Every nation has it's own classic television program for children.
They have Blue Peter in the UK, and although the show has ended, in the US there was a long running show called Mister Roger's Neighbourhood that ran for many, many years.
In Australia we had Mr Squiggle, sometimes called Mr Squiggle and Friends.
The show has been running on and off for about 45 years and is the creation of the wonderful Norman Hetherington.
The format of the show was simple.
Children would draw a random series of squiggles on a page and send it in to the show and Mr Squiggle would take the squiggle and make it into a finished cartoon.
Mr Squiggle himself is a marionette puppet, operated from above by Hetherington.
The puppet has a long pointed hat and Norman would use the end of it (offscreen) to manipulate Mr Squiggle's pencil nose.
Because he was being operated from above, the finished cartoon was always upside down.
He would chant "Upside down Miss Jane" and the human helper would flip the drawing around to be seen by all.
Miss Jane was the human helper when I was a kid.
There was also Miss Pat, and Miss Gina and you can sometimes tell a persons age in this country by which "Miss" they recalled from their childhood.
It's disappointing I can't find more of Mr Squiggle online.
He had a strange personality for a children's television character.
Very nervous and flighty and prone to stress attacks.
These attacks would cause him to float away for a space walk to calm his nerves.
If anyone has ever seen the film "Shine" about pianist David Helfgot you'll have some idea of the twitchy nature of Mr Squiggle.
Mr Squiggle was from the moon, where he lived with a bossy houseboy called Doormat.
Doormat was never seen.
Other characters on the show were the impatient and grumpy Blackboard (seen in both of these clips), Gus the Snail and Bill the Steam Shovel.
Gus was a nasty piece of work with a television instead of a shell and Bill told knock-knock jokes and had a strange pile of pubic hair on his head.
Mr Squiggle was a show that encouraged children to draw.
I am sure that it must have inspired me to do so.
Perhaps I would not enjoy drawing so much without it.
Mr Squiggle was the kind of entertainment that I don't think we see often anymore.
Gentle without being boring.
Funny without being smarmy.
Cheeky without being smug.
Simple without being moronic.
I found this picture of Norman and his friend Mr Squiggle.
He must be 85 by now.
Perhaps people can get some idea of the spirit of the show by a quick glance at this warm and genuine image.
There must be similar shows in the rest of the world quietly encouraging children to put pencil to paper.
And if not, hopefully there's an up and comer who is as clever and talented as Norman Hetherington waiting to step into the role.
Also, take the time to visit www.elliotelliotelliot.com
Sunday, September 23, 2007
at 1:26 PM