When we were little one of our favourite storybooks was our Rupert the Bear annual. This is the one from 1960 and I can still remember the illustration on the front cover.
For those of you who may not be familiar with him, Rupert began as a comic strip character created by the artist Mary Tourtel who was a well-known illustrator of children’s books. The strip first appeared in a British newspaper, the Daily Express, in 1920 meaning that next year will be Rupert’s Centenary year. The Daily Express published the first Rupert Annual in 1935. Rupert Annuals are still being published today. After Mary Tourtel retired due to ill health Rupert was written and illustrated by:
- 1935-73 – Alfred Bestall
- 1974-78 – Alex Cubie, illustrator & Freddie Chaplain: Author
- 1978-2007 – John Harrold
- 2007 – ? – Stuart Trotter
Naomi has collected several old Rupert Annuals. These would all have been written and illustrated by Alfred Bestall and this is Rupert the way we knew him. It is interesting that although Rupert is generally seen as a white bear the covers of the annuals nearly always depicted him as a brown bear.
Rupert was a child bear who lived with his parents in a place called Nutwood Village. His best friend was Bill the Badger but he had many other friends such as Algy Pug, Edward Trunk and Willie Mouse. Rupert went on all sorts of adventures with his friends where they met fairies and elves, unicorns and even pirates. The main Rupert story that sticks in my mind is one where Rupert meets Jack Frost in the woods and brings him home.
There were also Rupert comics and in the 1970s there was an animated puppet show which ran for seven years. In 1984 Paul McCartney, who had bought the rights to Rupert from the Daily Express, wrote and produced an animated film called “Rupert and the Frog Song” It is available to watch on YouTube and I will add a link at the end of this post if you would like to see it. Rupert also appeared in a British/Canadian animated series between 1991-97 with episodes based on the Mary Tourtel and Alfred Bestall stories.
Of course, there were also Rupert Bear toys. Here is Naomi’s Rupert wearing his favourite red jumper and yellow check trousers with matching scarf. He has rather a nice expression don’t you think?
Naomi’s Rupert is tagged Tebro. Tebro Toys was a British company based in Bradford and owned by a man named Stafford Hegginbottom whose factories seemed to have an unfortunate tendency to burn down.
Other companies who produced Rupert were Merrythought and Steiff. A company called Mayco made vinyl Rupert’s that squeaked.