Despite being incredibly popular,The Herbs weren't the money spinners you might imagine
As Michael Bond explains ....
Quote " The Herbs had been my first introduction to the world of merchandising,but they'd been written for an audience which didn't have any great buying power,and at a time when manufacturers and others were not yet alive to how much free advertising they were being offered.
Consequently,the films took a long time to recover their cost.
Relying on the sale of merchandise to pay for the making of a series can be a risky business,and not really what it should be about.
The success of the Wombles changed all that and when Paddington went on air it soon became clear that having kicked a ball into play,there was no stopping it.
The most that could be hoped for was to try as far as possible to keep it heading in the right direction,avoiding any kind of excess. " End quote.
Not great then.
But the merchandise did eventually drag the whole thing into profit,so it clearly wasn't a disaster.
Comparisons with similar series of the period
The strange part of what Michael Bond said [above] is ....
"at a time when manufacturers & others were not yet alive to how much free advertising they were being offered."
And it's strange simply because the evidence clearly demonstrates he was wrong.
Manufacturers were very much alive to the possibilities.
Which Herbs' contemporaries like the famous Gerry Anderson series,Gordon Murray's Trumpton Trilogy and the Magic Roundabout were only too happy to demonstrate.
In fact,comparisons with the 3 Trumptonshire series make particularly interesting reading ....
Like The Herbs,they were independantly commissioned by the Beeb for the Watch With Mother slot.
They were all made using 3d stop motion animation and enjoyed comparable success.
And messrs Bond & Murray even shared something else in common,as both had been BBC employees before their success - Bond as a camera operator, and Murray as part of the puppetry department.
With both getting their series commissioned only a short time after leaving .(their decisions to leave by the way !)
So there was plenty of symmetry .... with the rather glaring exception being the merchandising.
Because Murray adopted a kitchen sink approach to licensing,which set him up for life.
And whilst it's certainly true that he had the advantage of 3 series instead of 2,and about 10 times more characters to play with,it's pretty obvious he managed to squeeze the absolute maximum out of what he had.
And Bond,by his own admission,clearly didn't.
A question of money or quality ?
Maybe he was simply too picky about the items he was approached to license.
Or maybe he just asked for too much money.
And,sadly,"maybe's" are what they'll have to remain,pending any information about the deals that were brokered but came to nothing.
But it does raise this interesting question to finish though ....
If it was your pet project,your "baby",would a crude plastic likeness in a Rice Krispies packet ever be a step too far if you had a mortgage to pay ? Unlikely.
But how about if your mortgage and pension were sorted,and the deals still kept coming ? ....
Would you feel more inclined to say "no" then ? Or would it always be a purely money-making exercise ?
You tell me.
But not a bad dilemna to be faced with.