A Look Behind The Book, with Funny Man Fred Blunt…
Fred Blunt has a wicked sense of humour. For anyone who grew up in the late 70s or early 80s, you will totally recognise where Fred is coming from in terms of style, comic timing and artistic influence. In time with the release of his sequel to the much loved tale of Captain Falsebeard: Captain Falsebeard in a Wild Goose Chase, I asked Fred where it all began… LM
Where did the idea for Captain Falsebeard come from?
Captain Falsebeard was knocking around on my sketch pad some years back, along with Admiral Swinetoes. Puffin asked if they had a story during a meeting, which led to A Fishy Tale, and now Goose Chase.
A spread from the original Falsebeard book, available as a limited edition print from The Bright Emporium.
Both books are so funny – I remember actually crying with laughter at your story time Sunday for the first book (I was working the projector for that one) Anyway – my question in relation to that is: Who were your influences (if any) such as comedians that were on the TV when you were growing up, or books that you found funny as a child?
Thanks, that’s so lovely to know! Yes, definitely… I think loads of things have influenced Falsebeard. Cartoons like Dick Dastardly and Muttley were definitely in my mind when I created the first book. I wanted a story with really strong, clear characters, who could potentially front their own show on TV, and I wanted that pantomime element you get from old slapstick cartoons. I also think Blackadder, Monty Python, The Two Ronnies, Charlie Chaplin and other comics and comedies I watched as a kid have shaped my writing along the way. There are bits of dialogue that have a Blackadder tinge here and there I’ve noticed! I also think I was trying to do the near impossible by having a big adventure in a picture book, which is a tricky thing to do. Again, I think I was trying to get an episode of a cartoon series into a book, rather than write a straight forward picture book. Hopefully this format appeals to slightly older children, who enjoy a more complex story, but still want plenty of pictures.
Fred’s inspiration. Clockwise from to left: Blackadder, The Two Ronnies, Monty Python and Charlie Chaplin
Are there particular artists and writers who influenced you? Your style of illustration has such a great sense of movement and comedy. It reminds me a little of Quentin Blake and Tony Ross, but also of retro cartoon illustration – and I think your colour palette is spot on…
So many artists have influenced me over the years. When I was a boy, I was certainly influenced by those masters of spontaneity, like Quentin Blake and Tony Ross, but I was equally influenced by those classic Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros and UPA cartoons, which were often played on a Saturday afternoon in the 80s…
Hannah-Barbera characters: Yogi bear, Fred Flintstone and Muttley, the dog with an unforgettable laugh!
…Chuck Jones was a major influence, his sense of movement and characterisation was amazing… equally Ed Benedict, who designed loads of the Hanna-Barbera characters, like The Flintstones, Top Cat and The Jetsons was a big influence on me when I was at school.
Artwork by Fred, reminiscent of those 80s cartoons.
A bit later I discovered amazing cartoonists like Ronald Searle, Jean-Jacques Sempé, Andre Francois, Saul Steinberg, William Steig — who have remained favourites. I think my drawing is largely about movement and expression — letting the characters really act on the page, so I’m glad you noticed that about my drawing.
I’m not really influenced by anyone writing-wise, but of course I loved Roald Dahl as a boy, and the classics of children’s literature are still among my fave books; Treasure Island, Peter Pan, Where The Wild Things Are… kids books are the best!
Where did you study, and did you always set out to be a children’s author/illustrator?
I studied illustration at UWE Bristol. It was a great course, and many of the talented folk on the course with me at the time inspired me then, and still do now. I always knew that I wanted to draw for a living… When I was a boy I wanted to be an animator, and after university I did caricatures for newspapers… But I think at the back of mind, I’ve always wanted to illustrate books, and now writing them too is just a massive bonus!
What’s next for Fred Blunt?!
I am working on several projects currently — but it’s all under wraps, so watch this space!
Fred will be joining us on Sunday 18th of September for a story time only fit for those with a strong pair of sea-legs!
All little pirates (and big ones too) welcome!
You can book your ticket to meet Fred and get a signed copy
of his brand new book here.
It’s going to be a great morning of stories, talking parrots, mermaids, treasure hunting, plank walking and all things pirate!
I said, ALL things Pirate! Eye-patches, hats and parrots welcome, hooks to be left at the front door please…
See you soon!
Huge thanks go to Fred Blunt. If you’d like to work with Fred or get in touch, you can reach him via his agent, Arabella Stein, here.