Television Animation (as Producer)
SuperTed (1982 -1986) was the reason why Robin Lyons fell in love with animation. Having ghost written the SuperTed books for its creator, Mike Young, Robin helped found Siriol Animation in Cardiff to make the animated series for the Welsh language channel, S4C. He wrote all 36 episodes of the series made in the UK, directed the voices and produced the third series. 36 episodes were made in all. They were sold all over the world.
The series won a BAFTA for Best Animated Film and was heavily merchandised. It still has a cult following today.
Wil Cwac Cwac (1982 – 1986). At the same time as making SuperTed Siriol Animation made 30 x 5 minute episodes of Wil Cwac Cwac, a series based on characters from the classic Welsh album, Llyfr Mawr Y Plant. The series was directed by Beth McFall, written by Urien William and narrated by Myfanwy Talog. Hugely popular with Welsh speaking audiences, Wil Cwac Cwac was a commission from S4C and sold to more countries than SuperTed though it had less merchandising success. Robin Lyons was the Producer of all three series.
Sion Blewyn Coch/ Sion The Fox/ Fox Tails (1986 – 1988). After Wil Cwac Cwac Robin Lyons wrote and produced three half hour specials based on another character from Llyfr Mawr Y Plant, Sion Blewyn Coch. These were a commission from S4C and directed by SuperTed director, Dave Edwards. In English these were called A Winter Story, Easter Egg and Turkey Love. They were known collectively as Fox Tails.
Gerald Of Wales (1988) was a half hour special commissioned by S4C and Cadw (Historic Welsh Monuments) to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Gerald Cambrensis’ travels around Wales to drum up support for the crusades. The original material may be dry but the comic, child-friendly script, narrated by Max Boyce and animated in simple 2D, was anything but. Robin Lyons was the producer and contributed gags to the script.
Space Baby (1988) was a half hour pilot made for Hanna Barbera and was the last production of Siriol Animation. Written by Robin Lyons and Judy Rothman and produced by Robin the pilot was made into the series Fantastic Max by Hanna Barbera. By this time Siriol Animation was no more and Robin had no involvement in the series.
After Space Baby the directors of Siriol Animation went their separate ways and Robin Lyons formed Siriol Productions which made the features “The Princess And The Goblin” and “Under Milk Wood”. Shortly afterwards Robin Lyons created the studio grouping, EVA, with Jean-Francois Laguionie from La Fabrique (France), Pierre Levie from Sofidoc (Belgium) and Jürgen Egenolf from Egenolf und Jeske (Germany). This group made several coproductions and Robin Lyons coproduced (with Jean-François Laguionie) the special Santa and The Tooth Fairies (1991), the series Tales of the Tooth Fairies (1993 – 4) and the Channel 4 special Robert Creep: A Dog’s Life (1994) which was co-written by Robin Lyons and Andrew Offiler. These were all projects shaped creatively by La Fabrique.
Kersplat! (1991) was a live action series about comics for Channel 4 coproduced with Red Rooster. Robin Lyons and Andrew Offiler wrote the scripts and Siriol was the coproducer.
Santa’s First Christmas (1992) was a special also made with the EVA studio grouping but was very much a Siriol production. Written by Robin Lyons and Andrew Offiler and produced by Robin Lyons it was a coproduction for S4C, BBC, and WDR.
Romuald The Reindeer (1996) was a character that appeared in both Santa’s First Christmas and Santa and the Tooth Fairies. Robin Lyons and Andrew Offiler created a series for him which was made with the studio grouping but led creatively by Siriol. Nigel Planer was the voice of Romuald and Nigel’s brother Roger wrote the scripts and music. The series was shown on S4C and BBC in the UK and was nominated for a BAFTA award in 1996. Robin Lyons was the producer.
Billy The Cat (1996 – 1998) was a series based on the Belgian graphic novels by Stephen Desberg and Stéphane Colberg. The first series was produced by Robin Lyons and was made through the grouping but also with a Canadian coproducer. At 26 x 26′ this was the biggest series ever undertaken by Siriol Productions. Animation was done in Wales, France, Spain, Poland and Canada. The series was an international success but had little exposure in the UK. Siriol was not able to raise money in the UK and withdrew from the second series.
After Billy The Cat EVA, the studio grouping, started to disintegrate. Egenolf und Jeske had already become Cologne Cartoon and later became JEP Animation. Jean-François Laguionie left La Fabrique to concentrate on animated features. Pierre Levie continued working with Sofidoc until shortly before his death in 2010 at the age of 93.
From 1993 Siriol Productions had been working with DIC and Scottish Television (STV) on a series called The Hurricanes (1993-1997) and following the break-up of EVA it solidified its relationship with STV by selling it a minority stake in the company. With STV Siriol produced two series for ITV.
The Blobs (1997-8) was based on books published by Beano publisher D C Thomson and was about blobs of paint. Siriol made two series, both produced by Robin whose daughter Stella appears in the title sequence. The series was shown on ITV and S4C in the UK.
Meeow (1999-2000) was based on the Maisie books by Aileen Paterson and followed the adventures of the adventurous cat MaisieMac. If Wil Cwac Cwac was the most Welsh production Robin produced Meeow was the most Scottish. Narrated by Stanley Baxter it was immensely popular in Scotland in both English and Gaelic. Robin was the producer.
After Meeow! Siriol Productions severed their links with STV and made their first stop-motion series.
Hilltop Hospital (1999 – 2001). After SuperTed, Hilltop Hospital is probably the most successful animated series produced by Robin Lyons. Based on the books by Nicholas Allan, the series was coproduced with French studio, Folimage, and had an all star voice cast that included Brian Murphy, Celia Imrie, Kevin Whately and Paul Shane. It was sold extensively internationally and won several awards including Best European series at Cartoons On The Bay and in 1999/2000 a BAFTA for Best Preschool Animation. The series was made for ITV, France TV and ZDF.
The Drums Of Noto Hanto (2000) was a 15 minute film commissioned as part of S4C’s Tales of the World series. The story of how frantic drumming kept at bay marauding invaders was directed by Les Orton and produced by Robin Lyons.
Knife and Wife (2001) was a half hour Comedy Lab for Channel 4. Written by Paul Rose the film had voices by Ruth Jones, Terry Jones, Brian Murphy, Kevin Eldon and Jessica Stevenson. Robin Lyons was the producer.
Sali Mali (2001 – 2003) was a series simply animated in 2D animation based on the iconic Welsh language books by Mary Vaughn Jones. Narrated by Rhys Ifans and with a song sung by Cerys Matthews the series was shown on S4C in Welsh and Channel 4 in English. Robin Lyons was the producer.
Fireman Sam (2003-2004). Robin set up a studio in Cardiff to produce what proved to be the last series of Fireman Sam made in stop motion animation. This was a revival of the series made by Bumper Films in the 1980’s. The series was sold successfully around the world but the rights owner, Hit Entertainment, decided to switch to computer generated animation when creating further series. Robin was nominated for a BAFTA for this series in 2003/2004.
Between 2003 and 2006 Robin produced two series of Bobinogs for BBC Wales. This was a simple, educational series for young children which enjoyed some success. It was directed by Mike Price.
Between 2003 and 2006 Robin Lyons produced two series of Bobinogs for BBC Wales. This was a simple, educational series for very young children which was very successful. It was directed by Mike Price.
During this period Siriol Productions was sold to Sleepy Kids plc which rebranded as Entertainment Rights plc. Robin Lyons was a director of this company but bought his company back in 2005 and rebranded it as Calon. The rejuvenated Calon made some live action programming for S4C – Bytis (Mascot and Me) Llew ap Blew and Camelot Codebreakers – before landing a live action network drama commission for Children’s ITV.
Help! I’m a Teenage Outlaw (2005 – 6) was initially a comic take on the story of the Welsh outlaw Twm Sion Cati and was developed by Robin’s niece, Holly Lyons. When it became clear that there was no appetite for the series in Wales the idea was broadened out and Holly brought in her husband, Andy Watts to help with the writing. The series was coproduced with CITV and Nickelodeon and shot in the Czech Republic. Robin Lyons was Executive Producer.
Psi – 5 (2007) was a standalone episode pilot made for S4C in an adventurous photo-montage style. Despite a good critical response on broadcast money was never found to make the series. Robin Lyons was the producer.
Hana’s Helpline (2007 – 2009) marked a return to stop-motion animation. A series about an agony aunt duck, Hana’s Helpline continued where Hilltop Hospital left off, using simple child-friendly comedy to tackle the day to day problems faced by children about to go to school. Whereas Hilltop Hospital dealt with everything from wetting the bed to organ transplants Hana’s Helpline had episodes about bullying, adoption and moving house. Hana’s Helpline sold around the world and won two BAFTA Cymru awards and a Broadcast award for Best Children’s programme. It was made for S4C, Channel Five and ZDF. Robin Lyons was the producer.
Zoo Factor (2010) was a puppet show initially developed for S4C but ultimately commissioned by CBBC. It was made in coproduction with Telegael in Ireland and marked the beginning of a relationship that continued with the second series of Igam Ogam, 390 and the feature Captain Morten and The Spider Queen. The puppetry was shot in Telegael’s studio in Connemara. The series was a parody of talent shows such as the X Factor but with a cast of animals. The head judge assessed most acts on the basis of whether they might be good to eat. Robin Lyons was Executive Producer.
Igam Ogam (2010 -11) (2013 -14) was produced in two 26 episodes with a gap in between. Made for S4C, Channel Five and ZDF the first series benefited from funding from European and Welsh government that was not available for the second series. Eventually Robin accepted an invitation from Telegael to set up a stop motion series in Connemara and the balance of the funding was found through sources in Ireland. Robin Lyons was the producer.
390 (2016) exists both as a series of short episodes and a half hour special. It is the brainchild of Italian animator Giovanni Scarfini with whom Robin worked for several years developing the concept which is about the kind of gadgets advertised in comics. The series was funded mainly by France TV’s web division with help from S4C, Samka Productions and Robin’s long term collaborators, Telegael. Robin produced the series which consists of a 6 x 3 min serial and six spoof advertisements for gadgets.
After 390 Robin’s focus has been on animated features and also on writing.
In 2020 Robin is producing another series of Sali Mali updating the iconic Welsh figure and introducing other characters from the same stable. These include Tomos Caradog and Jaci Soch. The series is being made entirely in Wales by artists working at home during the Coronavirus lockdown.