Mr Flibble Talks To... Prop Master
Mr Flibble talks to Stephen Lane, who heads up the Red Dwarf-selling Prop Store.
15 August, 2003
Stephen Lane
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

Mr Flibble, speaking through Andrew, started by asking what THE PROP STORE OF LONDON does...

We offer a practically unique service within the UK, tracking down props and costumes used in TV and film productions around the world and then offering them to collectors from our web site. We have over one thousand items on our site, from Red Dwarf - thanks guys! - to Shakespeare In Love, and everything in between. And if you can't afford a unique piece that you might love to own, we offer an interest free payment plan.

How did you become involved in this field?

I started as a collector over 12 years ago and just got hooked on the idea of owning props and costumes that are used on TV and film. As I bought more items from my collection and got introduced to more people within the industry, I found that I had pieces that I could trade with other collectors within the UK and overseas which eventually led onto the creation of The Prop Store of London.

Which films have been particularly good sellers? And is it the same as the ones that deliver the most interesting props and costumes?

Sci-fi is probably the top seller for us, and yes it is because they generally offer the most interesting props and costumes - all bespoke gadgets, costumes, spacesuits which may light up or work in some practical sense, are always very appealing for collectors. In addition to that sci-fi is just generally a very popular genre of production.

What are your own favourite movies?

Well if we're talking top ten films then Star Wars has to be pretty high up - a common answer I know but it had the most impact on me as a kid! That said at the opposite end of the spectrum you have Life of Brian and Spinal Tap - all great movies.

Mr Flibble had wandered off and was routing through his belongings, trying to find something to flog off. Andrew, very used to these antics by now, pressed on. What made you want to get hold of the RED DWARF gear?

I have been asked many times by collectors over the years if we could locate anything from the series, and I hoped that some of the items might still be in existence somewhere in deep storage. After many, many phone calls we established that these items really were still around, and so the negotiations commenced!

Talk me through the process - what have you acquired, and from where?

We are still going through the research process, which you guys and the fan club have been a great help with. It appears that we predominately have props, costumes and model miniatures from Series III onwards, with just a handful of items from I and II. The majority of the props were in storage in shipping containers in Manchester, along with lots of sets and general dressing. The key props and model miniatures were in storage near the studios - ready for use for promotional purposes if required. And Howard [Burden] was carefully looking after the costumes.

We have unearthed some fantastic pieces, from the Talkie Toaster and Bazookoids (both styles), to a model miniature Starbug, some of Cat's fabulous costumes, and even Lister's space suit.

Mr Flibble had, by this point, retrieved an old toothbrush, a fishbone and a used tube of feather dye. Stephen was not impressed, and Mr Flibble dived back in. Has it been hard to figure out where every SPECIFIC thing came from, what it was used for?

We're still working on it... and will be for some time.

Will you guys be putting in a lot of hours in front of the video to track down prop, costume and model appearances?

The team here are hard at work watching TV on a daily basis - it's a tough job but somebody has to do it! (Laughs)

Of the FX models, what are the most interesting ones you've picked up? Any favourites?

The Starbug has to be pretty much at the top of the list, but Ace Rimmer's ship and Justice World have to come pretty close.

And how about Howard's costumes?

I love the Kryten 'nude' costume, [it] just makes me laugh every time I spot it - identical in every way to his standard outfit, but skin coloured. We believe that this was used for a shower scene.

Mr Flibble said he would never go nude on screen... until Andrew pointed out that he rarely appears clothed. Have you been able to make use of any of the old Mel Bibby sets?

Not as yet - priority is definitely the props, costumes and miniatures, and a lot of the old sets were in pieces or just not practical to keep. We hope that we can do something with them down the line.

Has there been anything you'd love to have had from Dwarf but couldn't get?

I love the skutters - but those are being held onto for production of the upcoming movie. They are fully remote control and heavily featured right throughout the series - but believe me we are having great fun just working our way through everything that we have acquired already.

Inspired, Mr Flibble produced a shoe box with a coat hanger stuck into it and tried to pass it off as a skutter. No dice. How do you arrive on a PRICE for each item? No doubt its prominence on-screen and use by a main cast member make a huge difference...

As you rightly say it is a combination of factors. Most people would expect it to be a reflection of the original cost to produce an item, but that just isn't the case. The more screen time an item gets, in conjunction with the character that uses it, will be our starting point. That's combined with the rarity of the item - do we have just one or were there ten made for the show? - and any practical elements to the piece - lights, moving components, etc. - will help us to come up with a final figure. Of course if similar items have been sold previously it also gives us a benchmark to work from.

So if I were to offer you Mr Flibble, for example, what would you expect him to go for?

A lot!

You could stuff and mount him, too - I believe a lot of your things are given display boxes...

Absolutely - one of the main reasons that I work so hard at tracking items like these down is because I truly believe that they need to be preserved. The hours of blood, sweat and tears that go into props and costumes from design to on-screen appearance are immeasurable. One of the ways you can aid the longevity of an item is to have it mounted professionally in a shadow box display case ensuring that it will be with us and admired for years to come.

Mr Flibble enjoyed talking to Stephen, and now that he's being packed into a case and sold... Mr Flibble is very cross.

You can link to the Prop Store via Links.