today.”

In the 1970s, they also attracted millions of viewers each day, in the prime children’s TV slot: 5.30pm. They also made a hit record.

READ MORE: The original Womble illustrations looked like badly thought out teddy bears

The new project, however, represents new territory for Mr Leith, who moved to south Norfolk in 1983.

Back in the ‘70s, he would animate one five minute episode of over nine days. His new, as yet untitled project, though, may involve everything technology has to offer.

“I am hoping to enlist the help of two students at Norwich School of Art and my daughter, Harriet,” he said.

“I have been making models for more than 60 years and though this, storytelling, and animating is hopefully by now, my forte – technology certainly isn’t.”

The project is inspired by the work of Giorgio de Chirico, an Italian artist, who profoundly influenced the surrealists.

“It will be slightly surreal,” added Mr Leith.

“I am hopefully doing things I have never had the opportunity to do in the past. I will be exploring what is possible now, and then, deciding what to do with it, with a little help from my friends.”

* This article appeared in the August 23 edition of the Diss Express

You can read part two of this exclusive series of interviews - in which we learn how the Wombles TV series really came to be - in the current edition of the Diss Express (August 30 edition), out now.

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