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
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
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....?
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
begin at the beginning. Can you tell us about the origins of Bod.
When was he created, exactly, and where was his first
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
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
The Bod stories were read on Playschool - which
your father was
producing at the time - and in time the animated
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
(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
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
And John le Mesurier, such a dry ironic tone, who
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
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
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
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
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
and suchlike for ToonsToGo?
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
creations and projects up your sleeve, or plans
or indeed, bring on, some more of your parents’
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
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
on the design and the other write the stories,
or was it always a
They worked very much as a team and were very
close to each other.
Dad wrote and Mum illustrated, but they refined
I have to ask, was it a bumpy ride or did they
very easily as a team?
They loved working together and it was a very
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, on his merry flute-filled way again, but he'll be back
if Lo and Alison get their way. Those
keen to discuss Bod's future should
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
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!