THREE decades ago, Sheila Graber provided drawings for a programme that would touch the hearts of millions.
Today, the Sunderland University lecturer’s work is again recognised as Paddington Bear is voted the best animated character of all time.
Sheila is thrilled the beloved bear with his wellies and duffle coat is still – 30 years on – the furry favourite of children across the world.
The lecturer provided the background drawings for the programme.
Sheila, 71, said: “Paddington himself was an actual 3D model of a bear with a skeleton inside and was about 1ft high. I worked on the drawings which were behind and around him, such as the Browns, the family he lived with.
“I think there was a team of about 20 of us working on it in a tiny little room, like a cupboard.
“I remember they started making Thomas the Tank Engine in a nearby room. I popped my head in to have a look and thought it was just boys playing with trains and would never take off. Just goes to show what I knew.”
Sheila, who hails from South Shields, spent more than 20 years as an art teacher before deciding to go into animation full time and has worked on a host of projects including Just So Stories for Little Children, written by Rudyard Kipling, and her latest creation Quizicat.
She said: “I went to London to meet up with a few people and while I was there I got introduced to someone from FilmFair. They said they were starting on Paddington Bear and would I like to do some drawing for it. It was just one of life’s little twists.
“It was fairly unusual at the time to have the model of a bear and was interesting watching it being animated. They would move him a fraction then photograph it, then a fraction more and click – it was so time-consuming.”
The cuddly bear from darkest Peru beat a shortlist of other distinguished characters including Super Ted, Aleksandr Meerkat and Wallace and Gromit to the title of best animated character of all time at the ninth British Animation Awards. Other award winners on the night included The Gruffalo, Aardman Animations and Harry Potter.
Sheila, who now lives in Ireland, said: “It is so lovely that Paddington won. I suppose he appeals to everyone. He is so loveable, but a little bit naughty as well.”