The artist behind one of my favourite childhood TV characters has shuffled off this mortal coil and sailed into the sunset
, the author, illustrator and animator, who died on July 22 aged 88, created Captain Pugwash, the series that became one of the best-loved on children’s television in the 1970s; he also devised The Adventures of Sir Prancelot and Mary, Mungo and Midge.
Launched by Ryan in the first issue of Eagle comic in 1950, Captain Horatio Pugwash soon became a children’s favourite and an eight-year stint as a comic strip in Radio Times followed. In 1957 Pugwash and his crew aboard the Black Pig — Tom the Mate, Willy, Barnabas and Pugwash’s deadly enemy Cut-Throat Jake — made their debut in Ryan’s long-running series for BBC Television.
Ryan’s films were beautifully crafted. He developed a real-time technique for animating his artwork, using setups he called “captions”. These consisted of cardboard cutouts of the characters laid on painted backgrounds and linked to a series of cardboard levers that made the figures and objects “move”.
The elements were pinned in place with small brass paperclips, glue and sticky tape. Ryan himself drew all the Pugwash elements, while his colleagues Sara Cole and Hazel Martingell added colour, cut everything out and put the elements together.
Each Captain Pugwash episode consisted of some 50 such captions, with each episode taking about a fortnight to make. Scenes were then shot in real time, on 16mm film. After several test-runs with a tape of pre-recorded dialogue spoken by the actor Peter Hawkins, Ryan and his team pulled and pushed the captions in time to the track."