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Boab the Builder; Can we claim him? Yes we can. Character's roots are in Nairn.

Byline: Rick Fulton

KIDS' SHOW CREATOR WAS INSPIRED BY SCOTTISH SEASIDE TOWN Exclusive THE creator of kids' favourite Bob the Builder has revealed the character has his roots in Nairn.

TH fav ha haK Keith Chapman dreamed up the popular children's television character in the 1990s and in his original drawing there's a very different looking Bob - hanging from the roof of a house - and the vehicle characters Scoop, the cha ori dif fro veh yel yellow digger, Muck, a red bulldozer, and Dizzy the mixer.

bulAloc by wit And Keith said the fictional location of Brixwood was inspired the seaside town of Nairn, with its bandstand, pavilion, lighthouse and hills.

Although Bob's hometown was altered before it was transmitted on British telly in 1999, including the name, there are still elements of Nairn that are clear to see.

Keith, 52, said: "My fatherin-law was Scottish and we go up there every year for a holiday to visit my wife Kirsty's family.

"It's one of my favourite places.

I think it's perfect. The cricket pavilion, the bandstand, the parks, the beach, the sea, the Black Isle edging the Moray Firth, the surrounding farms, the golf courses, the charming town itself, the rivers, the Highlands off in the distance.

"It seemed like the ideal place for a pre-school town.

"My original place, Brixwood, became Bobsville but it was still set by the sea, with the hills, so something of Nairn remained.

"The current CGI show is in another place altogether, Bobland Harbour, but it's still by the sea."

Keith, who has three grown-up sons, has gone on to help create some of our best-loved pre-school characters, including Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, Little Charley Bear, Fifi and the Flowertots and Roary the Racing Car.

But Bob remains his biggest success and the show is watched all around the world. He came up with the idea when he was walking in Wimbledon and saw a JCB digging up a road. He sketched a dump truck, a crane, a cement mixer and a steam roller.

Thinking they needed a father figure, he came up with a character he initially named Bill the Builder. Then Keith showed his sketches of Bob and the other characters - and the sketch of Brixwood - to Hit Entertainment.

Illustrator Curtis Jobling then created the Bob the Builder and other characters we now know in the original claymation series.

Keith doesn't have the control that he does with his subsequent creations but he still gets royalties.

Bob was an instant hit and, voiced by Neil Morrissey, the character became a pop star, racking up two No1s. The theme tune Can We Fix It? ended Westlife's run of straight No1s in 2000 and Bob's Mambo No5 beat Eminem's Stan to the top spot.

The success of his latest creation, Raa Raa The Noisy Lion on CBeebies, narrated by Lorraine Kelly, has given Keith an idea to release a single with the breakfast telly queen.

Lorraine sings the theme tune to the show, which will appear on DVD in Welcome to the Jingly Jangly Jungle on Monday.

Although Lorraine reckons she sounds like "a cat being ironed" - if the character takes off, Keith would be up for another stab at the charts. He said: "Her singing all adds to the charm. It would be nice to release a tune with Lorraine. It would be either the theme tune or another specially written tune. A good song really lifts the character."

Keith, now head of Chapman Entertainment, has netted an array of top talent to voice his creations. Peter Kay is several characters in Roary the Racing Car, Jane Horrocks voices Fifi and the Flowertots and James Corden narrates Little Charley Bear.

But Keith has someone else in his sights for a new, more adult, animated show - Billy Connolly.

He said: "I'd love to work with Billy. He's my favourite comedian.

"I had a character for him, which may still work for him. I'd love to get him on board.

"It would be for a Family Guy audience. You'd need an edge for him. I think it would be funny."

Through his creations, Keith has given endless joy to millions of children around the world.

Born in Brentwood, Essex, Keith always had a love of cartoons and remembers reading the Beano and Dandy on his paper rounds.

By 13, newspapers were buying his cartoons and he began drawing greetings cards and strip cartoons.

After Great Yarmouth Art College, he worked as an art director in advertising agencies, before getting a job with The Jim Henson Company, where he designed Muppet-related products and worked on the programmes Fraggle Rock and Muppet Babies.

He was back in the advertising world when he approached Hit Entertainment with a few of his own character ideas, one of which was Bob the Builder.

Because he was new at the pre-school television market, he didn't get creative control over Bob so decided to go it alone with Chapman Entertainment when he created Fifi and the Flowertots.

It was his second big hit and is now screened in 148 countries.

It nearly didn't happen, though. In 2001, after getting a commission with Channel 5's Milkshake, the financial backers Universal Studios pulled out of the deal. He said: "It was devastating. We were high and dry with a 52-episode commission to make Fifi but no money to make it. I was going to fund it myself with my Bob the Builder money but luckily in 2004 we found an investor.

"It was a blessing in disguise because we got the rights back and control of the programme."

Next came Roary the Racing Car, from an idea by David Jenkins, which is narrated by Sir Stirling Moss. Last year, two more shows were produced by Chapman Entertainment and aired daily on CBeebies. Raa Raa, which was created by Bob designer Curtis Jobling, and Little Charley Bear, a creation of Daniel Pickering.

However, the economic woes and a lack of tax breaks nearly wrecked their dreams. Last year they made 10 people redundant just to keep Raa Raa and Charley Bear going. Each series costs pounds 4million and takes two years to make.

They now have 20 people in Manchester making the shows, and 10 in London looking after licensing and marketing.

the The major problem has been the lack of tax breaks for animators in the UK. That was until this week when the Budget brought in ones starting at 20per cent.

Jingly is out It means UK animators still lag behind Canada (a 40per cent tax break) and Ireland (28per cent) but the news is something Keith welcomes and he added: "We now have a bright future."

And that's good news for kids everywhere. And their parents.

Raa Raa the Noisy Lion - Welcome to the Jingly Jangly Jungle is out on Monday, March 26.

CAPTION(S):

PERFECT SPOT J Bobsville was based on Nairn after its creator visited relatives in the town WINNING TEAM Z Lorraine Kelly narrates on Raa Raa The Noisy Lion, top, Fifi and the Flowertots, middle, and, bottom, Bob the Builder creator Keith Chapman APPEAL 3 Bob the Builder is broadcast around the world
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:9MALD
Date:Mar 24, 2012
Words:1197
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