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Bertha is a British stop motion-animated children's television series about a factory machine of that name, comprising 13 episodes that aired from 1985 to 1986. Other major characters in the series were Mr Willmake (factory owner), Mr Sprott (Bertha's chief designer) and Tracy (Mr Sprott's young assistant). All the characters were designed by Ivor Wood, and the series was produced by his company, Woodland Animations. It was broadcast on BBC Television.[1] A series of six storybooks based on Bertha was published by André Deutsch at the same time as the series was broadcast. They were adapted by Eric Charles and illustrated by Steve Augarde, who was also responsible for the artwork and music in the children's series Bump.

Plot Edit

The series is set in an industrial estate occupied by the Spottiswood & Company factory, a small manufacturing plant producing a wide range of goods ranging from cuckoo clocks to windmill money boxes. Each episode focuses on a machine called Bertha that can produce any item requested of her. In each episode the factory experiences a crisis affecting its daily production schedule, which Bertha invariably solves with the help of her factory worker friends.

Production Edit

Bertha was created by Woodland Animations, who also produced the shows Postman Pat, Charlie Chalk and Gran for the BBC. Episodes were written by Eric Charles and Stephen Flewers, and designed, produced and directed by Ivor Wood, co-founder of the Woodland company. Roy Kinnear and Sheila Walker voiced the characters, and Kinnear narrated. The main title music featured the singing of Guy Fletcher (songwriter). The songs "Tracy's Robot Song", "Mrs Tupp" and "Isn't it Nice?" from the Bertha 12-inch vinyl record feature the vocals of Stefanie de Sykes.

Main characters Edit

  • Mr. Willmake – Manager of the factory
  • Miss McClackerty – Mr. Willmake's secretary
  • Mr. Sprott – Chief designer
  • Tracy James – Mr Sprott's Assistant
  • Mr. Duncan – Works Foreman
  • Ted Turner – Chief machine operator (who shows a number of influences of the veteran TV presenter Bruce Forsyth).
  • Roy Willing – Assistant machine operator (unknown if he was named after the narrator Roy Kinnear)
  • Mrs. Tupp – The tea lady
  • Panjid Singh – Forklift truck operator, often has accidents that are no fault of his own!
  • Nell - Packer
  • Flo – Stacker
  • T.O.M – Talk Operated Machine, a robot designed by Tracy and built by Bertha to perform odd jobs around the factory. According to the song Tom the Robot from the Bertha 12" vinyl record, he is said to be Bertha's robot son
  • Bertha - The title character, an old machine at the factory

who has been modernised over the 50 years she has worked at the factory. She helps the rest of the Spottiswood & Company factory during each episode in some way or another

Goods manufactured by Bertha throughout the series Edit

  • Windmill-shaped money boxes
  • Garden gnomes
  • Beach balls
  • Nuts and bolts
  • 365 springs
  • Inflatable Plastic bears
  • Bathroom sponges
  • Cuckoo clocks
  • Humming tops
  • Jack-in-the-boxes
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Watering cans
  • Building blocks
  • Electric kangaroos
  • T.O.M (Talk Operated Machine). – a robot
  • A mechanical toy soldier for a contest
  • Data Warehouse reports

Original broadcast dates Edit

Bertha premiered on BBC1 on 1 April 1985 at 3:55pm. The next six episodes were shown over the following weeks, omitting the Easter and May Day holidays, and episodes 8–11 were first broadcast at the end of an autumn rerun. The BBC did not comply with an ordered schedule for the airing of the program, and the last two episodes premiered in 1986 during a third run at 1:45pm and 1:30pm.

Merchandise Edit

Merchandise for the programme was, and is, very minuscule, the merchandise listed are the only items that have been discovered.

UK VHS and DVD Releases Edit

In 13 April 1987, after the episodes were shown on TV, the BBC released one video of the show.

VHS video title Year of release Episodes
Bertha- The Flying Bear (BBCV 4075) 13 April 1987 A Mouse in the Works, TOM Gets Lost, The Flying Bear, The Burglars

At some point during 1985, Bertha was featured on a Marks and Spencer (St. Michael) exclusive VHS release called 'Cartoon Favourites' along with The Family-Ness, Ivor the Engine, Bagpuss and Pigeon Street, the "Mouse in the Works" episode of Bertha is on this release.

In 6 November 1989 one episode of Bertha was on the VHS release which was exclusive to W.H.Smith 'Postman Pat and Friends' alongside Postman Pat and Charlie Chalk

VHS video title Year of release Episodes
Postman Pat and Friends (WHS 4301) 6 November 1989 Postman Pat- Pat Goes Sledging, Charlie Chalk- Arnold's Night Out, Bertha- The Flying Bear

In 2 September 1991, one episode of Bertha was featured on the BBC VHS release 'Postman Pat and Company' alongside Postman Pat and Charlie Chalk

VHS video title Year of release Episodes
Postman Pat and Company (BBCV 4709) 2 September 1991 Postman Pat- Pat's Foggy Day, Charlie Chalk- Edward keeps fit, Postman Pat- Letters on Ice, Bertha- The Burglars

Hallmark and Carlton Home Entertainment released the first four episodes on a single video in 1994.

VHS video title Year of release Episodes
Bertha (3007340123) 6 June 1994 The Great Painting Job, The Windmills, Mouse in the Works, The Best Machine Competition

In 2004 Entertainment Rights released a DVD of the show containing 3 of the same episodes as the Hallmark/Carlton Release, albeit replacing the Best Machine Competition with 'More Speed, Less Work (albeit mistitled the best machine competition)':

DVD title Year of release Episodes
Bertha and the Best Machine Competition 13 July 2004 The Great Painting Job, The Windmills, Mouse in the Works, More Speed, Less work

In 2011, Classic Media released a DVD entitled "Fun with Friends: Volume One" Containing one Episode of Bertha:

DVD title Year of release Episodes
Fun with Friends: Volume One 27 June 2011 Postman Pat: Ice Cream Machine, Bertha: The Flying

Bear, Ethelbert the Tiger: Ethelbert and the Camel, Friendly Monsters: A Monster Holiday, Fun Song Factory: Happy, Little Red Tractor: Circles in the Corn, Merlin the Magical Puppy: Merlin and the Summer Fair, Postman Pat: Postman Pat at the Seaside and Preston Pig: Snout Scouts

Australian DVD Releases Edit

While there are no known Australian VHS' of the programme, there have been two DVD releases of the entire series released by Reel Entertainment, on the DVD cover, it claimed that the show was made by "The Makers of Postman Pat and Thomas and Friends." However this is only true for Charlie Chalk (since the slogan was used on all the Woodland Animations DVD's in Australia), because Jocelyn Stevenson (Writer of Charlie Chalk), became the executive producer on Thomas and Friends from the Seventh Season onwards

Photobooks Edit

In 1985, to accompany the Programme, Some Photobooks were released with altered titles to fit the style of the books, these were very similar to the Postman Pat photobooks, where the front cover would be an original illustration and all pictures within the book were images from the TV Programme:

- Bertha and the Great Painting Job (The Great Painting Job)

- Bertha and the Windmills (The Windmills)

- Bertha and the Mouse in the Works (A Mouse in the works)

- Bertha and the Best Machine Competition (The Best Machine Competition)

- Bertha and the Lost TOM (T.O.M Get's Lost)

- Bertha and the Flying Bear (The Flying Bear)

Vinyl Record Edit

In 1986, after Broadcast ended, the BBC's record label released a 12" vinyl record containing songs from the TV Series:

All songs written and composed by Bryan Daly. 

Side 1
No. Title Vocals Length
1. "Bertha"   Guy Fletcher   
2. "Mrs. Tupp"   Stefanie De Sykes   
3. "Packing and Stacking"   Guy Fletcher, Eva Burden   
4. "The Flying Bear" (*) (instrumental)      
5. "Mr. Duncan" (*) Bryan Daly   
6. "Turning Wheels" (*) (instrumental)      
Side 2
No. Title Length
1. "T.O.M the Robot"   Guy Fletcher   
2. "Isn't it Nice?" (*) Stefanie De Sykes   
3. "Mr. Willmake" (*) Guy Fletcher, Stefanie De Sykes   
4. "Tracy's Robot Song"   Stefanie De Sykes   
5. "Spottiswood March" (*) (instrumental)      
6. "Roy the Apprentice"   Guy Fletcher   

Tracks marked with an * did not feature in the TV Series, however it is possible that the song 'Mr. Duncan' was to feature in the episode "More Speed, Less Work" but was not included due to it making the episode too long, the same case with 'Mr. Willmake' possibly featuring in the episode 'Bertha's Birthday'

The album was also released on cassette with the reference number of: ZCR 585, however the cassette has never surfaced

Board Game Edit

In 1987, Falcon released a board game using illustrations similar to those seen on the front covers of the photobooks. The Game itself does not differ much from the Monopoly series of board games, but with this, if a player lands on T.O.M, they are allowed to ask Bertha to make an item for them. one of these was recently sold on eBay for £15.00 (approx $30)

Advent Calendar Edit

In 1985, an Advent calendar using the same profile image as the vinyl record was released, one of these was recently sold on eBay for the price of £49.99 (approx $98.00), not much is known about this item

Annuals Edit

During 1985 to 1988, Bertha featured in a total of four annuals:

- Bertha annual 1985

- Bertha annual 1986

- Buttons (Based on Children's BBC) annual 1987 (along with Postman Pat, King Rollo, Towser, Henry's Cat and Jimbo and the Jet Set)

- Buttons annual 1988 (Along with Postman Pat, Charlie Chalk, Henry's Cat, Towser, King Rollo and Spot)

Credits Edit

  • Written by: Eric Charles
  • Narration by: Roy Kinnear
  • Voices By: Roy Kinnear and Sheila Walker
  • Music and Lyrics by: Bryan Daly
  • Director Of Animation: Derek Mogford
  • Series Designed and Directed by: Ivor Wood
  • Film Editor: Martin Bohan
  • Song Vocals: Guy Fletcher,
  • Recorded at: Havoc House Studios
  • Sound by: Clive Pendry
  • Produced by: Woodland Animations Ltd
  • © Woodland Animations Ltd MCMLXXXV

Repeats Edit

Bertha has shown at lunchtimes and afternoons on BBC1 and BBC2 from 1985 - 1994, CBBC on Choice has shown the series twice beginning in Easter Monday 2000 right after Playdays and at 5.20pm. The whole series then repeated from 1st November - Monday 4th December 2000 at 6.15pm. It has been shown once and was never really repeated again afterwards.

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