On a beautiful sunny day in Kendal, two local heroes returned home. Yes, Postman Pat and Jess, his trusty black and white sidekick, celebrated their debut on the silver screen with a special gala screening at Kendal’s Brewery Arts Centre, a stone’s throw from Pat’s home, the fictional village of Greendale.
The film takes Pat to a whole new level, dealing with the modern temptations of money, status and a shiny new suit as he enters a national TV talent show held by Simon Cowbells. But when he turns his back on his friends in Greendale, a legion of evil Patbot 3000 robots and even a laser-firing Jessbot replace him, intent on world domination. Can Pat prevail and save the world?
Northern Soul caught up with the voice of Pat, Stephen Mangan, star of Green Wing and Episodes to see how he felt about this turn to the dark side. “It is scary but I have a three year old and I know they can take it,” he says. “We did a screening in London and we only lost one child. It’s a movie, you want jeopardy and excitement.”
It’s a far cry from the original gentle TV series that started way back in 1981. Pat creator John Cunliffe told Northern Soul: “The next generation are wonderful to tell stories to.” But what does he think about this new high octane outing for Pat?
“I haven’t seen the film yet but things change. When I wrote the original treatment I had a helicopter in it but was told to take it out, they couldn’t animate that.”
So where did the inspiration for Pat come from? Cunliffe explained: “I was commissioned to write something. At first he was going to be a farmer but I wanted someone who travels around and meets a lot of people so I spoke to a country postman. Although it’s set in Kendal, a part of it is based from my days in Northumberland when I travelled around with a mobile library.”
Judging by the crowds of very excitable children waiting for Pat in Kendal, it is obvious he is as popular as ever. Northern Soul asked Mangan if he was nervous about taking on such an iconic character.
“I realise it’s not just any old part but I’ve done this before when I played Adrian Mole and Dirk Gently. When my agent rang me and asked me if I wanted it [the part of Pat], I said yes immediately.”
Mangan feels proud to take Pat on his first cinematic outing. “With all the American animation around at the moment like Frozen, it’s great that he’s British.” Mangan prepared for the part by watching old episodes. “I based the accent half on TV Pat and half on me.”
Used to being in front of the camera, bringing Postman Pat to life was a very different process for Mangan.“You do the voice first and then the animation later. I only met Rupert (Grint) last week as well as the actress who plays my wife and we’ve supposedly been married for 12 years.”
During the film, Pat enters a singing competition but Mangan wasn’t daunted by this; help came in the form of Ronan Keating who provides Pat’s singing voice. Does he plan to return the favour and help out on the next Boyzone tour? “Yes, I’ve offered to be the next Bez, shaking my maracas….that’s not a euphemism.”
By Chris Park
Postman Pat: The Movie opens today and stars Stephen Mangan, Ronan Keating, Rupert Grint, Jim Broadbent and David Tennant.