Friday, 16 March 2012

Paddington Bear: A worthy winner of Britain's best animated character?

His blue duffle coat, accompanied by a pair of shiny red wellingtons, topped off with a black hat, has been an iconic look for over 50 years. He helped to make marmalade sandwiches popular, and it could be argued he put Peru on the map. He is of course, Paddington Bear, and he was this week crowned Britain's best animated character of all time.

Paddington Bear has long been one of my favourite bear's. Sitting alongside Winnie the Pooh, Knut and the Hair Bear Bunch, he is perhaps one of the more wiser bears in the entertainment world. Never failing to regenerate himself after - he was first brought to our screens way back in 1958 - he remains an iconic figure for Britain.

So you would expect public opinion to be in support of his latest accolade, which he won at the 9th British Animation Awards in London this week. He's featured in books, TV shows and has had many teddy bears, toys and collectibles made, yet I was shocked to find outcry from some members of the public who criticised the win.

But why? Most arguments seem to centre around the fact that although Paddington Bear is iconic, he perhaps does not have the glamour of some of the other competitors. Characters such as Super Ted, Bagpuss, The Clangers, Mr Benn, Dangermouse and Postman Pat were all nominated alongside the lovable bear. All were hits in their day, with Postman Pat still clinging on to children's TV. All popular candidates for the award, but none so worthy as the great bear himself.

The likeable thing about Paddington was that he was, well, ordinary. Apart from being a kooky character with a love of marmalade and battered suitcases, the stories were easy to follow and promoted family values. They touched on issues such as adoption and class conflict with subtlety, with the first series using stop-motion animation to keep the audiences focus on the narration. Humour was of paramount importance, and the storylines always varied, keeping the audience's interest.

The best thing about Paddington, when compared to many of the animations we have today, is that he was not commercialised into an advertising machine. Yes, you could buy your very own Paddington Bear, but you did not see his face or logo printed on nappies to bananas like you do with more modern characters. Peppa Pig may have popular appeal, but if she was not advertised everywhere, would you know her?

The British public of today want a shiny star. Over the last few decades, it has been apparent that to succeed in children's TV, you need money and you need publicity. Similar to the celebrities of the real world, the concept is the same. Which is why so many of the characters of yesterday have left our screens, headed for the history books.

Yet Paddington remains. Like a cult rock artist, he is highly regarded by our nation. Maybe it is his outfit, his name or personality that keeps him familiar with people young or old? Who knows, but whatever he has, many of the other animators are keen to find it. As the old English proverb goes, 'mighty oaks from little acorns grow', and maybe Paddington is an example of this. He will never tire, certainly not in my eyes.

Pictures Courtesy of Wikipedia/ The Jourknow

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