Eric Hill is the creator of Spot, ‘the world’s favorite puppy’, who appeared in his first story, Where’s Spot? in 1980 and quickly became one of the best-loved pre-school characters of all time. Today Spot’s adventures remain incredibly popular and are enjoyed the world over.
Eric was born on September 7, 1927 in London, and educated at Pooles Park Elementary and Tollington Park Central schools until the outbreak of World War II. At 16 he joined an art studio as a messenger, where he was encouraged to draw cartoons in his spare time. He particularly enjoyed drawing aircraft, and it was the markings of planes that later came to influence the design of Spot, reflected in the spots on his body and the tip of his tail.
After a spell in the airforce, Eric returned to the studio to work on his cartoons, which soon began to be published in national magazines and newspapers. He started a weekly strip for the London magazine Illustrated and did small story sketches for Lilliput. After a year, he left the studio and joined the art department of an advertising agency as a visualizer.
His next important step was an appointment with FHK Henrion at Erwin Wasey, a large advertising agency in Park Lane. Henrion was an internationally acclaimed graphic designer, under whose guidance Eric’s skills as a designer and art director developed. After a long stay at Wasey’s, he was hired as European Creative Director for a new American Agency.
His advertising career came to an abrupt end four weeks later with the folding of the agency. Eric relished the chance to work for himself. Freelancing as an art director, graphic designer and illustrator, he slowly returned to being an artist.
In 1976 Eric’s son Christopher was born; by the time he was two Eric was making up stories about the adventures of a small puppy to read to him at bedtime and Spot was born!
“I am quite convinced now…that the actual training of drawing cartoons – which is, of course, my style – led to my producing Spot. Cartoons must be very simple and have as few words as possible and so too must the Spot books.”
The design of the books was inspired by an advertising flyer Eric had devised involving a flap covering an amusing picture. When Eric showed this to Christopher he saw how responsive he was to the idea and incorporated it into his book. Although initially created just as a story to please his son, Where’s Spot? was actually published as a children’s book in 1980 and started a new publishing concept of ‘interactive books for babies’. The innovative lift-the-flap concept, combined with the simple story and quirky, charming illustrations, helped Where’s Spot? become an instant hit with young children and within weeks it was at the top of the UK best-seller list.
The playful puppy soon became hugely popular and a series of adventures followed, including the introduction of Spot’s friends and family. Spot expanded from the original lift-the-flap books to interactive storybooks, sound books and audio books. There are currently eight series of Spot animation available on DVD and these have been broadcast and sold on video and DVD all over the world.
Spot’s own website funwithspot.com was launched in 2000 to coincide with Spot’s 20th anniversary. Incorporating fun and learning it has helped thousands of young children develop their on-line skills through interactive games and activities. The site receives 10 million hits and 70,000 unique visitors per month.
With Spot book sales reaching 50 million worldwide and his stories now translated into 60 languages, he really is a publishing phenomenon. Spot’s first fans, who are now having families of their own, can enjoy Spot with their children, confirming his place as a modern classic.
As well as his son Christopher, Eric also has a daughter, Jane, who works very closely with her father on many Spot projects. Eric remains involved in the development of all Spot projects at every stage. He and his wife Gillian divide their time between California and France with a varied collection of animals which provide continual inspiration for the Spot stories.
Eric was one of the ‘literary ambassadors’ invited to The Children’s Party at the Palace to commemorate The Queen’s 80th birthday at Buckingham Palace in June 2006. This highlight of Eric’s career was followed with the award of an O.B.E. for services to children’s literature in the 2008 New Year’s Honors List.