Wednesday, 29 July 2009

John Ryan animator and creator of children's favourite cartoon pirate Captain Pugwash, died one week ago today. Here at Scratchy Towers, we wanted to pay our respects to a man, who brought enormous pleasure to many generations of children during their tea time television viewing treat.

I certainly remember when I was a little '45' looking forward to switching on to see the exploits of Captain Horatio Pugwash, Master Mates, Cut Throat Jake and the rest of the rather inept crew of the Black Pig ship. The character of Pugwash first appeared in the very first edition of The Eagle comic in 1950 but then made the leap to the B.B.C as a series of five minute cartoons, first broadcast in 1957. Ryan had devised a very simple but effective way of animating the character, using cardboard cutouts and he went on to make 56 episodes up to 1966. The series was resurrected in 1974/5 for another thirty episodes, this time in glorious colour, numerous books were written along the way as well as other merchandising spin offs.

So with a tip of the pirate hat and time to raise a glass of rum, we salute you John Ryan from this 'lolloping landlubber!' rest in peace.

Readers of The Eagle comic may remember one of his other creations 'Harris Tweed, Extra Special Agent' and Lettice Leefe, 'the Greenest Girl in School' who appeared in Eagle’s companion comic, Girl.

John Ryan's other notable cartoon creations were Sir Prancalot and Mary, Mungo and Midge which was aimed at a younger audience and was broadcast on the B.B.C back in 1969. It was narrated by the BBC newsreader Richard Baker and ran for just a single series of thirteen episodes. Grasping for a vinyl link to Ryan's output, has reminded me of this record which was released via B.B.C records in 1977, which has so far eluded me on my vinyl hunting, but nevertheless should make an appearance on this site because it looks like a little treasure.

The three main characters of the series were the little girl Mary, her dog Mungo and a mouse Midge, who lived with Mary's parents on the top floor of a tower block. This was a radical setting for this type of show and captures the brief period of optimism high rise living experiment in the post war years. However, one or two of the negative aspects of this social model of housing were inadvertently hinted at with Mary being too small to press the button in the lift to get back up to the eighth floor. A little ingenuity followed with Mungo getting on Mary's shoulders and Midge scurrying to the top of the pile in order to press the button.

Mary, Mungo and Midge - Opening and Closing Credits - 1969

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