NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Morph 'will be back' on television in new series

Morph on a ferry Image copyright Peter Lord
Image caption Morph on the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness

One of the men behind Aardman Animations character Morph has revealed the flexible orange hero is coming back in a new series.

Morph made his debut with Tony Hart in classic BBC1 childrens' programmes in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

But - though there are new videos of his adventures online - it's 20 years since he's regularly been on TV.

Details of which channel will show the new episodes, and when they'll be broadcast, haven't yet been disclosed.

Peter Lord, who created Morph with his friend David Sproxton, told BBC Radio Orkney: "It's so new, I can't reveal where it'll be but, yes, a five-minute series. I think maybe fifteen five-minute stories.

"As we speak, back at the studio in Bristol, they're building the sets in readiness."

Image copyright Peter Lord
Image caption Peter Lord and Morph have been touring Orkney's attractions, like St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall

Mr Lord and his animation sidekick have been in holiday in Orkney, and posting pictures of their exploits on social media.

His habit of doing that has spawned a niche craze of people making their own replica Morphs, and posing them at tourist attractions world-wide.

"It's lovely, it's a charming thing which I totally encourage. But some people aren't actually very good at it.

"So you get all kinds of weird mutant Morphs appearing around the place, on top of the Empire State building, or something like that.

"But it's good fun. I love it."

Image caption Peter Lord with Morph in Orkney

No wonder the replica Morphs don't match up to the real deal, when you find out about the work that goes into making those five-minute films. And the time they take.

"I think an animator these days shoots about six seconds a day. It's slow," Mr Lord says.

That means a minute takes 10 days to film. So each five-minute episode takes 50 days - effectively two months - to complete.

It takes so long because each tiny tweak or twist has to be photographed separately, then the sequence of pictures blended together into smooth, apparently natural, movements.

The trick is to combine that technical skill with a sense of the personality of each character.

Image copyright Peter Lord
Image caption Morph poses on North Ronaldsay's listed dyke - built to keep the island's unique seaweed eating sheep on the beach
Image copyright Peter Lord
Image caption Morph's visit to North Ronaldsay also took him to the island's Bird Observatory

"With Morph, and with Wallace and Gromit, and Shaun the Sheep, we've developed this idea that it is a proper performance," Mr Lord says.

"And the viewer needs to understand what they're thinking and feeling. Because that's where comedy comes from.

"And it's visual comedy. You have to do it all by body, expressions, and good visual joke telling. So I look at Buster Keaton films and Charlie Chaplin films, to remember what great silent comedy can be."

Morph's stable mate, Shaun the Sheep, stars in "Farmaggedon" - due to go on general release in mid October.

Mr Lord says: "In fact, as I've been here in Orkney on holiday, I missed the premiere in London. That just shows how important my Orkney holiday was - is - to me."

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