Mr Flibble Talks To... Boss of Blowing up
Peter Wragg was already a veteran of the effects industry when he was asked to design a little vessel named Red Dwarf. From live TV to big-budget drama, Peter has done it all - ending his time at the BBC as head of the Visual Effects department. Mr Flibble met with Peter to find out why he's going back to the plastic kit bits and glue guns...
16 February, 2001
Peter Wragg
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

How did you originally become interested in doing special effects?

I wanted to be a model maker, and used to make models at home. Then I got the opportunity to join what was then AP Films, which later became Century 21. I joined at the beginning of Thunderbirds, basically, and then went on to do the various others - Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, etc. - eventually becoming second unit director. And that's where it all started.

The Thunderbirds model unit worked separately from the puppeteers. Was that deliberate?

No, it was simply the schedule, the time-scale in which we had to get stuff out. We needed to concentrate on having a unit that dealt with models totally, in order to be able to meet a two week schedule. We had a schedule of achieving 5 model shots a day, which was pushing it. Because sometimes you could achieve it, if you had a number of shots all on the same set-up; but on other days, you could only achieve one shot a day, because it was a big panoramic landscape. So by the time you'd built that and shot it, you couldn't get anything else in.

You had to bear in mind that you needed to see rushes the following day to make sure that you'd got the shot. If Derek Meddings, who was our supervisor, saw a wire on a model he would insist that you re-shot it.

Which was very different to the puppet approach...

They never attempted to hide the wires at all! Part of that was an appeal, I suppose, because you weren't attempting to say that they were something that they weren't. But Derek was always adamant that the models should look as real as possible.

Did you go straight from Century 21 to the BBC?

No, there was a gap in-between where I went into engineering, into tool making. At that time there weren't very many films being made, it was quite a low period, so I actually came out of the film industry for three or four years. Then I got the opportunity to go to the BBC Visual Effects department, so went there on a short-term contract and was eventually made permanent - and then spent 24 years there. I left just a couple of months ago.