Mike Young: From bedtime stories to big screen

SuperTed Image copyright S4C
Image caption There were three series of SuperTed in the 1980s for S4C and the BBC and it was sold to Disney

Once upon a time, there was a bedtime story - and it was the start of a long career for TV and film producer Mike Young.

SuperTed was born in south Wales as a book, before becoming a much-loved TV series on both sides of the Atlantic.

It was shown as one of Welsh language broadcaster S4C's first programmes in November 1982, before being translated into English and shown on BBC One the following year.

Barry-born Young, now 70, has spent most of his working life in animation in California, working as an independent in Hollywood dominated by the big studios.

The former advertising copywriter has now produced a feature-length animation, Norm Of The North, and his next film project is close to his heart - about a former legend with his beloved Cardiff City football club.


Image copyright S4C

In 1978, Young created SuperTed as a story to read to his young stepson Richard, who was afraid of the dark, at bedtime.

But the tales of the crime-solving superhero with special powers - and rivals like Texas Pete - soon got a wider audience.

"I went to the village hall one day to pick Richard up from play school and they said 'we love the SuperTed stories' and I said 'how do you know about those?'

"They said that 'he always tells us the story you told him last night'.

"We then got the books published, a couple of hundred were written, and then S4C came along and they wanted at least one thing which would travel all over the world - and it was successful.

"We became the first company to sell to Disney and we never looked back."

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Media captionMike Young on plans for a new series of SuperTed

Three TV series were made in the mid 1980s, with Derek Griffiths and Jon Pertwee providing the voices.

Young also launched Welsh-language cartoon Wil Cwac Cwac and helped develop Fireman Sam.

Now a new series of SuperTed is being planned, which Young again wants to make in Wales with some of the original team.


Young and his wife Liz created Mike Young Productions - which later become Splash Entertainment - and moved to Los Angeles in 1989.

With much bigger rivals in Hollywood, he called it "one of the most stupid, crazy decisions you could make". But the company flourished.

As well as collaborations, its animations have included Chloe's Closet, Dive Olly Dive!, Hero:108, Growing Up Creepie, Pet Alien and ToddWorld.


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Media captionMike Young talks about his new animated feature Norm Of The North

Young's latest production is an animated feature film Norm Of the North about a polar bear.

Norm, who can talk but cannot hunt, goes to New York with a gang of lemmings for adventure and to fight a tourism development in the Arctic.

Although it does not have a big budget, the film uses the latest computer generated imagery (CGI) technology.

"We wanted to make something economic because I want the independents to have a chance and really get back into this business," said Young.

"It's all well and good having Disney, Pixar, Universal and DreamWorks but fundamentally they go a certain route but we can take more risks with what we do."

The film, which includes voices from actors Rob Schneider and Bill Nighy, got its Welsh premiere at the Market Hall cinema in Brynmawr, Blaenau Gwent, earlier this week.


Image copyright Cardiff City FC

He may live in California, but Cardiff City fan Young is now on the team making a film about one of the Bluebirds' most colourful characters.

Friday (The Greatest Player You Never Saw) is about the late Robin Friday, who played for Cardiff and Reading in the 1980s before he died aged 38.

"He made George Best look like an angel," Young said.

"We've put together finance for it and got some big stars in it and it looks like we'll be shooting it in England or Ireland later this summer."

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