Superted returns in web celebration

Popular 1980s cartoon hero Superted is making a return in a series of web animations – 20 years after his first TV take-off.

Created by Siriol Productions of Cardiff in 1982, it was the company’s first production, commissioned by fledgling Welsh-language broadcaster S4C.

After winning domestic acclaim with the conversion from illustrated books, the series was later licensed by Disney, won a Bafta award in 1987 and was re-made by Hanna-Barbera.

Now Siriol has put Superted, Spotty and Texas Pete on a new website to mark S4C’s 20th anniversary.

Using new Flash web animation techniques, animators have brought the hand-drawn cel characters in to the modern age with a series of games and features for children.

There are pictures for youngsters to paint, nostaglic stills from the original series, a collection of screensavers and a section for fans to share memories.

Designers from the original series returned to produce the new project, which is being shown to hundreds of European animators at the Cartoon Forum in Gwynedd, north Wales.

Made by Siriol’s in-house new media design agency Piczled, it is expected to be a big draw for twentysomethings keen to relive memories of after-school cartoon watching.

Welsh ambassador

Original Superted scriptwriter and Siriol managing director Robin Lyons, told BBC News Online: “It’s good to see him back, though he’s never really gone.

“He pops up on the TV regularly as the old programmes are reshown.

“We did have to redraw bits of animation, and this was done by artists who worked on the original series. Our web boys were in their nappies when we were making Superted.

“He’s a good ambassador for Wales, and rather more dynamic and scandal-free than a lot of our local politicians!”

The series’ fortune is tied to that of the channel and – to a lesser degree – the Welsh language itself.

Superted was the first ever show broadcast on S4C – the story of an ordinary teddy bear thrown away like a piece of rubbish when his makers find a defect, the nature of which was never revealed.

Saving his fur, Spotty blasted down from outer-space, brought the bear to life with his cosmic dust and took him to Mother Nature’s cloud, where he was given special powers.

Episodes frequently touched on ecological themes and even the Welsh Office commissioned a memorable public service animation on road safety, “Supersafe With Superted”.

Siriol (Welsh for “cheerful”) made three series, with Derek Griffiths and John Pertwee providing the lead voices.

Animation industry

The Walt Disney Company later put Superted on its fledgling US cable channel and Hanna Barbera co-produced 13 new episodes in 1989, re-naming the series “The Further Adventures of Superted”.

With S4C’s backing, the estimated £5m-plus Welsh animation industry has become a European force, making success stories like Fireman Sam, Gogs, Sali Mali and The Miracle Maker. Few have rivalled Superted’s fame.

Of the core Superted design trio, only writer Robin Lyons remains at Siriol, as managing director. He has come up with a new animation series, Tiff.

Executive producer Mike Young now runs one of the US’ most influential animation companies, producing series like Butt Ugly Martians for a global audience.

Director Dave Edwards returned to Wales after a spell in California and is busy making an irreverent new series, Backpackers, for S4C and the Irish television station RTE.