Monday, 21 August 2017

50 Years of Mr Benn by David McKee

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic and much-loved Mr Benn books, featuring the bowler-hatted hero created by artist, writer and illustrator David McKee. 

The name ‘Mr Benn’ conjures strong memories of childhood adventures through the changing-room door of the fancy dress shop on Festive Rd. This month we are delighted to be celebrating 50 Years of Mr Benn with an exhibition of concept artwork, sketches, and published book illustrations. But the highlight of the show are the never-seen-before animation cels from the original Mr Benn films - hidden away in the film-makers studios for half a century, and only now released for the very first time.

We spoke with John Huddy, Managing Partner of Illustrationcupboard to find out why David McKee's Mr Benn artwork is not only a celebration of classic creativity, but is also a rare and valuable investment.

''David McKee's creation of Mr Benn was one of those rare moments of unique creativity, which has touched the heart and soul of so many over the 50 years since the books were published and then animated for BBC television. Classics roll on through the generations and are not subjects to fashion - such is Mr Benn. His quiet understated heroism provides a force for good, touching upon much ingrained in the British character and psyche, making this artistic creation so special to us here in the UK. 

Not only is the magic of Mr Benn an inspiration, but the value of this work has acquired a valid cultural, and now financial, value. With so much of the original artwork destroyed in the mid-1970's this collection of book illustration and film cels is special and rare. But it also has a further value representing a method of film-making that no longer exists. In a world of digital CGI, stop-frame animation with hand-painted scenes and acetate cels is a dinosaur, and as such these pieces are a historical record of the history of animated film-making, of which Britain has led the world for more than half a century.''

(John Huddy, Managing Partner of Illustrationcupboard gallery)

What people are saying...

"Cult cartoon star Mr Benn on brink of film stardom as he turns 50."
Read the full article here.

"Regularly voted one of the most beloved children’s programmes of all time."
Read the full article here

"As well as their whimsical charm, what characterises the series is a sense of morality."
Read the full article here.

"Never-before-seen animation cels go on display."
Read the full article here

"Children's TV favourite Mr Benn celebrates fifty years."
Watch the video here.

"The perennial favourite turns 50."
Read the full article here

"One of the most-loved children's TV series from the 1970's."
Listen to the full interview here (at 1:53)

Mr Benn at Turnbull and Asser - A new collection of pocket handkerchiefs!

Mr Benn fever is sweeping Bury St in St James's, London. Having met creator David here at the gallery, the art director of the classic english tailor has designed a 50 Year Anniversary set of 'Mr Benn pocket handkerchiefs' which are exclusive to Turnbull and Asser, our neighbours next door - so come down and see the sartorial elegance of Mr Benn at Turnbull and Asser whilst seeing all the original book and film work next door here at the Gallery! 

A New Street Name for Mr Benn
Mr Benn’s address, 52 Festive Road, was inspired by David McKee’s own house in Festing Road in Putney. In 2009 residents in the street paid tribute to David and Mr Benn by laying an engraved paving stone outside the house. McKee actually lived at 54 Festing Road; he put Mr Benn at No.52 because he had drawn himself looking from the window in the first book and thought it might be nice to have Mr Benn living next door! As part of the 50 years anniversary the residents petitioned for and gained approval to rename a pathway off Festing Road now called Festive Walk in his honour. Although Mr Benn is never referred to by his first name on screen, David McKee had always thought that ‘William’ would suit well. Mr Benn has secured his place in popular culture with mentions in songs by Oasis, The Divine Comedy, Half Man Half Biscuit and Bell XI.

50 Years of Mr Benn at the Illustrationcupboard Gallery runs from 16 August to 16 September, and in a special book-signing event there will be the opportunity to meet the creator, David McKee, on 23 August 2017 at the gallery from 4.00pm onwards.