ComicsCulture Cartoon Corner – Postman Pat

2016 has been the year that we’ve lost a lot of legends. Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Prince, and countless more icons that we grew up with. It is with a sad heart that I’m writing this Cartoon Corner as it’s dedicated to another legend. That legend is Ken Barrie who passed away age 83. Whilst he wasn’t a household name we ALL knew his voice. He was the voice of Postman Pat, he sang that iconic theme tune, he was the friendly voice that was there when we grew up be it on TV or through a beat up VHS. So as a tribute today we’re going to look at Postman Pat.

Postman Pat originally aried in 1981 and was created by John Cunliffe. He gave his scripts to stop-go animation specialist Ivor Wood and history was born. John Cunliffe is an author of countless childrens books with his only other “big” claim to fame had him being the mastermind behind Rosie & Jim. Ivor Wood, however, was an animated of big note. He co-created Le Manège Enchanté which became known to us in the UK as The Magic Roundabout. He also co-created The Wombles, Paddington Bear, and another favourite of my youth Bertha.

The original 1981 series ran for just 13 episodes. Series 2 didn’t air until 1996. Just let that set in for a moment. We 1980s kids had only 13 episodes of Postman Pat to get us through OVER A DECADE. I remember watching it every week when I was little. I was born in 1982 so my prime Pat years would’ve been from say 1984 to about 1988. My parents must’ve been bored senseless as with just 13 episodes it must’ve been on constant repeat! There were specials in 1991, 1992, and 1994 but three new episodes in 15 years just wasn’t going to sate the appetite of toddlers craving for more of their favourite Postman.

1996 saw a second series and then 8 more series were produced between 2002 and 2006 giving us a total of 167 episodes of classic Pat goodness. A follow up series, Postman Pat SDS, followed from 2008 to 2013 that kept the original stop-go animation style but gave Pat access to Planes, Helicopters, and a Motorbike with Sidecar for Jess.

Oh how have we not talked about Jess yet? Jess was Pat’s trusty black and white cat. She rode with him whilst he did his rounds as his feline sidekick. Oddly despite being driven around in a van full of parcels wrapped up in string Jess was almost always on best behaviour. I’m fairly certain that my cats would not have been so gentle with the parcels.

There is something magical about stop-go animation and, asides from Aardman Animation (the creators of Wallace and Gromit) it’s definitely a dying art. Fireman Sam is now CGI as are most of the new versions of the characters of our youth. It was definitely good to see that Pat had bucked the trend.

Then in 2015 something happened. Lionsgate Films released an awful, truly awful, cgi Postman Pat movie that managed to loose all the charm of the original. The animation looked flat and the plot saw Postman Pat giving up the post to be a contestant on an X-Factor type show. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

The originals, however, will live on in children’s hearts for generations to come. Pat is now a global icon and is popular in countries as diverse as Iran (where’s Pat-e Postchi), Poland (Listonoez Pat), France (Pierre Martin), and Italy (Il Postino Pat). He’s popular in Canada too but, despite sharing a network with Game of Thrones in America, he never really caught on Stateside.

The one thing Pat proves is that you can make engrossing stories that can captivate generations without any sense of threat or violence. Pat is timeless and will, I’m sure, carry on for generations to come.