Creator of mischievous puppy Spot dies

MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 13:54 11/06/2014
Penguin Books

Eric Hill, creator of mischievous puppy Spot has died aged 86.

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Eric Hill, creator of mischievous puppy Spot who enchanted millions of children around the world, has died aged 86.

Hill realised lift-the-flap books could be a hit with children after seeing the reaction of his own son Chris, then aged 3, to a flap that was part of a novelty piece Hill was working on in the late 1970s for his job as a freelance creative marketing director.

Hill invented a story about a puppy, using the surprise-flap idea, to entertain Chris, which led to the creation of Spot.

Despite the enthusiastic reaction of Hill's young son, publishers were initially wary of the idea, but once publishers were found, the book Where's Spot? became an instant hit with its target audience of pre-school children when released in 1980.

The first book was followed quickly by Spot's First Walk, while an animated series The Adventures of Spot was developed in 1983.

By the beginning of the 1990s, when Penguin Books acquired the rights to Spot as part of a business deal, the books had been translated in to more than 60 languages. More than 60 million copies have been sold around the world.

"During the 1990s Spot kept pace with developments in merchandising, animation and digital entertainment, and the books kept coming, with a new lift-the-flap book almost every year, as well as a range of activity books, board books, early concept books and other interactive products, such as sound books," Penguin said.

Hill was born in north London in 1927. After World War II he started working for an advertising agency, which led to a career as a creative director and illustrator.

He married his first wife Barbara in 1950 and they had a daughter, Jane, in 1958. The couple divorced and Hill later met present wife Gillian to whom he was married for 41 years. Their son Chris was born in 1976.

The family, including Jane, moved to the United States in the early 1980s and ended up settling in California.

Hill loved animals, with horses, chickens, cats and dogs sharing his home.

"He always had a cat or two in his studio," Penguin said.

"Many of his animals were rescue strays to whom he gave a happy home, and he could never resist a new addition.

"In the last years of his life, he was accompanied by his beloved dog Suzie, who rarely left his side."

Hill died at home after a short illness. He is survived by his wife Gillian, their son Christopher and his daughter Jane, "all of whom are involved in looking after Spot".

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