LION’S TAIL THAT NEARLY COST ME MY TV AU­DI­ENCE

Daily Mail - - DR MAX -

SOME­TIMES my imag­i­na­tion runs away with me. When I came up with an idea for a se­ries of short TV an­i­ma­tions for very young chil­dren, set in a gar­den and called The Herbs, I in­vented lots of char­ac­ters — not only Pars­ley the lion and his manic friend Dill the dog, but Sir Basil and Lady Rose­mary, and Aunt Mint, sergeant-ma­jor­ish Mr Onion and his lady wife with their ten lit­tle Chives, Bel­ladonna the witch (writ­ten out by a ner­vous BBC), Tar­ragon the dragon, Pashana Bedhi the In­dian ma­gi­cian (very handy when I got into plot dif­fi­cul­ties), Sweet Cicely and her mu­sic teacher Sig­nor Sol­idago, and Sage the owl. Even­tu­ally the an­i­ma­tor sent a heart­felt plea: could I not think up any more char­ac­ters for the time be­ing, please? And could I go easy on the Chives, who tended to march across the screen to no great pur­pose but which re­quired a tremen­dous amount of an­i­mat­ing. The Herbs be­gan trans­mis­sion in Fe­bru­ary 1968, and in the first episode I al­lowed Sir Basil’s gun to go off by ac­ci­dent, blow­ing Pars­ley’s tail away. The in­ten­tion was to dis­cour­age chil­dren from play­ing with firearms, but it also put a size­able num­ber off from watch­ing at all. View­ing fig­ures slumped, so that taught me not to put mes­sages in sto­ries. As Sam Gold­wyn said: ‘Mes­sages are for Western Union.’

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