Bernard Cribbins in conversation

Bernard Cribbins at the BFIBernard Cribbins talked about his time as the voice of The Wombles during an appearance at the BFI Southbank in London on 16 January.

‘Bernard Cribbins in Conversation’ was organised by the British Film Institute and BAFTA to celebrate his special recognition at the BAFTA Children’s Awards.

In a 40-minute interview and Q&A session, Bernard discussed his long and varied career, focussing especially on the family audience, from Jackanory and The Railway Children to his most recent role as companion to David Tennant’s Doctor Who.

Thinking back to The Wombles, Bernard remembered that Wimbledon Common had problems with children arriving with bags of rubbish, who would scatter it all around and then wait for the Wombles to appear and tidy it up! The rangers had to explain that the Wombles weren’t coming out today, and try to get the children to pick it all up again.

Talking about how he recorded the TV programmes, Bernard said that Elisabeth Beresford used to write a very minimal script – the lines for the characters. Then the films were shot, in laborious stop-frame animation, which took about ten days for each five-minute episode. Then Bernard would have a look at the film, and fill in all the gaps with coughs and sniffs and wheezes. “I used to do at least five minutes of snoring for every episode, for Orinoco,” he laughed.

Asked if there were any Wombles outtakes, Bernard started speaking in the voice of Madame Cholet. He joked that he’d “always thought Uncle Bulgaria and Madame Cholet were having it off… making lots of little Wombles”. Though he quickly said sorry to the parents of any children in the audience!

You can watch 11 minutes of highlights from the interview on the BFI website.

The interview was followed by a screening of Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 AD, the film that featured Bernard’s first role in Doctor Who in 1966, as a companion to Peter Cushing. (For more about the Doctor Who side of things, see ‘A lotta Mott: Bernard Cribbins at the BFI’ on the ‘Reel and Imagined’ sci-fi and horror blog.)

Bernard Cribbins also talks about recording the Wombles in this BAFTA interview about his career.