Drawing the Curtains

When I was little, one of the most wonderful things on television was Gus Honeybun’s Birthdays on Westward Television. And the best bit of all was when Gus went off screen to press the “rainbow magic button”.

Ian Stirling and Gus Honeybun appearing on Westward Television. Ian Stirling is on the left of the picture, reading a birthday card with a kitten on the front. Gus is wearing a "Ted Tuckerman" fisherman’s jersey and looking at Ian. They are sat in front of a patterned blue, navy, green and white curtain.
Ian Stirling with Gus Honeybun on Westward TV

The magic button effect was achieved using chromakey. The light blue on the backing curtain and Gus Honeybun’s box would be replaced electronically by either a solid colour (chosen from one of the colours that appeared on the EBU colour bars) or the EBU colour bars themselves.

I had always assumed that the backing curtain was something that had been specially designed for the purpose by Westward’s designers as it seemed to work so well. The windows and houses in the pattern also seemed to match the original Loeki the Lion animation that went with it1.

The original Loeki the Lion intro used for Gus Honeybun’s Birthdays

Then, something odd happened. When I was a student at the University of Exeter in 1990, I shared a room in a Victorian villa called Nancherrow with a Maths student who was very artistic. He would always be going off to buy materials for some project or other he was working on and I would often go with him.

One day he needed some material, and so we ended up going to a remnant shop on the High Street in Exeter and, on a large roll behind the counter, was the very material that Ian, Judi and Roger used to sit in front of when they were presenting Gus Honeybun’s Birthdays.

I didn’t have any money on me that day, but I thought that one day I would go back and buy a couple of metres of this material. To my eternal regret, I never did.

I never forgot this material and when I started doing recreations of presentation items in Flash I thought that one day it would be wonderful to recreate it.

However, there are very few surviving examples of Westward TV editions of Gus Honeybun’s Birthdays and that meant I could only see parts of the pattern.

In fact, at the time, the only edition of Gus Honeybun’s Birthdays I had was from a summer morning, after a repeat of ITC/ATV’s Stingray. Ian Stirling2 was presenting with Gus.

I imported the image of Ian and Gus in to Inkscape, and then the first job was to try and work out the extent of the pattern, so I could see where it repeated horizontally and vertically. This was actually quite tricky to do.

There was quite a large area where I had to guess what went behind Ian Stirling on the screen capture I was working from. I also had to work out what was hidden in the folds of the curtain. I suppose you could use AI to do something like this, but I’m not intelligent enough to use AI!

Once I had drawn the curtain in Inkscape I imported the resulting SVG file into Blender to see how it looked.

Once I had the curtain looking nice in Blender I also couldn’t resist the urge to recreate the design on Gus Honeybun’s box. This was very typical of the style of graphics used on Westward at the time; there was a lot of very beautiful hand painted brush typography used on Westward.

Then the question was, now I had all this stuff, what to do with it. So I thought I’d do a little scene of Lionel Maxwell-Lyons presenting with Gus.

However, to do that I needed a Gus. So I went on a huge detour in Blender to create a CGI Gus Honeybun.

Monochrome cartoon drawing of Gus Honeybun in ink with hatching as shading annotated with mesurements. This drawing was used to sew the puppet.

hat size — 12"
leaving holes for ears.

From crown of hear to base of neck 6"
Between arms at back 5½"
From shoulder to top of leg 8½"
From the back of leg to paw 8"
Round body at waist 20"

Fortunately someone had uploaded the dimensions of Mr. Honeybun to the excellent Westward TV and TSW Group on Facebook, so it was actually a very straightforward job.

My Gus model is actually fully rigged, so I will be able to animate Lionel and Gus at some point.

Westward Television was a very fortunate company. It had the best start-up music, the best start-up, the best presenters, the best logo, the best graphic design, the best regional programmes and the best presentation. And, to top it all off, it had the best region. And I still miss it.

  1. Later on, of course, Westward TV would get a special introduction from Geesink Studios which included Westward’s logo. You can see it here. ↩︎
  2. Ian Stirling and Judi Spiers both made a great comedy double act with Gus. With Roger Shaw, it was always different; there was always a mutual respect and affection between the pair. ↩︎






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