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Ex-Disney artist launches his own illustrated books
AS a successful illustrator Colin Wyatt is used to providing artwork for other people’s work, but after years spent illustrating books, annuals and comics, he’s just launched his own line of children’s books.
Although you may not know his name, it’s likely you’ve seen Colin’s work. He has illustrated for Disney, Marvel and numerous comics and annuals, as well as co-creating classic characters the Poddington Peas, who made it on to TV as a popular children’s series.
Now Colin, 72, of Elm Road, Canvey, has released his own series of children’s books, written and illustrated by himself. They follow the adventures of a group of superhero animals, the Jet Set, and raise awareness about environmental and conservation issues as well as delighting young readers.
Colin teamed up with his daughter, Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, to publish the books through her publishing company Paws n Claws Publishing. The profits raised will go to animal charity the Born Free Foundation.
Colin says: “I’d had an idea a few years ago, to do with pets, called the Pet Set. My daughter wanted to set up this publishing company and I said I could probably adapt the work in some way and that’s how it all came about.
“I’d always wanted to write my own stories. I’ve written stories over the years, but I’d never done anything with them.”
The charming books follow the group of animals as they rescue others they find in trouble. The books come complete with an animal fact file, put together by actress Virginia McKenna, founder of the Born Free Foundation, who supports the project.
Colin wasn’t short on story inspiration, having worked for one of the greatest children’s storytellers of modern times. His love of Disney goes back to when he was a child. It was sketches of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck that first got him into illustration and landed him the prestigious job of a Disney illustrator.
He says: “I’d always been a Disney fan. I was brought up in the Forties and we watched videos in the cinema, we didn’t have televisions.
“I used to work for IPC Magazines, working on young children’s comics. In 1970, they bought the Disney franchise to be able to do the Disney comics. When you do comics, you always do an annual as well every year.
“They kept having problems with the front cover of the annual, Disney kept turning it down. They had a department in London and it had to be sent to them and they said no.
“After three attempts the artists said, ‘I’m giving up’. It wasn’t that I was cleverer than anyone else, but because I was a fan I knew the characters and I could see what was wrong, so I did all the artwork for them. I was like the IPC Disney artist.”
His copious Disney drawings led to him being invited to the Disney studios in Burbank, California, where he visited his hero’s own workspace, as well as getting a behind the scenes glimpse of the magical place.
He says: “It was a lovely experience. You can go to Disneyland, but the studios aren’t open to the public. You had to be involved in some way to go.
“I got to take my wife and children and we watched them making some films. Obviously, the main thing for me was to see them doing the animation, I walked around with my mouth open the whole time.
“One of my ambitions as a boy was to meet Walt Disney. He had died by that point, but I did see his office which was left exactly like it was when he worked there.”
Following his stint for Disney, Colin turned freelance in 1980 and left IPC. It was shortly after that he teamed up with Hadleigh writer Paul Needs and together they created the Poddington Peas, which even had its own strip in the Echo at the time, courtesy of Colin.
Colin says: “I drew all the characters for Paul, who did the stories. I designed the little houses they lived in.”
The book was snapped up by a publisher, but attempts to get it made into a series stalled and Paul persuaded a Southend publisher to buy the contract and float it on the stock exchange to raise the cash to create a series.
The plan worked and enough money was raised to set up shop in Southend, where Colin would go in early each day to get the strip done for the Echo before settling down to a day’s work.
After years of drawing characters created by someone else it was a pleasure to work with his own creations.
Colin says: “That was what was nice about the Peas. They were mine, if anyone else wanted to draw them they had to draw them the way I did.”
Several years later Colin went back to freelancing and worked for Marvel Comics on the Japanese series Digimon, which was a totally different style to what he was used to.
But there was familiar territory, too, as Colin worked on Bananas in Pajamas, the Muppet Babies and the Care Bears as well as Thomas the Tank Engine. Colin has seen an awful lot of change over the years. Gone are the days when an artist would work painstakingly on each image, computers are more commonly used now.
He says: “ I’m old fashioned. I still paint by hand. It’s how I grew up doing the work.”
l The Jet Set is available to order from any bookshop ,or from online retailers. Visit www.thejet-set.com For information about Colin visit, www.colin-wyatt.co.uk