They always seemed to get Bill’s name wrong: surfing the internet on his iPad, the nonagenarian often found himself referred to as ‘William Mevin’. Or, on occasion, ‘Bill Melvin’: “That annoys me, you know,” he told me. “I once wrote to the BBC – they did it to me in a letter – and I said, ‘Look, my name’s Mevin. Get the ’ell out of it!’”
We were happy to give Bill (short for Wilfred, officially, but he detested the name) the chance to set the record straight during our various conversations. Here’s a teaser excerpt from the interview, beginning with his work after leaving Gaumont British Animation around 1950...
“I did a couple of animation sweatshops where the money was very poor but they were getting really good stuff because they cashed in on the fact that we were trained. I even met Walt Disney, who was over here promoting Alice in Wonderland and David Climie wrote the script for a radio presentation [BBC Home Service, 13/7/51]."
Bill continues "I had a first-class seat for the show and later met Walt as he talked to David but just said hello as I thought he wouldn’t take kindly to someone from a rival studio. Then I got a job with Halas and Batchelor, a very famous couple who made Animal Farm [released in 1955]. I got in late but I did the final scenes on that, the storm and a few other things. After I’d done that, I was told it wasn’t good for my eyes. An optician said to me, it’s not the best job for you, you know, because animators in those days worked over a lightbox where they had to flick the pages of the paper. So, I gave that up and went into children’s comics."
Bill on Wee Sporty [Express Weekly, 1956-60] "That was a fantastic one. I was approached by the editor of Express Weekly, asking me to do a strip for Scotland. I had to learn all I knew about Scotland. I took the dialogue from The Broons, like ‘criminy’ and ‘jings’. And you know, it took off like a rocket. Scottish kids, apparently, loved football, so I started off with him playing football, being a world class footballer, but then he did every sort of sport you can think of, better than most.
It went from a single strip to a full page in about three or four weeks, and I was sent for by the top man at the Express who said he was a fan of the strip and offered me a contract for 3000 quid – this was in 1957, so you can imagine what that was worth. He said to his secretary, “Organise it with the legal department but tell them not to use all this fancy language. I don’t want my friend Mr Mevin to think we’re a lot of bloody sharks. I want ’im to know we’re a lot of bloody sharks!” They were great people, you know; characters.
"One day I’ll be discovered because there’s no one with the range I’ve done. From then on, I did children’s stuff and eventually came to an outfit called Polystyle Publications and they covered the lot, I think every children’s programme on television! And Doctor Who was part of it. I drew Supercar, I did Popeye, I did Bugs Bunny and Huckleberry Hound, Barney Bear. I did them all.”
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The Mechanical Planet
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