23 essential facts about one of the UK’s favourite children’s characters…
1. Rupert Bear was dreamt up in 1920 by Mary Tourtel (1874-1948), wife of the then-News Editor of The Daily Express, Herbert Tourtel. Rupert was initially created to compete with The Daily Mail’s little remembered Teddy Tail (first published in 1915) comic strip and The Daily Mirror’s Pip Squeak and Wilfred (1919).
2. The first Rupert story was published on 8 November 1920 and was titled Little Lost Bear.
3. Rupert lives in the village of Nutwood with his mother and father, Mr and Mrs Bear. His closest chums are Bill Badger, Algy Pug, Podgy Pig and Edward Trunk.
4. Rupert’s early strips were illustrated by Mary and captioned by Herbert.
5. Alfred Bestall (1892-1986), a former cartoonist for Punch magazine, inherited the job of illustrating Rupert upon Mary’s retirement in 1935. Now considered the definitely Rupert artist, he remained on the strip until 1965 and on the annuals until 1973.
6. Rupert still appears in The Daily Express, to this very day.
7. There’s been a Rupert annual published every year since 1936, even during the war, when Britain was suffering a crippling paper shortage. The most recent annual was released in July 2017.
8. Rupert was originally depicted as a brown-faced bear, but his colour was soon changed to white to save on printing costs. Since then, all Rupert annuals have traditionally drawn him as brown-faced on the cover and white-faced inside.
9. Monty Python star Terry Jones is a massive Rupert Bear fan and even produced a documentary, The Rupert Bear Story, for Channel Four in 1982.
10. Another Rupert super-fan is saucer-eyed ex-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney who wrote and produced a short film titled Rupert and the Frog Song in 1984. McCartney himself voiced Rupert, with Windsor Davies and June Whitfield as Mr and Mrs Bear. The song We All Stand Together from the film’s soundtrack reached number three in the UK Singles Chart.
11. Rupert’s first appearance on TV was on ITC’s fondly-remembered The Adventures of Rupert Bear, which ran to an amazing 156 episodes between 1970 and 1977. The incredibly catchy title song got his name slightly wrong, however, referring to him as Rupert THE Bear. (Tut tut).
12. The title song from the series was sung by Irish singer Jackie Lee. Her other most famous song is probably White Horses, which was a top ten hit for her in 1968. Lee is now retired and lives in Canada.
13. The Adventures of Rupert Bear was narrated by actress Judy Bennett. She currently voices Shula Hebden Lloyd in The Archers, a part she’s played since 1971.
14. Rupert has returned to television three times since that first show. The BBC’s simply-titled Rupert, made with still illustrations and narrated by Mr Benn’s Ray Brooks, ran for 36 episodes between 1985 and 1988, while its follow-up, again called Rupert, was a fully animated co-production between the UK, Canada and France. Rupert’s last foray onto the small screen was in Rupert Bear, Follow The Magic…, a part-stop-motion, part-CGI series aimed at a pre-school audience that ran between 2006 and 2008.
15. There have been two Rupert Bear videogames. In 1985 Quicksilva published Rupert and the Toymaker’s Party for the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum, following it up in 1986 with Rupert and the Ice Castle.
16. Rupert has his very own museum dedicated to him, located in The Museum of Canterbury in Kent. The town was the birthplace of Mary Tourtel.
17. Many of the Rupert annuals are extremely valuable. The most prized books are the very first one, from 1936, and any editions from the war years between 1939 and 1945.
18. In 1973, only 12 editions of the Rupert annual were printed with Rupert’s brown face on the cover. Unbeknownst to Alfred Bestall, someone had ordered the cover to be changed to a white face, to match the inside illustrations. Bestall was so incensed by the alteration that he refused to ever illustrate another Rupert annual. Two of the 12 sold at auction in 2007 for £23,000 and £22,000.
19. There’s a Rupert Bear fan club, named The Followers of Rupert Bear, formed in 1983 “to bring together Rupert Bear enthusiasts and to promote the appreciation of Rupert’s past, present and future”. You can find their details here – http://rupertbear.co.uk/index.html
20. Rupert’s current artist is Stuart Trotter. A long-time Rupert fan, Stuart had previously illustrated Postman Pat, Winnie the Pooh, Kipper and Thomas the Tank Engine.
21. Rupert merchandise is known as Rupertabilia.
22. The rights to Rupert currently reside with DreamWorks Animation (who paid £6 million for a 66.6% control of the character in 2005).
23. An unlikely Rupert Bear fan is 6Music DJ Mark Radcliffe. In 2011, he presented a documentary for Radio 4, titled Rupert Bear and Me, in which he talked about his lifelong love for the character.
Use the discount code NETWORKBLOGRUPERTBEAR to receive 25% off The Adventures of Rupert Bear: Volumes 1, 2, and 3 until 4pm, Monday 27th January.