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Ludwig is an animated series of 25 x 4 minute episodes, made by Mirek and Peter Lang in the seventies.

Ludwig is an egg shaped, mechanical creature with a liking for the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. In the first place, Ludwig was scavenged by magpie from who knows where. But he has decided to stay in this neck of the woods and conduct experiments on the residents. He is a kind of ‘Martian Lander’ in reverse. He is not on Mars sent by earthlings but here, sent (perhaps) by Martians. From his cavernous egg shaped body he produces everyday objects, mostly discarded or lost by children. In an attempt to understand what these objects are, he presents them to the animal residents to observe what they will make of them. He then takes out a musical instrument and plays his beautiful, pastoral music.

The animal cast consists of a pair of magpies, a family of hedgehogs, an owl and a squirrel. They are all naturally playful, with a childlike inquisitiveness. They are toy-like, very mildly anthropomorphicised to help us understand their thoughts, but not overtly. They do not talk, walk on their hind legs or wear clothes. They grow to trust Ludwig and soon throw themselves into the ‘games’ he contrives for them.

Things inevitably go wrong and Ludwig has to find ways of fixing things up. Not easy for one who has no idea which way up is. He usually settles down to perform his calming music and lets the animals sort things out for themselves, which they do, in a ‘lateral’ sort of way.

Peter Lang writes:

“Ludwig, is a cut-out animated series I made in the mid seventies by my father, Mirek.”

“We emigrated from Czechoslovakia, following the Russian invasion in 1968. In Prague, Mirek had been a current affairs programme director/writer/producer. He started making films for the weekly cinema newsreels for Pathe before and during WW2. But after the war, under the communist regime, he had problems because of refusing to join the communist party. With ‘Prague Spring’ in 1968, things briefly eased and he could work again, but after the August invasion by the Warsaw pact, many Czechs sold out, and the bad old days were back. We left everything and drove to London.”

“In London Mirek quickly realized that he couldn’t continue in his field and decided to turn to animation. He was interested in the ‘Lateral Thinking’ books by Edward deBono and came up with the idea of animated stories, made from abstract, cut-out shapes, an ideal subject for a person who never learned to draw. He was good at making contacts and managed to accumulate a number of influential friends in television.”

“Soon the camera, a borrowed , spring driven, 16mm Bolex bolted to a large dexion frame, started rolling, (or to be exact, shuffling forward at a frame at a time), in the spare bedroom of our rented flat in Swiss Cottage.”

“He spent a few years contributing the Cuckoo Clock and Mr Blue animations to the BBC’s Vision On series. Then, Monica Sims, the head of BBC Children’s, asked Mirek to make an animated series.”

“Initially, Ludwig was going to be called ‘Kikiriki’, cockle-doodle-doo in Czech. Mirek was essentially writing a fictitious documentary, something he did a lot at newsreel when there was no news. He was interested in how an alien would interact with a group of resident characters. Now why would he need to know that?”

“But at first his stories were considered to be a touch too surreal for children’s TV. Also, Mirek’s grasp of the English language left a little to be desired. So, he drafted in Jane Tann, the wife of the producer of Vision On, Patrick Dowling, to help out both creatively and linguistically. I became the second writing unit with my friend, Susan Kodicek. Also, having just left art-school, I became the designer, creating the artwork for the series.”

“Jon Glover did an excellent job, providing the voice of the narrator, the ever present bird-watcher.”

“Eventually, we began running out of time. It was a big job, the broadcast date was approaching and we had to get on with the animation. We worked two shifts. I animated the day shift, Mirek the night.”

“The sound and the editing was outsourced to a small post-production company, David Yates Ltd, in Chiswick. They found Paul Reade, who skillfully arranged Beethoven’s music and recorded it. Alan Rogers, my future partner in The Cut-Out Animation Company designed the end credits.”

“Ultimately, we finished the series in time. But not all 25 episodes were shown on the BBC. The series was sold by BBC Enterprises who had the initial distribution rights. It was very popular in France and Canada. It aired in Israel, Switzerland and countless other countries but it never made its money back.”

“Eventually the series came back to us and is now commercially distributed by Double-Take. Kult Kids/Contender, released 13 episodes on VHS. There had been a few screenings but not many. The series never made it to DVD.”

“Recently, Ludwig was affectionately lampooned as Orlov on Charlie Brooker’s ‘How TV Ruined Your Life’. You can see it on YouTube.”

“Mirek died in 2005. Going through his things I found the Ludwig negs. We had never been happy with the quality of the original broadcast prints. The original colours of the artwork were rich and vibrant but the broadcast prints were never up to much. Then, last year, I met David Dean of Westpoint TV, who offered to digitize and restore the shows for a reasonable fee. I felt I owed it to Mirek to halt the ageing-decay of the original filmstock and went ahead. Once the material was digitized it wouldn’t deteriorate any more. We then tweaked the colours. I have to admit I am very pleased with the restored Ludwig.”

“Ludwig is an enigma. Many people remember it with a fond befuddlement from their childhood. I get occasional emails asking about the availability of DVDs from fans with children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, DVDs are expensive to produce and my garage is not big enough to store the unsold ones. If there ever was a Ludwig fan-club the honorary president would be Matt Smith, a 3D animator, sculptor and fellow life drawing dabbler. It is thanks to his enthusiasm and perseverance that this online shop has come about, making the programmes available again. I hope you enjoy watching Ludwig.”





 Posted by at 4:56 pm

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