The Wombles is a stop motion animated British television series made in 1973 and 1975. After the first Wombles book, published in 1968, was featured on the BBC children's television programme Jackanory, the BBC commissioned producer FilmFair to create a television series of the books. The series was produced by Graham Clutterbuck and directed by Ivor Wood using stop-motion. The characters were all voiced by actor Bernard Cribbins. Sets and model making were by Barry Leith. Two series of 30 five minute episodes were produced, with the first series airing in 1973, animated by Ivor Wood, and the second in 1975, animated by Barry Leith.
In many ways The Wombles exemplifies a particularly British style of animation and children's programme which was prevalent in the 70s but which has since succumbed to a more Americanised economy of detail and fast-paced action. The pace of the episodes is incredibly slow, and can only be described as relaxed. Time is taken to endow the narrative with detail which is rarely seen since the 70s. Characters, for example, do not simply pick up a discarded newspaper, they scan its cover for anything of interest, drop it by accident, or it might nearly get blown away from them. This contrasts greatly with more economic animations in which nothing happens which does not drive the narrative.
The characters themselves are filled with this detail: voiced by Bernard Cribbins, a few of the characters have difficulty communicating clearly and all of them are given to unnecessary procrastination and inaudible muttering. This again denies any economy of dialogue, and hence narrative. There is also something of a British, and specifically an English, sensibility to this relaxed pace, and attention to detail, which is expressed more clearly in the characters. Uncle Bulgaria is a wise old Scot, dressed in tartan and always sharing old tales with the younger Wombles. Wellington appears as a characature of the Oxbridge student with his fly-away red scarf and floppy hat. The Wombles' reactions are relaxed and controlled, as they find calm mirth rather than laughter in their practical jokes. Overall there is a refrain to The Wombles which is reminiscent of a stereotypical English nature, the Wombles espousing decorum at all times and considering their greatest sin to be eating scones when they are too hot.
In all, sixty episodes were made. This series remained popular with children in the 80s. After FilmFair was acquired by the Canadian company Cinar Films in 1996, a new series of episodes was released in 1997, with a number of new Womble characters. In the UK, the series was purchased by ITV.
- Great Uncle Bulgaria
- Madame Cholet
- Cairngorm MacWomble the Terrible (Series 2 only)
Series 1 (1973) Edit
- Orinoco & The Big Black Umbrella (5 February 1973): It's a windy day so the Wombles have to work extra hard and get Great Uncle Bulgaria's newspaper. Orinoco manages to find it, but when an abandoned umbrella blows to him, it brings him on a windy ride!
- The Rocking Chair (6 February 1973): After Orinoco gets stuck in a tyre, the Wombles realise they can use it to fix Great Uncle Bulgaria's chair.
- A Sticky Ending (or A Sticky End) (7 February 1973): The Wombles have a leaking ceiling and come up with an inventive way of fixing it.
- Great Uncle Bulgaria's Keep Fit Lesson (9 February 1973): After the Wombles find a football, Great Uncle Bulgaria soon remembers how he used to play football as a Young Womble and so becomes inspired to start a new "keep fit" regime.
- A Safe Place (12 February 1973): A safe place must be found for a valuable Womble history book.
- Peep-Peep-Peep (13 February 1973): Great Uncle Bulgaria wants the Wombles to keep in touch with each other while they're working, so Wellington invents, in the words of Orinoco, a "talking tin can"!
- The Purple Paw Mystery (14 February 1973): Great Uncle Bulgaria's fountain pen runs out of ink, so asks Tomsk to pay Tobermary a visit to collect some more. While there, Tobermary enlists the help of Tomsk in manufacturing the ink, but when he cuts corners he creates a mess around the entire burrow.
- Bungo's Birthday Party (16 February 1973): Bungo thinks that everyone forgot about his birthday, but he didn´t expect that everyone has a secret that Bungo doesn´t known.
- The Invisible Womble (19 February 1973): Orinoco thinks that if he turns invisible (with a net on him) no one will interrupt his sleeping while he pretends that he is in work. However, he eventually regrets this when Great Uncle Bulgaria says that it's dinner time.
- Orinoco Sees The Light (20 February 1973): Wellington has planted some daffodil seeds and he is "awfully disappinted" when they don't grow. Orinoco suggests he plants light bulbs instead.
- The Conkering Hero (21 February 1973): The Wombles learn how to play conkers and how to count.
- One Pair Of Feet (23 February 1973): After a human being is spotted on the Common, the Wombles rush back to their burrow. However, in the panic Wellington is left behind...
- Tobermory On Television (26 February 1973): When Orinoco and Bungo find a television set, Tobermory makes his own TV show for the Wombles.
- Crossed Lines (27 February 1973): Tobermory invents a new telephone system for everyone but the telephone lines are having problems and many conversations are heard by Tobermory.
- Blow The Womble Down (28 February 1973): Orinoco gets blown about when he finds a vacuum cleaner.
- Madame Cholet Returns (2 March 1973): Madame Cholet has come back from a holiday in France, so the Young Wombles decide to give her a nice welcome by trying to make their own cakes. However, making cakes turns into a problematic situation.
- Weighing In Time (18 June 1973): Orinoco decides to put himself on a diet, because he thinks he's too fat.
- Musical Wombles (19 June 1973): The Wombles make music with tins and cans.
- Wombles And Ladders (20 June 1973): A ladder is adapted to Womble size.
- Orinoco And The Ghost (21 June 1973): Orinoco thinks that there is a ghost coming.
- A Game Of Golf (22 June 1973): Golf balls sometimes travel in the wrong direction.
- North, South, East, West (25 June 1973): Tobermory makes a machine that can predict the weather.
- The Picnic (26 June 1973): Orinoco shows us how to make a picnic basket that is not heavy to carry.
- Games In The Snow (27 June 1973): The Wombles have fun in the snow and, in the process, create a minor avalanche.
- The Snow Wombles (28 June 1973): The annual competition to see who can make the best snowman.
- What's Cooking? (29 June 1973): A bird nests in the Wombles' ventilation shaft.
- Spring Cleaning Time (2 July 1973): When the Wombles have to spring clean, an elastic washing line leads to trouble.
- Marrow Pie (4 July 1973): The Wombles use too much fertiliser on a marrow, causing it to grow and grow.
- The Cement Mixer (5 July 1973): The Wombles get into trouble with some wet cement.
- The Circus Comes To Wimbledon (6 July 1973): When the circus comes to Wimbledon Common, the Wombles put on their own act.
Series 2 (1975) Edit
- Bungo Up a Tree (15 September 1975): Going up a tree is easier than coming down.
- Time and Slow Motion (16 September 1975): Tobermory “organises” so more work can be done in less time.
- Tomsk in Trouble (17 September 1975): Tomsk gets in a tangle learning to make his bed.
- The Largest Womble in the World (18 September 1975): Orinoco finds a huge coat – and tries it on for size.
- Running out of Steam (19 September 1975): The Wombles recreate the days of the steam train.
- Orinoco’s Midnight Feast (22 September 1975): Orinoco is too hungry to wait until midnight!
- Speak Up (23 September 1975): Tomsk joins up the water pipe with the telephone pipe by mistake.
- The Vanishing Pancake (24 September 1975): Orinoco is the best judge of pancakes in the whole world.
- Madame Cholet and the Blackberries (25 September 1975): Blackberry time and no volunteer pickers!
- The Fruit Machine (26 September 1975): The one-armed bandit that does not produce real fruit.
- Portrait of Great Uncle Bulgaria (29 September 1975): The painting that comes alive.
- Very Behind the Times (30 September 1975): An enormous road to be built causes panic.
- The Burrow Hot Line (1 October 1975): Papers and wet laundry get muddled on the washing line.
- Trunk Call (2 October 1975): A hidden Womble is mistaken for a talking tree.
- MacWomble the Terrible (3 October 1975): A monster in a kilt turns out to be quite friendly.
- A Single Piper (6 October 1975): Peace at last when MacWomble's bagpipes are broken.
- Porridge for Breakfast (7 October 1975): The Scottish Womble who likes salt on his porridge.
- Highland Games (8 October 1975): The Wombles try sword dancing and hammer throwing.
- Home Sickness (9 October 1975): Womble poetry is always entertaining to other Wombles.
- Goodbye MacWomble (10 October 1975): Cousin MacWomble goes home and he leaves the others in peace.
- Hic-Cups (13 October 1973): Tomsk and Bungo get hic-cups.
- Film Show (14 October 1973): A film all about the Wombles – but some of it turns out upside down.
- Pirate Gold (15 October 1973): Following a pirate treasure map.
- Warm and Cosy (16 October 1975): Another experiment in the workshop goes wrong.
- Autumn Leaves (17 October 1975): Tomsk discovers knitting needles pick up leaves very quickly.
- The Womble Times (20 October 1975): The Wombles make their own printing press.
- Operation W.R.A.P. (21 October 1975): Learning first aid for an operation.
- The Secret Snorer (22 October 1975): Orinoco falls asleep when he should be scaring crows away.
- Womble Fool’s Day (23 October 1975): After the Young Wombles find out it's Womble Fool's Day, they start playing some pranks.
- Womble Summer Party (24 October 1975): It's summertime, and the weather is nice and hot, so the Wombles decide to have a Womble Summer Party with a demonstration of magical vanishing tricks.
- World Womble Day (1990)
- The Wandering Wombles (1991)