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British TV series

    Captain Pugwash from "Captain Pugwash", a John Ryan production for the BBC

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Captain Pugwash
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producers: John Ryan for the BBC
   animation: "caption" animation
   1957-1966 / 58
x 5mins
   1974-1975 / 30 x 5mins


   "Dollopping doubloons!"     "Coddling catfish!"     "Lolloping landlubbers!"
   "Staggering stalactites!"    "Nautical Nitwits!"     "Plundering porpoises!"
   "Kipper me capstans!"       "Tottering turtles!"

                                                                                                                                 - Pugwash expounds


     Captain Horatio Pugwash first cast-off in comic strip form in 1950, in the
     very first issue of "Eagle" comic, and an eight-year stint in "Radio Times"
     soon followed. In 1957 the good Captain, Tom, the Mate, Willy, Barnabus,
     Cut-Throat Jake and a shipload of supposed innuendoes set sail onto
     the BBC and into television folklore...

     Of course, we all know now there were no such double-entendres, and it was
     just a very 80s Urban Myth. But those foolish whispers persist to this day,
     and alas they continue to threaten to this most wonderful vessel. John Ryan's
     Pugwash art and his films were simply beautiful things, crafted with great
     great skill and care. Ryan developed a very particular real-time technique
     for animating his artwork, using setups hecalled "captions". These consisted
     of cardboard cutouts of the characters laid on painted backgrounds and
     connected to a series of cardboard levers and pull-aways to make the figures
     and objects "move". The elements were pinned in place with small brass
     paperclips, glue and sticky tape and where possible, different coloured paper
     and card stock was used to save time painting everything. Ryan himself drew
     all the Pugwash elements, with Sara Cole adding colour and Hazel Martingell
     cutting everything out and putting the elements together.

     Each Pugwash episode consisted of about 50 of these captions and it took
     about a fortnight to create enough of them for one episode. Scenes were
     then filmed in real time, on 16mm. After several test-runs with a tape of
     Peter Hawkins' prerecorded dialogue, Ryan and his assembled team pulled
     and pushed the captions in time to the track. And it all worked supremely
     weel. So much so that the technique was utilised on Sir Prancelot and
     Mary, Mungo and Midge as well...

      Peter Hawkins narrating Captain Pugwash    Tom the Cabin Boy from "Captain Pugwash", a John Ryan production for the BBC

     That's Peter Hawkins above left, getting animated as he records a
     Pugwash episode.

     The original series was broadcast on BBC1 from 1957 to 1966, during which
     time 58 episodes were produced and screened. In the final year, we were
     presented with a couple of two-part adventures, and one exciting three-parter,
     which evidently left us all wanting more because a second run of shows was
     commissioned and broadcast eight years later. The original shows had of
     course been produced in black and white, but betwen 1974 and 1975
     audiences wee treated to 30 sparkling episodes in full and glorious colour,
     and it's these adventures that truly cemented Pugwash's position in the
     British cartoon firmament...


     The crew of The Black Pig get fired up in "Captain Pugwash", a John Ryan production for the BBC

     Kipper me captions!

     In the "1974 Puffin Books Annual", John Ryan revealed a little more detail
     about the caption process being used for the new series.

     Shooting a typical caption involved his wife Priscilla operating the mouth
     levers, whilst Sara Cole worked the eyes and Ryan himself manouevred the
     character's arms. At the same time, Hazel Martingell controlled the tape
     and logged the filming, with Bob Bura and John Hardwick lighting and
     filming the sequence (Yes, that's right, the same Bura and Hardwick who
     brought Gordon Murray's Trumptonshire to life, and later Toytown, also
     brought their skills to bear on this magnificent series).

     Captions were constructed in various sizes and formats to accommodate real-time
     camera pans and zooms. Remarkably, Ryan and his team were able to shoot
     around 400ft of film a day, and film all of the captions for one episode in that
     time, bar any reshoots or edits. From start to finish, with the pre-recording,
     caption making, filming and post-production, each Pugwash episode only took
     around 3 weeks to complete, and the whole season of 30 shows was in the can
     in 90 weeks...

     » In 1998 Pugwash returned to our screens and our High Streets via
        Britt Allcroft and HIT Entertainment and an all-new series animated by
        John Cary Studios -  You can find out about that one here...

    » Fans of the True Blue Pugwash original should track down John Ryan's 
        wonderful storybooks. It's fascinating to see how his illustrative technique
        has developed over the years, from simple tri-colour line work to sophisticated
        colour panels. In the mid-eighties we were presented with three fantastic 
        cartoon storybooks. "The Secret of the San Fiasco", "The Battle of
        Bunkum Bay", and "The Quest for the Golden Handshake" are A4-size
        books depicting the Captain's adventures in comic strip form, and
        they're a treat! 


      Pugwash And The Midnight Feast     The Secret Of The San Fiasco

    John Ryan's Pugwash Books

   Captain Pugwash: A Pirate Story (1957)
   Pugwash Aloft (1960)
   Pugwash and the Ghost Ship (1962)
   Pugwash in the Pacific (1963)
   Pugwash and the Sea Monster (1976)
   Capt. Pugwash and the Ruby (1976)
   Capt. Pugwash and the Treasure Chest (1976)
   Capt. Pugwash and the New Ship (1976)
   Capt. Pugwash and the Elephant (1976)
   The Captain Pugwash Cartoon Book (1977)
   Pugwash and the Buried Treasure (1980)
   Pugwash the Smuggler (1982)
   Capt. Pugwash and the Fancy Dress Party (1982)
   Capt. Pugwash and the Mutiny (1982)
   Pugwash and the Wreckers (1984)
   Pugwash and the Midnight Feast (1984)
   The Battle of Bunkum Bay (1985)
   The Quest of the Golden Handshake (1985)
   The Secret of the San Fiasco (1985)
   Capt. Pugwash and the Pigwig (1991)
   Capt. Pugwash and the Huge Reward (1991)

    » Captain Pugwash books at Amazon


    Episode titles


     BBC data doesn't identify episodes titles until the fourth year of broadcast.
     Thus we only have air dates to go on for those first 11 productions:

    22nd October 1957         14th June 1959
    13th July 1958               5th July 1959
    10th August 1958           26th July 1959
    7th September 1958        23rd August 1959
    16th November 1958       6th September 1959
    22nd February 1959

    The Firework Party                     Heads or Tails
    Surprise Attack                          Mobertory Bay
    The Highwayman                        Secret Mission
    The Captain's Dream                   Black Pepper
    Gold Dust                                  Home Grown
    The Flying Buccaneer                  Pirate Romance
    The Cuckoo Clock                       The Fortune Tellers
    Ivory Cargo                               A Cure for Hiccups
    New Sails                                  High Society 
    The Map                                   The Secret of the Stinkas
    Night Attack                              The Submarine
    Ghost Ship                                 The Moon of Muddipore 
    The Test                                   A Hairy Affair
    The Secret Weapon                     Hero Willy
    The Crown Jewels                       Total Eclipse
    Press Gang                                 The Dragon of Pop Sing Ho
    King of the Barbary Pirates            The Vanishing Island
    Arctic Circle                               Captain Moonshine
    The Smugglers                            Carnival
    Solid Gold                                                     

    The Cruise of the Flying Pig: 1 - The Clockmaker
    The Cruise of the Flying Pig: 2 - The Highwayship
    The Cruise of the Flying Pig: 3 - The Reckoning
    Open Day
    The Man in the Iron Mask: 1 - The Three Musketeers
    The Man in the Iron Mask: 2 - Battle Royal
    The Curse of the Pugwashes: 1 - Ghastleigh Grange
    The Curse of the Pugwashes: 2 - Family Fortune

    1974                               1975
    Down the Hatch                 The Golden Trail
    Monster Ahoy                     Pirate of the Year
    Mouse Amidships                 Easy Money
    The Show Boat                   The Plank
    Pirate Picnic                       Voyage of Discovery
    Flood Tide                          Fair Exchange
    Fish Meal                           Smugglers' Cove
    Mutiny on the Black Pig        The Flying Buccaneer
    A Shot Across the Bows       The Island of the Dodos
    The Great Bank Robbery       Caught in the Act
    Wedding Bells                     A Tell-Tale Tail
    Diamonds on Ice                 Off With His Head
    The Birthday Cake
    The Riddle of the Rubies
    Six Foot Deep
    The Cannon Ball


    Broadcast info
     The very first episode aired on BBC1 on 22nd October 1957.
     According to BBC data, it was the only episode broadcast that year.
     Thereafter episodes arrived in irregular batches until the run concluded
     26th June 1966.

     The second series had a tighter schedule. It commenced its
     first broadcast on 16th Sept 1974 and concluded 11th July 1975.


      original series created and written and drawn
        by John Ryan

      caption team:  John Ryan, Priscilla Ryan,
                             Sara Cole, Hazel Maringell
      camera:           Bob Bura, John Hardwick
      editing:            Barry Shephard
      sound:             Barry Shephard
      music:             Johnny Pearson
      voices:             Peter Hawkins


      On the web

       Captain Pugwash
       HIT's official site, for kids...

       Brandler Galleries
       You'll find some original Pugwash art and caption cut-outs
       to buy here - but you'll need a big wallet...

       Pugwash & The Sea Monster
       Step aboard, me hearties, for a mighty fine interactive storybook
       with animated gifs and a foot-tappin' sea shanty - Top stuff!

       San Fernando Valley Folklore Society
       Now here's the San Fernando Valley Folklore Society quashing those
       naughty Pugwash rumours once and absoloutely for all and for ever....

      index »    previous »   next »     

© John Ryan / BBC / F2009