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John Blundall 1937-2014

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John Blundall, the man behind the unforgettable face of Parker, and a host of other memorable marionette creations for the Supermarionation shows has died aged 77.

A traditionalist through and through when it came to puppetry (which he regarded as a science as much as an art), Blundall was born into an artistic family in 1937; his mother was a painter and his father was a craftsman. Regular trips to the Birmingham Hippodrome as a child with his siblings inspired him to become a performer, and in 1951 he formed his own puppet theatre The Festival Marionettes.

Blundall left school at 15 where, like many young artists, he was forced to take what he called a ‘proper job’ and became an employee of the General Electric Company, before moving onto more creative work as a graphic designer and further endeavours with puppets.

Following an obligatory two years National Service, Blundall worked as a designer and stage director at various theatres, before a decline in the industry forced him to look for other work in television. Friend and colleague Christine Glanville asked him if he would like to join her at a company called A.P. Films in Slough which was making a series of marionette adventure series. John accepted and joined towards the tail-end of Supercar.

Blundall remained with APF for four years and worked as a sculptor and a carver across Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray and Thunderbirds. He particularly enjoyed Fireball XL5 for its array of strange creatures. However, he increasingly disagreed with the direction the Andersons were taking, feeling strongly that puppetry is about carricature and producing faces and characters that can’t be achieved with humans. He left the studio in 1965 to return to tradional puppetry. However, he always remained proud of his final major creation for the studio – Lady Penelope’s butler, Parker. The success of the character illustrated that Blundall may have been right about the carricatured puppets being more interesting.

John continued to work with puppets across a variety of mediums until his death. His fascination with the art took him across the world to study puppets in their many forms and he was pleased to meet with, and learn from, many of the world’s masters.

In 2004 he set up The World Through Wooden Eyes, a museum and library in Glasgow, which houses an extraordinary collection of puppet related items.

This brief obituary in no way adequately reflects his extraordinary life and, whilst we know that A.P. Films was but a brief part of his career, we at Anderson Entertainment would like to thank him sincerely for the part he played in the success of those films.

John Blundall 1937 to 2014

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  • Tatyana Jakovskaya

    We were privileged to know John through all his Glasgow years – he supported the first steps of our Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre in UK and we were amazed by the depth of his knowledge of Russian puppet theatre tradition, – as well as others. He was a walking encyclopaedia, and kept an inner dialogue with Gordon Greig and Japanese Noh masters – and at the same time remained that inquisitive kid who just got more tired and annoyed with boring adults around. And yes, he was right about “carricatured” puppets – pity that he was not heard at that time. He will be hugely missed here.

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