A Conversation for TV Puppets

TV Puppets

Post 1

Mr. Turnip

There are more than this. In fact, if you think about, it there are hundreds. We could try to create a full list here with information about those we can remember. Please Help!

Here's a starter:

Basil Brush
Torchy the Battery Boy
Postman Pat
Muffin the Mule
Pinky and Perky
All the Gerry Anderson characters

The Bumblies:
Michael Bentine devised and wrote a thirteen part children's series about three friendly little aliens from outer space, cheerful ambassadors from the Planet Bumble, who landed in their flying saucer in the garden of an absent-minded professor of astronomy, with the express purpose of getting to know the children of Earth, and learning how to play their games.

The Bumblies had numbers rather than names. Bumbly One was their leader and the most intelligent one. Bumbly Two was the fattest and most jovial of the trio, and Bumbly Three was the dim one, who always got things wrong (and was the basis for the later Eccles character of Goons fame).

One particularly memorable feature about the Bumblies is that they slept on the ceiling.

In the course of the series Michael played Pirates with them, using a large pirate ship, which they conjured out of thin air by a thought process using their invention, the Bumblescope. They also played Cowboys and Indians, with costumes and props conjured up by the same process, and they followed this by playing King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, with jousting Bumblies riding on roller skates.

The final film was about motor-racing and featured Bumbly Three driving a racing-car round a table fitted out with with a race-track, pit-stops, and a spectators stand where Bumbly Two gave a sports commentary on the event.

Each episode was eleven minutes long. The puppets were designed by Angelo de Calferta, a talented spanish sculptor. Richard Dendy then moulded them in latex rubber and an engineer fitted them out with special internal remote control mechanisms.

Over to someone else for the moment. I will come back later and add some more myself.

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Post 2

Mr. Turnip

Here are some entries for the 1950's, which is my area of expertise.

(Perhaps someone else could deal with the decades from '60s to '90s?. Come on! You do remember those puppets, don't you? Between us we could try to cover all of them. It would make a really good Guide entry!).

Muffin the Mule:
Muffin the Mule first trotted on to our screens in 1946, although he was already 12 years old by that time. He had been made by a famous creator of Punch and Judy puppets, Fred Tickner, during the 1930's when the Hogarth Puppets were already involved in the experimental medium of television. Among the special theme presentations planned by the Hogarths was a circus sequence, in which a mule puppet was required. This puppet needed an appearance that would help develop a comedy emphasis, this probably being the reason for its head being made so especially large. Muffin, it will be recalled, used his head a great deal in "conversations" with Annette Mills.

So, Muffin - then unnamed - was added to the Hogarth puppets in November 1934, the charge for the job being 25 shillings. The puppet was used to good effect but as Jan Bussell and Ann Hogarth moved on to more experimental and dramatic puppetry, Muffin was carefully stored, awaiting re-discovery and naming by Annette Mills, sister of actor John Mills, in 1946. She included the wooden mule in an edition of 'For the Children'.

Muffin went from strength to strength, clumping around legs-a-kimbo on the piano top with Annette playing the music and Ann Hogarth standing on the piano to operate him from behind a partition. Further sidekicks emerged as the shows went on, including a bossy penguin called Mr. Peregrine Esquire; a rather shy Louise the Lamb; Oswald the Ostrich (a slightly dim-witted bird inclined to "gape"); Willie the Worm; plus a genial minstrel puppet called Wally the Gog. There were many others including Peter the Pup; Grace the Giraffe; Hubert the Hippo; Katy the Kangaroo; Kiri the Kiwi; Sally the Sea-lion and Prudence and Primrose Kitten who were later rewarded with their own spin-off shows.

Muffin’s final TV appearance with Annette Mills came in 1955 just days before she died aged 61.

Hank the Cowboy
HOWDY FOLKS!! Would you like your old friend Hank to tell you a story? You would? Well it was likey this.....

So began Hank the Cowboy tales with his goofy horse 'Silver King' and Big Chief Dirty Face ("Me Big Chief Dirty Face, Me always in disgrace") along with Mexican Pete the Bandit who sang to the tune of The Mexican Hat Dance:

"I'm Mexican Pete, zee bad bandit
Zee bad bandit I always 'ave bin
I tie Senor Hank to zee railroad
An' zat is zee end of 'im !"

Other characters were Hank's nephew, Cassy, Freddie Parrot and Little He-He (son of Big Chief Laughing Gas and Minnie Ha-Ha)

These characters were all the creation of Francis Coudrill who drew the pictures (assisted by Alfred Wurmser).

Hank always greeted the audience with "Howdy Folks!" and he sang a song which went:

"Oh, they're tough, mighty tough in the West,
And your trigger must be quicker than the rest
When there's rootin' and a-tootin'
I'm the guy that does the shootin'
'Coz they're tough, mighty tough in the West"
The chorus was:

"Singing ai ai yippee yippee ai,
Singing ai ai yippee yippee ai,
Singing ai ai yippee, ai ai yippee,
Ai ai yippee yippee ai"


Mr Turnip

Then there was the obnoxious string puppet Mr. Turnip (the invention of Joy Laurey) and his hapless stooge Humphrey Lestocq, known to all as HL.

HL's catchphrase was "Goody, goody gumdrops" and Mr.Turnip's was "Looky lum".

This well known puppet character has been appearing on our screens since 1952. He was a handpuppet bear operated by Harry Corbett (nephew of Harry Ramsden of the famous fish and chip chain) who found him in a novelty shop on the end of Blackpool Pier for 7s 6d. Their first appearance was in a show called Talent Night and then in Saturday Special with Peter Butterworth, but they soon went on to earn their own show. Although Sooty was mute to the audience, he could communicate with Harry. His antics always included some form of slapstick, always at Harry's expense.

Later on (1957), Harry introduced a chum for Sooty called Sweep, a dog with long ears and a red nose. Sooty played the xylophone and did magic with oofle dust and spells of "Izzy wizzy, let's get busy" and Sweep always had an endless supply of bones. Much later Harry also introduced Soo, a black and white female bear.

The shows always ended with Harry saying "Bye bye everybody! Bye bye!".

Twizzle was a boy doll who ran away from a toy shop. He soon joined Footso, a little black cat with big paws. Together they built Stray Town, where all the stray toys in the world could go and live in peace, safe from a world where their young owners pulled them about and treated them badly.

In his many adventures, Twizzle met and made many friends.

Among them were Jiffy the Broomstick Man, and Chawky the white-faced Golliwog. With them were Candy Floss the momma doll, who couldn't say "momma", and Bouncy the ball who'd lost his bounce.

Twizzle was so called as he could extend, or rather 'cri.. crick" his arms and legs, and be tall as a lamp post, or even taller! Twizzle's pride and joy was his brick-red Breakdown Van, which he got off his garage mechanic friend in exchange for a sprite sportscar, given to him by a doll he had saved from a burning house. Footso liked the van better, too, as at least he had legroom!

Torchy The Battery Boy
Torchy, a wind-up clockwork toy, with the help of Mr. Bumble-Drop, a kind old Earthman, was rocketed to Topsy-Turvy Land - "a wonderful twinkling star where toys could walk and animals could talk; where the fields were full of lollipops, and cream buns grew on trees."

There, Torchy lived in Frutown with friends, Pom Pom a toy poodle, who was Torchy's closest friend, Flopsy the rag doll, Ena the kindly old hyena, Pilliwig the toy clown, Sparky the baby dragon, Squish the space boy and Pongo the rag pirate.

King Dithers ruled this land, with a little help from Torchy, and he lived in the Orange Peel Palace with his animal aides. All the toys in Topsy-Turvy land were those who had been mistreated or neglected down on Earth. But once they were just as alive as human beings on Earth, and walked and talked and ate and lived as we do.

Should a toy return to Earth, he or she would just become an ordinary un-moving toy again. However, Torchy and Pom Pom, being clockwork, were not-affected, and came to Earth regularly in the Rocket, usually to teach Bossy Boots, a particularly nasty spoilt Earthgirl, a lesson.

Four Feather Falls
Long, long ago, somewhere in the desert of Kansas, USA, was a town called Four Feather Falls. It was full of mighty nice people There was Ma Jones, the general store proprietor; Marvin Jackson, the town bank manager-, Dan Morse. the telegraphist-, Doc Haggerty, the medic and Slim Jim, the owner and bartender of Denison Saloon. Then there was Little Jake, and his grampa Twink. Most importantly, there was Sheriff Tex Tucker.

Sheriff Tex wasn't alone in his lawman's status - he had two unofficial deputies in the form of his dog, Dusty, and his horse, Rocky. Tex owed a lot to his two faithful friends .... he owed everything, though, to four rather special feathers....

Once, when Tex was crossing a desolate trail with his dog and horse he came across a little Indian boy. Night was drawing in and, with it, the cold. At night the Indian boy woke from his sleep screaming Kalamakooya' and a great Indian chief appeared. He caused great magical things to happen. As a reward for finding and caring for his son, he gave Tex four magic feathers. One gave Dusty the power of speech, another did the same for Rocky, and the remaining two made Tex's guns swivel and fire automatically whenever he was in danger.

With these four magic feathers safely in his hat, Tex maintained peace in Four Feather Falls. Mind you, many was the time when villains such as Pedro and Fernando the Mexican bandits made times hard for him. They'd try anything from robbing the bank to kidnapping Doc Haggerty to get themselves more dollars. Needless to say, they didn't succeed.

Then there was Red Scalp, the renegade Indian Chief, and Big Ben the bandit. Both were nasty characters and their notable schemes included trapping Little Jake and Makooya in a dangerous mine, and gun-running for enemy tribes.

Tex would be a man of steel at times, when his job commanded it. He was one of the nicest guys you'd ever meet, also. Held break into a song singing the likes of 'Happy Trail'. Then, of course, there was his favourite song about himself - 'Two Gun Tex".

Note:The first Supermarionation production. This was the first show to use electronic lip-synch and eye movement.


The adventures of Mike Mercury, test pilot for Supercar a space-age vehicle designed and built by Professor Popkiss and Doctor Beaker. This fabulous craft is automobile, aircraft, spaceship and submarine in one. Operating from their laboratory in Black Rock Nevada, Mercury and his young friend, Jimmy Gibson, and his pet monkey Mitch get up to various escapades often foiling the schemes of the villainous Masterspy and his companion Zarin.

Tales of Rubovia:
Created by Gordon Murray, "Rubovia" began as a black and white childrens' puppet series for the BBC in the late 1950s presented by The BBC Puppet Theatre. Working with puppeteers Bob Bura and John Hardwick, and designers Andrew and Margaret Brownfoot, Murray wrote and directed at least twenty episodes of the series between about 1958 and 1960. "Rubovia" was made in a very different style to the series for which Murray is now better known, involving large, string-operated puppets with caricatured features. Among those lending their vocal talents to the series were Roy Skelton, (later to become the voice of Zippy in Thames TV's "Rainbow"), and radio comedy panel game supremo, the late Derek Nimmo.

"Rubovia" was a magical medieval kingdom presided over by King Rufus (voice by Derek Nimmo) and Queen Caroline (who had a rather Edith Evansish sort of voice) shouting "Pongo, Pongo, Pongo" in quick succession whenever she wanted him.

The Royal couple were spared the usual bloodthirsty attempts at regicide that tended to haunt monarchs in the middle ages, but instead they had to deal with a more persistent and inconvenient problem; namely the liking of the more eccentric members of their court for dabbling in conjuring tricks, which inevitably produced hilariously disastrous results. The main instigator of the ill-fated attempts at magic was Albert Wetherspoon, the royal gardener, who always played the organ with his cat pressing the air pump ("pressure up puss!"), and Rubovia's equivalent of King Arthur's wizard Merlin.

Aiding and abetting him in his bumbling magic misadventures were Pongo, Caroline's pampered pet dragon, who turned into a cabbage whenever he hiccupped, and the beleagured Lord Chamberlain. Meanwhile, Rufus himself was usually up to no good too, more often than not in the company of his neighbouring associate King Boris.

There were often crowd scenes where the populace was always clearly less than impressed by the Royal Family's antics.

Other characters appearing were Farmer Bottle, and an Indian with a Chinese accent called McGregor, who would often give hints to Wetherspoon from over the garden wall from the top of a ladder.

The episodes were repeated throughout the early 1960s, almost right up until the moment when Gordon Murray unleashed the first glimpse of 'Trumptonshire' on an unsuspecting nation.

Billy Bean and his Funny Machine
The puppets Billy Bean and his friend Yoo-Hoo the cuckoo, operated a machine which was a wonder to behold, featuring such devices as a windmill, a Dorset-Faucet and a cartoonerator which drew magic pictures.
The voice of Yoo-Hoo was Ivan Owen, later to become Basil Brush's voice too.

Lester was the unseen 'Engine room' operator, unseen but often heard as a 'noise' via the speaky tube. I think that on one occasion, Lester was about to come up onto the 'Bridge' accompanied by an air of anticipation because no one had seen him up to that point. However at the last minute, something thwarted his coming into view. In fact when one thinks of it, the setting was very much of a ship, albeit land based. The cartoonerator was the forerunner of the computer printer, or at least a motorised Etch-a-Sketch and would draw the solution to the riddle posed by Billy (definitely some foresight of things to come). I think that the end of the programme was announced by the cuckoo operating the hooter.... maybe that was the ruse used to avoid seeing Lester.

The words to the Billy Bean song started:
"Billy Bean built a machine to see what it could do.
He made it out of sticks and stones, and nuts and bolts and glue.
The motor sang chuckle a'bang rattle a'tattle a ringer,
And all of a sudden a picture appeared on the funny old cartoonerator
something - something - something - something .............................( Can anyone help?)..........
It drew a balloon, the Man in the Moon, and Yoo-hoo the Cuckoo, too"

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Post 3


Gus Honeybun

Although never seen outside his native region, this rabbit achieved longevity second only to Sooty, and is fondly remembered in South West England.
Alledgedly discovered under a gorse bush on Dartmoor in 1961 by a member of staff of the newly-launched Westward TV, Gus quickly established himself as the mascot of the station. He appeared at least once each afternoon to co-present a birthday slot with the duty announcer. Gus would treat the children whose names were read out to bunny hops, jumps and winks, or, best of all, with a 'magic button' which changed the studio decor. The true magic of the format was that the mischievous (mute) rabbit gave the announcer licence to behave equally badly, and the by-play between them (and the off-screen technical staff) would often degenerate into near-chaos.
Such was his popularity that Gus happily made the transition to Westward's successors TSW in 1982. Indeed he even managed one brief and surely unauthorised appearance on the BBC's Spotlight news programme!
Many announcers worked with 'the rabbit' over 30 years, including Stuart Hutchison, Roger Shaw, Judi Spiers, Ian Stirling, Ruth Langsford and David FitzGerald. No-one was ever credited with working Gus, though; indeed Westward and TSW never 'broke the spell' at all - their biggest star was never admitted to be a puppet!
Sadly, when Westcountry Television took over the ITV franchise in 1993 Gus did not make the transition, much to the dismay and puzzlement of viewers (possibly due to a wish to make a clean break, but perhaps due to the accrimony over the contoversial franchise award). On TSW's last night of transmission, Langsford and FitzGerald returned Gus Honeybun to his moorland home of 30 years before in a moment which brought tears of both sadness and laughter to generations of westcountry children.
He is much missed.

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Post 4


i sware that when i was little there was show called hocky cocky (as in the playground game/dance/song) which had two puppets called hokey and cockey but everyone i speak to denies any knowledge of it. unfortunately i can't remember much else

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Post 5

Feisor - -0- Generix I made it back - sortof ...

I found some info on Hokey Cokey
apparently it was a BBC show from the 80s - mostly songs with two puppet dolls voiced by Aussie musician DON SPENCER

Does that help??

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Post 6


WOW! it exisists outside of my imagination! smiley - biggrin big thank you smiley - smileysmiley - hug

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Post 7

Feisor - -0- Generix I made it back - sortof ...

Couldn't find out anything else but I'm pleased to help. smiley - laugh

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Post 8


It's just nice to know that they did exisist after years of no one ever hearing of them i had really started to think i had imagined them smiley - smiley

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Post 9


How about Fireball XL5. Piloted by Steve ??? and Robbie the Robert. Great stuff.

But I hear you all ask, what about the theme tunes?

Well here are those that I remember from way back when. I'm sure I've got some of them wrong so corrections please. Now all together....


Torchy, Torchy, Battery Boy
I’m a walking, talking toy
Touch my hat watch my light
Start to gleam
It’s the most magic light
You have seen

Four Feather Falls

Four Feather Falls, Four Feather Falls
There’s always magic in the air
Four Feather Falls, Four Feather Falls
Find yourself a vacant chair

Anything can happen, anything at all
You might see a dog miaow.
Stranger than that, you might see a cat
Suddenly remark bow-wow

Four Feather Falls, Four Feather Falls
There’s always magic in the air
Four Feather Falls, Four Feather Falls
Find yourself a vacant chair


Sarah Brown has a toy as naughty can be
And he’ll start to sing if you wind up his key
He’ll sing and he’ll dance all over the floor
And when he stands still you can wind him some more

Little Hoppity, dear old Hoppity
There is no toy as naughty as he
Little Hoppity, clever Hoppity
He’ll sing “Diddle-ee-dum”
And he’ll sing “Diddle-ee-dee”


It travels on land
Or roams the skies
Through the heaven’s mighty rage
With Mercury man
Everyone cries
It’s the marvel of the age

Fireball XL5

I wish I was a spaceman
The fastest guy alive
I’d cruise around the universe
In Fireball XL5
Way out in space together
Conquerors of the skies
My heart would be a fireball
A fireball
And you would be my venus of the stars

We’d make our way to Jupiter
And maybe very soon
We’d fly along the Milky Way
And land upon the moon
My heart would be a fireball
A fireball
And you would be my venus of the stars

Andy Pandy

Andy Pandy's coming to play
La la la la laaa la
Andy Pandy's here today
La la la la laa.

Bill & Ben

Bill and Ben, Bill and Ben
Flowerpot men, flowerpot men
Goodbye Bill
Godbye Ben
Bill and Ben, Bill and Ben, flowerpot men

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Post 10



Seems that being a newbie I have not worked out how to do:

apostrophes which get shown as - '
quotation marks - " "
multiple full stops - ...

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Post 11


Right, now I am really confused. Why in my proper post did the punctuation marks not work, but when I apologise and try to show examples of them not working - they did???

The wonders of modern science.

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Post 12



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Post 13


It was a long time ago, but I remember Fireball XL5. It was piloted by Steve Zodiak with Robbie the Robot ("on our way 'ome").

Not sure, but I think the words were
I'd fly you round the universe
rather than
I'd cruise around the universe

The best TV theme song ever?

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Post 14


One of the best, certainly!

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