The Herbs and The Adventures of Parsley Classic BBC kid's animation by Michael Bond
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"at a time when manufacturers & others were not yet alive to how much free advertising they were being offered."
This part of Mr.Bond's assessment is a little hard to believe frankly.
Similar series of the period clearly demonstrated that manufacturers were very much alive to the possibilities.
Herbs' contemporaries like the big Gerry Anderson creations,Gordon Murray's Trumpton Trilogy and the Magic Roundabout all showed what was possible.And Watch With Mother predecessor Muffin the Mule had a whole raft of stuff out as early as the 1950's.So it was certainly nothing new either.
Of all of them,the 3 Trumptonshire series were probably the most comparable.
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.Oh,and like Bond,Mr.Murray had been on Auntie's payroll for most of his working life -although as part of the puppetry department rather than as general cameraman.And both got their series commissioned only a short time after having left.(their decisions by the way !)
So there was plenty of symmetry.But not when it came to the merchandising
Murray adopted a kitchen sink approach to licensing and has virtually lived off the proceeds ever since.And whilst he had 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.
Despite being incredibly popular,The Herbs weren't the money spinners you might imagine-as Michael Bond himself explains........
" 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. "
Not great then.But the merchandise did eventually drag the whole thing into profit,so it clearly wasn't a disaster.
But it's interesting to draw some comparisons.........
In no particular order :-
Was the stuff produced any good ?
Depends which way you look at it ...........
Q. Did it make lots of money for Mr.Bond and the manufacturers ?
A. Apparently not,from what we learnt above.So it clearly wasn't as good as it could have been.
Q. Did the kids like it ?
A. You'd like to hope so of course.But how do you ever really guage something like that ? Because sales figures and approval ratings are rarely in perfect sync.
Q. What about the overall quality ?
A. From a purely personal point of view,I think he chose well and there's surprisingly little tat.
Although we can only judge how much quality control he actually exerted by finding out about the deals he turned down.
Ask yourself this 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 I think we can all agree it's a dilemna most of us wouldn't mind facing at some point !
Can You Help ?
Surprisingly perhaps,I'm not a fanatical Herbs collector. In fact,I'm not really much of a collector of anything to be honest.
Some of what I have is leftover from childhood,and some picked up subsequently just so I could include it here. Everything I haven't sourced myself is credited to those that have.So if you have any photos,scans or item info to add, then why not join them ? All help is very gratefully recd. - email address on Home Page.
All the following :-
Morny Soap & Talc
Peggy Nisbet Parsley