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David McKee

King Rollo Films

Author and Co Founder

David McKee was born in Devon where he had a ‘straightforward, comfortable upbringing,’ and from grammar school he went on to Plymouth Art College, where he had a traditional training.
While still at college, he started selling one-off cartoons, particularly to the national press. On leaving college he continued this in order to support himself while painting, drawing regularly for, among others, Punch, Reader’s Digest, and The Times Educational Supplement. His drawings were influenced especially by Saul Steinberg and Andre Francois.

At college he sometimes told stories to his friends. When he discovered children’s picture books, it seemed a natural direction to try. The first book that he sold was one of the stories he had told at college, Two Can Toucan. This was published by Abelard-Schuman in 1964 and the version David re-illustrated in 1985 was re-issued in 2001 by Andersen Press.
The BBC used some of the books on television and asked about the possibility of films. This led to David’s first films, a series about Mr Benn. Five films for the Save the Children fund followed, then a series of films based on the King Rollo books, with two friends, Clive Juster and Leo Nielsen. The company King Rollo Films was started. The company is still very successful, with David being involved on projects usually as a writer. They have been responsible for various films including Tony Ross’s Towser, Eric Hill’s Spot, and Lucy Cousins’ Maisy. The company plans to produce 26 animated films of Elmer.

David has produced several well-known characters that have developed into book series, including King Rollo and Mr Benn. His most famous creation is Elmer the Patchwork Elephant. Elmer is now published in more than 20 languages and there is a range of merchandise available, including soft toys, from Petit Jour and other companies worldwide. David McKee has written and illustrated over 30 titles for Andersen Press.