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All contents are Copyright  © 2006-2012  John M Blundall and Stephen Foster or is part of The John M Blundall Collection unless stated otherwise.

The Ideas Store

POB’ AND HIS FORERUNNER ‘POD’

 

In the 1950s I started to experiment with different types of puppet other than conventional hand or string puppets. I often felt that puppets should not have conventional voices or ways of communicating through accepted vocal techniques. To this end I created a character called ‘Pod’. The design of his head had one specific feature - a mouth with pursed lips characteristic of someone who whistles. The intention was to develop communication with the audience by whistling, and visual mime and movement techniques.

‘Pod’ started his life by emerging from a pea pod, and was faced with the need to create his own world. Each scenario dealt with his search for a home, items to eat, clothes to keep warm, and to prevent getting wet etc. The series was aimed at television.

For some time I improvised sequences with a live theatre audience to discover different possibilities of communicating. I realised that if the character was to be successful televisual techniques would also need to be exploited and developed. It also became clear that some effects would require techniques that were not, at that time, available.

Later an opportunity presented itself to re-work the ideas to enable me to develop the ideas for  BBC Wales. This was not successful, mainly due to a lack of imagination on the part of programmers.

During 1962, Ann Wood was searching for ideas and asked me if I had anything that might  be suitable. Then the idea of looking at the ‘Pod’ was proposed. By this time, there were technical developments in television that would have made some ideas possible.

The basic idea was, that when television programmes closed down a small bright spot was left in the middle of the grey screen. The character had a rubber index finger that was used to enlarge the spot, a peephole through which his eye could be seen, then the letters ‘P’ and  ‘D’ would be written each side of the spot. The character then made more scribbles that were ultimately wiped out to reveal  ‘Pod’ himself. He would then play with the blank screen, popping out from the top, bottom and sides of the screen frame. Finally he would breath on the screen to create a steamed-up effect, he would then create more drawings.

Later ideas were based on ‘Pod’s ability to appear on different programmes  and play with elements in use, including adding moustaches to presenters faces etc. The character would also introduce, and get involved in elements of storytelling. He was to be a kind of ‘gremlin’ in the works of the television set, and continue to use non verbal means of communication.

Unfortunately, efforts to discover means of steaming up the screen through ‘Pod’s’ mouth became difficult. Time in the hired facility house, didn’t allow for sufficient time to perfect the desired effect, and the recording of one of the unsuitable experiments was finally used. This led to complaints that it wasn’t a good example for children to see a character spitting on a television screen.

‘Pod’s’ name was changed to ‘Pob’ without consultation. The subsequent series of ‘Pob’s’ Programme’s’ were a great success and featured many leading television personalities reading stories , and presenting other items, and is still recognised as one of the top children’s television programmes of all time.

In recent years, and despite the fact that the programmes haven’t been screened for many years. Students and other adults still recognise and ask about ‘Pod’/’Pob’, with great pleasure.

John Blundall

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