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Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 08:13 GMT
Flowerpot Men bloom again
Weed and the Flowerpot Men
The Flowerpot Men and Weed have received a makeover
Children's favourites Bill & Ben are making a BBC comeback on Thursday after an absence of 30 years and a multi-million-pound revamp.

Animators have used the latest stop-motion techniques to bring the flowerpot men to life for a new generation of children.

The new series features a range of innovations and new characters to captivate a 21st Century audience, with Bill narrated by Cold Feet star John Thomson.

The Flowerpot Men
The Flowerpot Men were popular with previous generations of British children
The Flowerpot Men first appeared on TV as part of the Watch With Mother slot in 1952 with their adventures being shown until 1971.

The changes from the old series include the absence of puppet strings and a major speaking part and image change for Little Weed, known for her trademark "weeeeed" catchphrase.

She will now have a more expanded vocabulary and is taking on a role as "earth mother".

The two characters stick mainly to their "flob-a-dob" language but the odd recognisable word has been added and they even pop over to next door's garden.

The old characters are also joined by a garden full of new characters including a talking tomato called Ketchup, a magpie called Pry, Whoops the worm, Whimsy the spider and Slowcoach the tortoise.

Painstaking

The new series was made by Cosgrove Hall films, whose other successes have included the animated series Dangermouse, Count Duckula and the Wind In The Willows.

Every episode took a team of four animators around a fortnight to make.

Working with 10 figures, which cost 10,000 apiece, they painstakingly manipulated them for each frame of film.

Ben is narrated by voiceover actor Jimmy Hibbert who is best known for his ability to mimic Tony Blair on What The Papers Say.

Flowerpower
First screened in 1953
Original puppets kept at the Museum Of London
Each new episode took two weeks to make

Producer Frank Vose said: "Basically we have lost the strings and we have gone into stop-frame animation.

"It gives us kind of a different way of being able to make them move. It has allowed us to stretch the stories out more."

The head of BBC programme acquisitions for children, Theresa Plummer-Andrews, said Bill and Ben had suffered in the past from limited storylines but now have their own scriptwriters.

"The stories have a beginning, a middle and an end," she said.

The series of 26 10-minute shows begins at 1545GMT on BBC1.

See also:

20 Nov 98 | Entertainment
Children's classics go back to the future
23 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Flowerpot Men to blossom again
22 Jul 99 | Entertainment
Treasure in TV's toychest
06 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Weed roots for feminism
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