LONDON, Sep 20 (Reuters) Paddington bear has not given up marmalade for Marmite, and that's official.
The announcement came in a letter to The Times from Michael Bond, creator of one of the world's favourite bears, after Paddington appeared in a television advertisement tucking into a Marmite sandwich instead of his usual marmalade.
''I have to report that although Paddington found the sandwich interesting, bears are creatures of habit,'' Bond wrote.
''Besides, Squeezy Marmite may spread well, but it doesn't have any chunks.'' While marmalade at least the type favoured by Paddington is made from fresh fruit and sugar and contains chunks of peel, Marmite is a by-product of the brewing industry and has a distinctly tart flavour.
The advertisement prompted a flood of complaints by Paddington's fans who were outraged their favourite bear had changed his quaint dietary habit of living on marmalade sandwiches, often stored under his hat.
There were dark rumours Bond had been persuaded to alter Paddington's tastes in exchange for large amounts of money.
''It would require a good deal more than the combined withdrawals from Northern Rock to wean him off marmalade, if then,'' Bond wrote, referring to the run on the bank in which depositors withdrew more than 4 billion dollars.
It was Bond's daughter Karen Jankel, who controls all Paddington merchandising, who approved the ad ahead of the launch on October 8 of Paddington Bear Goes To The Movies on DVD.
The film includes the irrepressible bear's interpretation of Gene Kelly's ''Singin' in the Rain'' dance.
That in turn is timed to coincide with the 50th birthday of the bear from Peru who, like Britain's Queen Elizabeth, has two birthdays a year on December 25 and June 25.
Bond, a BBC cameraman at the time, had his first book, ''A Bear Called Paddington'', published in 1958. Thirty million books have since been sold and the Paddington stories have been translated into 30 different languages.
Paddington was named after the London train station where he was found on his arrival from Lima with a label round his neck with the words ''Please look after this bear. Thank you.'' It appears Paddington will celebrate his half century in style after Warner Brothers announced last week the blue duffle-coated bear is going to Hollywood to make a film with Harry Potter producer David Heyman.
REUTERS SZ AS0936