Bod was a slightly strange-looking, but much loved children’s character – the colourful animation and very simple storylines had real warmth to them, and the catchy theme tune would then revolve around the inside of your head for the rest of the day.
Originally conceived in 1963 by Michael and Joanne Cole (who were also responsible for Fingerbobs), the fondly remembered television series was based on four books – Bod’s Apple, Bod’s Present, Bod’s Dream and Bod and the Cherry Tree. They were published in the UK in 1966 (they were also released in the United States later on, whilst La Pomme de Gus appeared in France) and all four books were read on Play School during the late 1960s/early 1970s. In 1974 13 five minute cartoons were produced for the BBC, which were then shown from 1975 to 1980 in the Watch With Mother slot. The Coles were instrumental in bringing their creation to the small screen; Michael wrote and produced it whilst the artwork was down to Joanne. Animating and directing the series was David Yates; whose other notable works included the adventures of the loveable Posie, Perkin and Pootle – The Flumps.
Each episode followed the same pattern – cut out animated figures interacted with each other against a single colour background. It was narrated by the sublimely soothing tones of John Le Mesurier, firstly introducing the title character (‘Here comes Bod…’) as he walked towards the camera, before guiding us through one of the 13 charming stories. Bod inhabited his odd little world with his Aunt Flo, Farmer Barleymow, PC Copper and Frank the Postman, all friendly and helpful individuals. It was virtually impossible to gauge how old Bod was meant to be; you would assume he was a child because he was much smaller than the other characters, but if you looked only at his face then he could be any age at all. Each character had its own theme music that played every time they appeared; this was composed by Derek Griffiths (veteran of Play School, Play Away, Heads and Tails, and familiar as the voice of SuperTed) who also arranged the theme tune and the rest of the incidental music.
Both Michael and Joanne Cole were Taoists, and the gentle nature of Bod reflects this; the episodes all have the central premise of peacefulness and living in harmony with your habitat. In Bod and the Cherry Tree Aunt Flo becomes very upset when autumn comes around and the leaves fall off her cherry tree. In come Bod and the others to explain to her that it is all part of the tree’s cycle; the leaves have to fall off to make way for the blossom, and finally the cherries. Once she understands, Aunt Flo is happy again. Two later books were written by two of the Coles’ children – Bod’s Way: The Meaning of Life and Bod’s New Leaf – to explain the concept of Taoism to children. At the end of each story Bod and his friends would turn their backs and walk off into the distance, which was then followed by a voice (Maggie Henderson) presenting a puzzle game; it might be ‘There goes Bod. And here comes….what?’ An everyday object would appear from an unusual angle for you to guess what it was. ‘Bod Snap’ was a great favourite; two cards, each featuring one of the characters, would appear. One would then keep changing and you would be urged to call ‘Snap’ when both cards matched. This level of requested audience interaction was pretty ground-breaking for its time.
Just to further add to the value you were getting with this programme, within the Bod time-slot you would also be treated to Alberto Frog and his Amazing Animal Band. This was an add-on from the BBC, and not actually part of the Coles’ creation, but for most people the two are synonymous. Alberto would be conducting his band (made up of combinations of animals and instruments as diverse as hippos playing tubas, cats playing bassoons, and a zebra on the kettle drums) whilst they played a piece of classical music. There would be a minor problem (such as the animals not playing in time with each other) which Albert would solve, and then he’d reward himself with a milkshake (note: he didn’t reward the orchestra for their beautiful playing, just himself!). More interaction here; as well as some of the animals having a go you were also invited to guess what flavour Alberto was having each time, and there couldn’t have been a child watching who didn’t join in at that point.
Bod has rightfully been included in Channel 4’s ‘100 Greatest Kid’s TV Shows’ and ‘100 Greatest Cartoons’ – and as all 13 episodes are available on DVD the funny, round-headed little fella with the amusingly jaunty walk will continue to quietly and peacefully entertain for the foreseeable future.