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Wednesday, 8 November, 2000, 15:00 GMT
Rupert the Bear turns 80
Rupert and friends
Rupert has been delighting fans for eight decades
It may be hard to believe, but a certain little bear called Rupert is celebrating his 80th birthday.

Six years older than Winnie The Pooh and eight years older than Mickey Mouse, the famous white bear is the longest-running children's comic character in the world.

Created by artist Mary Tourtel, he started life in the Daily Express on 8 November, 1920.

His adventures have since been immortalised in books - 50 million copies have been sold worldwide - and on the small screen.

His TV series has been syndicated to 28 countries.

Rupert cartoon strip
The first Rupert cartoon was published in November 1920

When the Rupert cartoons first appeared they were an overnight success. Rupert and his friends - Bill Badger, Algy Pug and Pong Ping - achieved celebrity status.

A fan club - The Followers of Rupert Bear - was set up then and is still active today.

There are over 1,200 members. The last annual meeting, held in August, attracted over 400 people from as far away as Australia.

After Mary Tourtel retired in 1935, Alfred Bestall took over - for the next 30 years.

Bestall came up with another 270 adventures and was still illustrating the stories up to the age of 90.

Famous fans

Rupert's timeless qualities have won the admiration of several celebrities, including Sir Paul McCartney, actor Terence Stamp and author and former Monty Python star Terry Jones.

In 1984, Rupert even starred in Sir Paul's short animated film, Rupert And The Frog Song, which won a British Academy Award.

The film spawned the number three hit, We All Stand Together, featuring Sir Paul and the Frog Chorus.

Rupert the Bear
A Hollywood film about Rupert is in the pipeline

Eight decades after his initial success, Rupert is still going strong.

The cartoon continues to run in the Express while his annuals are still hugely popular, only outsold by Pokemon and The Beano.

Last year Rupert annuals were the third best-selling annuals in the UK, with more than 100,000 being snapped up.

And he may return to the big screen for a second time.

Nelvana, the company that created 65 Rupert television episodes for ITV, is currently finalising a Hollywood film deal.

If the plans get the go-ahead, Rupert and friends will be gracing cinema screens in late 2001 or early 2002.

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