Bob Bura & John Hardwick Biography

Bob Bura & John Hardwick, masters of animation
c. Late 1950s

Bob Bura: English marionette puppeteer and animator.
b: -----

John Hardwick: English marionette puppeteer and animator.
b: May 1st, 1937, Edgeware, Middlesex. d: Sept 24th, 2004, Somerset.

The words "by Bura & Hardwick" appears so frequently in the credits of children's television animation films that it has become almost a brand name or quality mark. Any time you see the "Bura & Hardwick" tagline, you are virtually guaranteed of good quality animation and entertainment.

In careers that ranged from Punch and Judy puppet shows on Southsea beach, to marionette and rod-puppet operation in the BBC's Television Puppet Theatre, to their own stop-motion animation company, Bob Bura and John Hardwick are best remembered for their work on Gordon Murray's Trumptonshire stop-motion television series. And although they did other work besides Gordon Murray's projects, their association with Gordon Murray was the longest. Gordon has great admiration for their work, a feeling that I'm sure was mutual. Bura and Hardwick's work, Gordon said recently, was always of the highest standard.

John Hardwick's Earlier Years
John Hardwick was the youngest of four children of a carpenter who built stands at the Olympia exhibition hall in west London. While still at school, John would accompany his elder sister who was assistant to the broadly talented Bob Bura (variously a puppeteer, ventriloquist, variety artiste, conjuror, juggler and fire-eater). Around about this time Gordon Murray was doing a 1953 summer season marionette show in Broadstairs, Kent, and needed marionette operators. The 16-year-old Hardwick answered the advertisement and was taken on. John Hardwick's long term business ass
ociation with Bob Bura, however, did not begin until two years later, after John's elder sister got married and quit show biz. After taking over from his sister as assistant to Bob Bura, one of John Hardwick's first jobs was helping stage Punch and Judy shows on Portsmouth's Southsea beach.

Bura & Hardwick Join Forces
Bob Bura and John Hardwick began their joint career  in animation by making cinema advertisements. After joining the BBC at the Lime Grove studios, they made animated film inserts for various television series, including "Blue Peter", "Pops & Lenny", and "Hey Presto it's Rolf" (Harris). They also produced animation inserts  for school television programmes such as "Music, Time, and Watch". 

When not involved with animation filming, Bura and Hardwick increasingly performed as marionette (and rod-puppet, in the case of "Toytown") operators on various Gordon Murray productions in the BBC Puppet Theatre, including early epiosodes of A Rubovian Legend, and the original Toytown ( alongside puppeteers Audrey Atterbury, Molly Gibson and Elizabeth Thorndike).

Subsequently, they worked as animators on all of Gordon's stop-motion projects, the Trumptonshire programmes and the short Rubovia stop-motion series made in 1976. Bura and Hardwick were involved in all aspects of the stop-motion animation process on these programmes: camera, lighting, and motion timing. Each week they shot a 100 foot reel of 16 mm film, or about 2:45 of puppet action (4,000 frames). That is an average rate of one frame every 30 seconds or so. As a result, the thirteen 15-minute episodes of the Camberwick Green series took about a year to complete. Lacking "video assist" (it had not been invented yet), in those days the animators did not see the results of their work until the whole 100 foot reel of film had been processed. Instead they had to rely simply on their skill and experience to know how it would turn out. Mostly it did, and very little editing was required. 

The 1969 BBC Handbook ranks one particular Bura and Hardwick film as one of the outstanding films of 1968:  A puppet film of Igor Stravinsky and Alexandre Benois' 1911 ballet, Pétrouchka, with music and choreography adapted from the original version.

One little-known contribution Bura and Hardwick made to the Trumptonshire series is the use of colour film. At a time when many children's television programmes were still in B&W, they advocated using colour film for Camberwick Green. Therefore even though most people originally saw Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley on monochrome television sets, the recent release (2002) of the entire trilogy on DVD now makes it easy to review all 39 episodes in their original glorious colour. [Note: B&W and colour cameras used side-by-side allows the possibility of producing a 3-D version of some of the Trumptonshire series - this is discussed by Richard Evans of Trumpton Web]

Filming of all of the Trumptonshire programmes took place in a studio in a converted house in Womersley Road, Crouch End in north London. At the beginning of each series Gordon Murray would deliver the sets, puppets and scripts to the animator's studio and they would then be left alone to create the film.

After completing the Trumptonshire programmes, Bura and Hardwick went on to film several children's television programmes with producer John Ryan. John Ryan's animation method was very different to Bura and Hardwick's stop-motion technique. Using cardboard cutouts or 'captions' moved in real-time using cardboard levers and brass paperclips, the filming was much more like filming live-action. In the Puffin Annual No.1 (1974), John Ryan had this to say about it:

"When we have completed the sound track and the captions (incidentally fifty of them mounted on thick card make quite a heavy load) we set off for a small film studio in North London which specialises in puppet animation. It is an exciting house filled with miniature film sets and puppets of every description. Usually the experts, Bob Burn and John Hardwick, produce 'stop-frame' animation but for Pugwash they provide lighting and a 16 millimetre camera so that we can film our pictures at work just as actors are filmed in the making of a full-scale film." 

The small film studio mentioned by John Ryan is presumably "The Church" (see below). During the filming of Ryan's Captain Pugwash, Bura and Hardwick met up again with Hazel Martingell who had previously worked with them on  A Rubovian Legend. Hazel's job on Pugwash was cutting out and assembling the cardboard animation elements, controlling the audio tape and logging what was filmed. 

A London website that details the history of the Eurythmics pop group (click here) includes the following fascinating vingnette: "At that time The Church was owned by Bob Bura and John Hardwick, the animators who made Camberwick Green and Captain Pugwash, 'lovely eccentric guys', who had converted part of it as a studio." The same website mentions that one day in 1982, Bura and Hardwick stopped Dave Stewart in the street and offered him some working space in their studio building. Stewart and Annie Lennox moved in and completed their Eurythmics debut Sweet Dreams there. Later on Stewart and Lennox took over the whole of the building, named it The Church Studios, and also bought the house next door. (Note: The Church, 145H Crouch Hill, Crouch End, London N8 9QH, is about 500 m, just a walk around the corner, from the house Bura and Hardwick originally used as a studio in Womersley Road) 

John Hardwick passed away while out cycling on September 24th, 2004, aged 67. He was a quiet, patient and kind man who worked behind the scenes to help bring enjoyment to generations of children of all ages. He is survived by his long-term girlfriend Hazel Pearson and their daughter Fiona. 


Professional Timeline (partial):

Filmography as: Visual Effects, Miscellaneous Crew

Visual Effects - filmography
(2000s) (1990s)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (compositor: Framestore-CFC)
... aka Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The IMAX Experience (USA: IMAX version)
My House in Umbria (2003) (TV) (digital artist)
... aka Mia casa in Umbria, La (Italy)
Resident Evil (2002) (compositing artist: Framestore CFC)
... aka Resident Evil (France) (Germany)
Gladiator (2000) (compositor: Mill Film Ltd.)

The Tale of the Rat That Wrote (1999) (cinecom compositor)
Hilary and Jackie (1998) (compositor: Mill Film)
Paulie (1998) (compositing artist: CFC)
Mission: Impossible (1996) (digital compositor: Cinesite Europe)
... aka Mission Impossible
Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (1996) (digital artist)
... aka Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe's War (video title)

Mary, Mungo & Midge

1993: “Dinosaurs, fun, fact and fantasy” [video recording] (2 x 30 minute videocassettes. Colour with B&W segments. Uses clips from motion pictures, animation, puppets, and live action. Produced by Picture Palace Productions for Longman Video) ...animators
“The Gublin Legends” [TV-Series] (Stop-motion puppet series, 13 x 5-minute episodes. Colour. The 13th episode was not transmitted. Writer, narrator, producer: Gordon Murray)  VHS  [Did Bura & Hardwick work on this series?]
1977: “Skip and Fuffy” [TV-Series] (Short stop-motion animation puppet films made for BBC television, shown as part of Noel Edmonds’ “Multicoloured Swap Shop” series) ...animators
1976 (20th February): “Rubovia” [TV-Series] (Stop-motion puppet series, 6 x 15 minute episodes. Six of the original B&W marionette “Rubovian Legends” plays were remade in colour, with newly designed stop-motion puppets and settings. Roy Skelton did all of the character voices, while Gordon Murray handled the narration) ...animators
“Captain Pugwash” [TV-Series] (30 x 5-minute 'caption' animation episodes. Colour. Created, written, illustrated and directed by John Ryan. John Ryan Studios / BBC. Voices by Peter Hawkins. Remakes of original B&W episodes from 1957/58) ...filming (John Hardwick camera, Bob Bura lighting)
(episodes: Down The Hatch, Monster Ahoy!, A Mouse A’midships, The Show Boat, Pirate Picnic, Flood Tide, Fish Meal, Mutiny On The Black Pig, A Shot Across The Bows, The Great Bank Robbery, Wedding Bells, Diamonds On Ice, Stung!, Birthday Cake, The Riddle Of The Rubies, Six Foot Deep, The Cannon Ball, Witches' Brew, The Golden Trail, Pirate Of The Year, The Fruit Machine, The Plank, Voyage Of Discovery, Fair Exchange, Smugglers’ Cove, The Flying Buccaneer, The Island Of The Dodos, Caught In The Act, A Tell-Tale Tail, Off With His Head)
1974: "The Taste of Things to Come" [TV series] (episode: Salt and Savoury, 14 May, 1974. BBC programme # ESB1129T) ...puppeteers
1974: "You and Me" [TV series] (Schools series for 4 - 5 year olds. BBC programme #ESBA054Y. JH did 87 episodes out of 435, BB did 90), 14 Jan, 1974 - 23 April 1980. Crow and Alice stop-motion puppets narrated by Nigel Lambert. Segment typically 1 - 2 minutes long) ...puppeteers
“Toytown” [TV-Series] (S.G. Hulme Beaman) (26 x 11-minute stop-motion animation episodes. Colour. Larry the Lamb Ltd / Thames TV. A remake, in colour, of the 1950s BBC television series) ...animators
1971-72: “The Adventures of Sir Prancelot” [TV-Series] (31 x 5-minute 'caption' animation episodes. Colour. Written & produced by John Ryan. Based on a story and ideas by Alison Watson. John Ryan Studios / BBC) ...filming
(episodes 1 - 4: Crumblecreek Crusade; The Lady Hysteria; A Few Items of Baggage; A Weighty Problem.
episode 5: A Load of Hot Air, does not appear to have been made [The Little Gems website has a partial explanation]
episodes 6 - 20: On the Rocks; Count Otto; Thunderstruck; Landfall; Kidnapped; Hostile Enemy Intentions; The Haunted Watch-tower; The Flight; Flying Crusade; Duke Uglio; An Ugly Affair; Behind the Times; Not Cricket; Balloon Blitz; Ships of the Desert.
episodes 21-32: A Nice Cup of Tea; Common Market; Flying Carpet; Open Sesame; High Treason; Homeward Bound; Hurry to the Rescue; Gold for Otto; Mystery in the Tower; Blast Off; Splash Down; Command Performance)
1969: “Mary, Mungo and Midge” [TV-Series] (13 x 15-minute colour 'caption' animation episodes. John Ryan Studios / BBC) ...filming  DVD
(episodes 1 - 13: The Crane; The Letter; The Boat; Painting; Clocks; Mungo Lost; Machines; Toy Shop; The Fair; Flying; The Garage; Hospital; Seaside)
1969 (6th October): “Chigley” [TV-Series] (Stop-motion puppet series, 13 x 15 minute episodes, colour) ...animators  DVD
1968:  Pétrouchka (A puppet film of Igor Stravinsky and Alexandre Benois' 1911 ballet, with music and choreography adapted from the original version. This film was singled out as one of the outstanding programmes of 1968 by the 1969 BBC Handbook)
"The King's Dragon" [TV series] (Episodes: 1. Boy finds message; 2. Questions at the castle; 3. What is the King's Dragon?; Miss Wood in danger?) ...John Hardwick contributed
1967 (3rd January):
“Trumpton” [TV-Series] (Stop-motion puppet series, 13 x 15 minute episodes, colour) ...animators  DVD
1966 (3rd January): “Camberwick Green” [TV-Series] (Stop-motion puppet series, 13 x 15 minute episodes, colour, B&W) ...animators  DVD
1965: (28 Jun) Making Music (BBC Productions. BBC television programme # ESB9062J) ...shadow puppeteers

(22 March) The Engineers (BBC Productions. BBC television programme # ESB5124R) ...animator (John Hardwick)
The Dancing Princess (BBC Productions. Marionette play) ...puppeteers
The Magic Tree (BBC Productions. Marionette play) ...puppeteers
The Crumpot Candles (BBC Productions. Marionette play) ...puppeteers
The King of the Golden River
(John Ruskin) (Marionette play. BBC Productions) ...puppeteers
The Emperor’s New Clothes (Hans Christian Andersen) (Marionette play. BBC Productions) ...puppeteers
The Petrified Princess (Richard Arnell) (Marionette opera. BBC Productions) ...puppeteers
1958-65: “A Rubovian Legend” [TV-Series] ( 2nd series. Twenty-six further marionette plays using Gordon Murray’s own marionettes, 26 x 20 minute episodes, B&W, presented by BBC Puppet Theatre. Settings and costumes by Andrew Brownfoot, assisted by Margaret Brownfoot. Gordon Murray was writer, director, & producer.) ...puppeteers
1957-72: “Pinky and Perky” [TV-Series] (220 x 30 minute episodes. BBC TV 1957-68; ITV 1969-72. B&W. Marionette series by Jan and Vlasta Dalibor) ...puppeteers
Beauty and the Beast (BBC Productions. Marionette play) ...puppeteers
The Emperor’s Nightingale (BBC Productions. Marionette play. Tx’d live in B&W, but simultaneously filmed in colour as an experiment to demonstrate the advantages of colour. Scenery and costumes by Andrew Brownfoot) ...puppeteers
[TV-Series] (S.G. Hulme Beaman) (BBC Productions. 10 x 20 minute episodes. B&W. Rod puppets. Gordon Murray designed and made the puppets, and was producer. Settings by Andrew Brownfoot. Voices by Peter Hawkins, Roy Skelton, Madi Hedd, Noel Coleman, Derek Nimmo, and Raymond Rollett) ...puppeteers (alongside Audrey Atterbury, Molly Gibson, and Elizabeth Thorndike)
The Bird of Truth. (BBC Productions. Marionette play. Gordon Murray was producer. Puppets & settings by Andrew Brownfoot) ...puppeteers (alongside Audrey Atterbury, Molly Gibson, Elizabeth Thorndike)
1956: The Dragon's Hiccups (A further marionette play in the Rubovian Legends series. Marionettes by Kim Allen. BBC Productions. Some of the settings and a new costume for the Queen by Andrew Brownfoot. Gordon Murray was writer, director, & producer) ...puppeteers (alongside Audrey Atterbury, Molly Gibson, Elizabeth Thorndike)
1956: Clocks and Blocks (A further marionette play in the Rubovian Legends series. Marionettes by Kim Allen. BBC Productions. Some of the settings by Andrew Brownfoot. Gordon Murray was writer, director & producer) ...puppeteers (alongside Audrey Atterbury, Molly Gibson, Elizabeth Thorndike)
1955: The Queen’s Dragon (The very first play in what was to become known as the Rubovian Legends series. Marionettes by Kim Allen. BBC Productions. Some of the settings by Andrew Brownfoot. Gordon Murray was writer & producer) ...assistant puppeteers (the puppeteers were Molly Gibson and Audrey Atterbury, assisted by Joan Garrick, Bob Bura and John Hardwick)

1952: The High Toby (Priestly) and The Rose of Auvergne (Offenbach) (Gordon Murray and Alan Judd's marionette productions, at Broadstairs and Boltons Theatre, London) ...puppeteer (John Hardwick only)